It may be the biggest sleeping giant in all of pro sports. Think of the Toronto Maple Leafs as Canada's version of the New York Knicks. Despite a massive fan base and a state-of-the-art arena in Air Canada Center, the Maple Leafs always seem to get in their own way. The team hasn't made the Stanley Cup playoffs in seven seasons and doesn't appear likely to break that streak in a shortened 48-game season now that the NHL lockout is over.
Any hint of stability was shattered last week when the organization fired general manager Brian Burke, who was brought on board to great fanfare in 2008 to rebuild the franchise. It just didn't happen quickly enough, and a new ownership group jettisoned Burke at a bizarre time.
"This one here was like a two-by-four upside the head to me," Burke said Saturday, acknowledging he hadn't accomplished his goals in Toronto. But now even under Burke's assistant, the well-respected Dave Nonis, this doesn't seem like a quick rebuild. The Leafs' farm system is in much better shape now, but the NHL roster remains full of holes.
- Brian McNally