But a couple of back-page stories from the past week have given me a tiny twinge of cautious optimism that maybe, just maybe, this team may be making baby steps in the right direction.
First, here's Ron Wilson on the radio today taking what appears to be a fairly obvious shot at Mats Sundin and friends:
To me, there hasn't been any leadership. You don't squander leads. You don’t fail when it matters most, if there’s leadership on the team."The players have to shoulder some of the responsibility"? What a novel concept!
I can understand you can blame one coach and say "okay, we tuned him out at some point" but I’m now the third coach in the past four years. There comes a point where you say there's something going on here and it just can't be the coach and the general manager's fault. The players have to shoulder some of the responsibility.
Understanding, too, as an outsider coming in, that a lot of players wouldn’t hang around and face the media, those are leadership issues… not holding yourself accountable. How are you going to win?
Now you could argue, as some of you will, about whether Sundin deserves that sort of criticism. And you could certainly argue over whether Wilson would be better off keeping quiet on the matter, at least if he actually wants Sundin to re-sign in Toronto.
But you have to admit, it's refreshing to hear somebody, anybody, in Toronto actually raise the subject. For over a decade, Sundin's leadership abilities have been one of the Maple Leafs sacred cows, and nobody -- players, coaches, management, media -- has been allowed to question it.
Sundin is a great leader, end of story, nothing to see here, and pay no attention to the last-place finishes or country club dressing room behind the curtain. Even thinking about maybe possibly implying otherwise was reserved for the mouth-breathing blogger types.
So by even daring to ask the question, Wilson is already breaking new ground in Toronto. And after all, if Wilson is willing to hold the golden boy Sundin accountable, you know that the holiday is over for the rest of the also-rans on this squad.
Meanwhile, one of our least favorite Leafs also had some eye-opening quotes. Here's Jason Blake looking back on his first season in Toronto.
Last year was a disaster for me on the ice and personally. I was brought in to do something and it didn't happen... For me, after having a downfall, you've got to prove yourself again to play, to play at a high level, and to be counted on again to score goals and produce offence. That's what I'm looking to do this year.No excuses. No McCabe-like pretending that things weren't really that bad. Just an honest (and accurate) admission that he was brutal, and a promise to be better.
Wow. Maybe things really are changing.