Losing sucks.

Losing leads to bad attitudes which leads to more losing which leads to finger pointing which leads to more losing. It’s a cycle of self-cannibalization for teams, and right now the Toronto Maple Leafs are trying to decide who to eat first.

From the player’s point of view, being at the rink becomes a misery. You can’t joke around during practice, and if you have a particularly surly coach (see: Ron Wilson), chuckles in the dressing room are frowned upon too (literally). You obviously don’t care about winning if you can laugh during a losing streak, right? So, paint on your determined face and get back to work.

I always hated that more than anything about being a hockey player. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to work hard and commit to winning the next game – I did – it was just that I knew that some mornings the possibility of a good day at the rink were basically nil. There’s not a whole lot of jobs out there where that’s going to get the best out of people.

The deeper the hole gets, the more the environment becomes toxic, until you get to the point where all you want to do is leave the arena as quick as possible (especially with the media circling), and now you’ve got the start of the snowball effect. Instead of hanging around the rink bullshitting with your teammates, instead of doing an extra couple reps with the guys in the gym, you just get the hell out of there, and everyone is worse for it.

It snowballs on the ice in practice too. You know your testy coach is desperately trying to figure out what the problem is, and somebody has to become the next scapegoat, the next guy to find himself wearing a suit during the next game. It seems like every cross-ice pass is hitting bumps on the way over and nobody can go tape to tape, it’s seems tougher to hit the net, and the quiet during practice has everyone on eggshells.

All you hear are pucks, sticks, glass, and guys calling for passes.

The most frustrating part is that sometimes your team just isn’t good enough. Sometimes your personnel isn’t equipped to handle the top teams in the league, and guys are trying their bags off during games despite repeatedly coming up with the short end of the stick.

But it just doesn’t matter. Don’t you dare smile at practice tomorrow morning.

It’s simply the wrong environment for getting out of a hole, especially in the case where your team doesn’t have the talent. Those mornings were a few of the times I remember wanting to fast-forward parts of my life just to get to the next puck-drop so I could have another crack at winning, another crack at bringing some sense of normalcy back to my daily routine.

Knowing how bad that sucks, I offer this advice to the Toronto Maple Leafs, who have one win in their last 11 games:

They need to remember that this is their team for this year, and they can still make playoffs. This isn’t about who to blame, it’s about pulling together (call that corny, but good teams/captains/coaches find a way). While serious practice is a must, it wouldn’t kill for Wilson to chuck out some tennis balls after practice and let the guys relax for a hot sec. I can’t remember that last time I saw a player on that team having a good time. Their dressing room reminds me of Mordor.

But, tennis balls and tomfoolery are not going to happen in Toronto – they’re too busy taking bites out of each other to decide who’s tastiest. Everything with that Wilson-led group is the World’s Most Serious Thing, and today is no different. The only thing that will make life better for those guys is straight-up success.

I still don’t miss those mornings they’re enduring one bit.

It’s an age old mantra in our game – winning cures everything, and right now the Toronto Maple Leafs need medicine more than ever.

Comments (16)

  1. we now know what “losing leads to” based on your first paragraph, but what does “losing leads lead to…” :)

  2. Is losing worse in larger markets? I’d think in a place where you can to to the rink, practice, and leave – it would be a huge improvement over going to the rink, practicing, then having to talk to the media for a while about how terrible you are.

  3. Time for some line up changes;
    1st line
    Kessel. Graboski. Lupul
    2nd line
    Mac. Connelly. Armstrong
    3rd line
    Frattin. Bozak. Kluemin
    4th line
    Brown Steckel Lombardi

    • Why keep icing the same dead line up every night? Call up Colbourne, Kadri and Scrivens and give them a turn; this team has had enough time to show what it has.
      Anyone remember how curt Burke was with Murray at the draft when Murray came over looking to move up? He was pretty adamant about Kadri then.

      • I believe you only get 4 callups after the trade deadline. I’d rather keep all the kids down with the Marlies and give them the experience of a playoff run and possible Calder Cup. Leave the big club as is for the most part and just try different combinations and see who deserves to stay for next year.

      • Ok, enough is enough. Here are the lines that WILL get the leafs in the playoffs;
        Kessel Grabo Carter
        Mac Connelly Frattin
        Lombard bozak Kluemin
        Brown/Armstrong Steckel Crabb

        Phenuf Lyles
        Schenn Gardiner
        Kom Gunnerson (shut down)

  4. @Craig Gosse…..I like your line-up,do you think maybe it is time to give Scrivens a start.

  5. ahem…. WHAT…is Randy Carlyse doing these days???

    • Totally agree it is time for Burke and Wilson to decide who is staying and get rid of the other one. Obviously Wilson can’t get rid of Burke so looks like Wilson is the odd man out for this one. Plenty of other coaches with NHL expierience out there and looks like from the picture above that Wilson might need a break too.

  6. I’m perfectly okay with them continuing to lose.

  7. what i mean is…carlyse bled white and blue…and also won a cup with the ducks. he needs a job does he not… i mean hasnt the coach of the leafs been there long enough now to show he aint the guy??

    • absolutely. Of course, that doesn’t forgive the classless idiots chanting ‘fire wilson’ at the game. General rule of thumb should be: do the opposite of whatever the idiot Leaf fans in stands are chanting, whether thats shooting, trading Larry Murphy, giving Tie Domi ice time or firing Wilson. Fire him in the offseason.

  8. @darrell tobin
    Nay I believe Burke is right this is the group to make the playoffs. Trade the monster in the summer and then give Ben his chance.
    They need to reunite Connelly and Mac.

  9. Losing streaks sure point to the “right guys” for sure… cant motivate themselves…and cant be motivated… coaching change… RANDY CARLYLE… some of you older posters will remember who this guy is… you play hard when you play for randy carlyle. You dont when you lose game after game for loser wilson. Burke needs to go too…neither of them grasp what hockey means in canada… hire gretzky and carlysle…and watch the team change around. stick with these fools and nothing will happen. burke is a loiud mouth who is always mad at the media…and always tries to act tough… bravado and bs.

  10. welll looks like i was right after all…carlyle might be that guy… woohooo!!! Go Carls!!

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