The entire behind-the-scenes docuseries has been a bit performed out. Arduous Knocks began it, and it got here to hockey nearly a decade in the past with the 24/7 collection that tracked the 2 groups in that given 12 months’s Winter Basic for the month main as much as the New 12 months’s Day sport. A few of it was compelling stuff, particularly the very first one with the Capitals and Penguins, because it was the league’s premier rivalry then. The Caps had been such a multitude at the moment and the Penguins had been the league’s hottest workforce, so it made for the sort of juxtaposition you possibly can’t write, particularly when it ended with the Caps successful the sport.
The enchantment of those remains to be there, as a result of it’s enjoyable to see the amenities and be within the dressing room and get a number of the in-game and pregame construct, although they by no means actually get into the nuts and bolts. It’s all fairly floor degree, even when the areas of the cameras are areas we don’t usually get to see. Revelatory they hardly ever are.
However the upcoming All or Nothing: Toronto Maple Leafs on Amazon, which debuts Friday and paperwork final 12 months’s COVID season for the Leafs, is bound to offer complications and irritation for all the hockeysphere.
The widespread joke amongst hockey followers all over the place is to butt in with “How does this have an effect on the Leafs?” in any dialog in regards to the sport or league, regardless of the topic. As a result of for many of the Canadian press, and by osmosis an excellent portion of the American one, every little thing comes again to the Leafs. They’re the one workforce within the nation’s greatest metropolis, and on high of that they’ve the league’s longest Cup drought. With the 24-hour information cycle, the air always needs to be crammed with Leafs discuss, as its fanbase is ravenous to know nearly every little thing. Not solely is it the league’s greatest fishbowl, it’s one of many largest in all of North American sports activities, as properly. It’s for lots of the identical causes your Sunday Twitter, wherever you’re, is inundated with Bears ideas and/or grief. Make the game’s largest fanbase, communally, additionally essentially the most headless and determined, and that is what you get. And the entire thing feeds on itself. Name out their want for consideration and it solely will get worse. “You don’t perceive!”, though each fanbase principally has been dangerous or titleless in the identical approach the Leafs have sooner or later. Maybe essentially the most infuriating facet is that we do all perceive.
The previous 4 years, Leafs media and followers have been determined to make them out as some form of cursed image for the futility of life. They need what the Pink Sox or Cubs had however rose above finally, besides they need it to be louder.
And it’s hardly that complicated, though the docuseries will be dissected by everyone in the Toronto Sun, the Mail, the Globe, The Athletic, and all 10,000 independent weirdo Leafs bloggers to try and find what witchcraft has kept them from seeing the second round. Whatever Mitch Marner has to say, it will be used as justification for his label as a big game floater. If Auston Matthews doesn’t track down Marty McSorley at his home and fight him on camera, he’ll be derided as never the leader that can bring Toronto to the point of collecting the Cup from Gary Bettman. John Tavares, despite being nearly decapitated in Game 1 last year against the Habs, will be viewed through the prism of “captain worthy or not” for every interaction. Which he’s already had enough of thanks to the Islanders playoff runs since he fucked off to Toronto in free agency. It won’t end. And you can’t escape it.
It’s as simple as this: For two years, the Leafs ran into a better team in the Bruins. And the Bs were only marginally so, given that both series went to a Game 7. And then the Leafs tried to play Freddie Andersen in goal for those with a straight face. No result in the bubble of 2020 should really be taken as anything to draw conclusions from. Last year they lost their captain as mentioned above, and Jack Campbell was an even worse solution than Andersen was. Especially as Carey Price went supernova in Game 6. These things happen in hockey. Play that game again and the Leafs more likely win 4-1 and move on.
But that’s not enough. It’s not enough that Morgan Rielly might not really be a #1 D-man or that because of their star-studded top six that’s paid like it, they can only afford aging and barely-kept-together vets on the bottom six, who get outskated by other teams’ kids. For everyone around the Leafs, there has to be something unquantifiable to justify their persecution complex.
And we’ll never be rid of it. This series will be referenced when the Leafs run into Tampa or Boston or Florida, all of whom are very good to great teams, come April. Any of those series would basically be coinflips now. And if it comes up tails again for the Leafs, the rush for any writer or follower to say, “I knew this would happen in episode two when Marner ordered the chicken instead of the fish! He doesn’t want it enough!” You thought Phil Kessel and the hot dogs were bad. Just you wait.
There’s always more noise around the Leafs, even when Toronto has a recent NBA champion and what looks to be a playoff caliber MLB team for the next few years. The Leafs aren’t all that matter in the NHL and Toronto, but everyone acts like it is. So this might not be additional noise, but it will be more grating. Even if like always, All or Nothing doesn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.