"Man, I hope there's a season so I can totally screw up the development of my prospects. That'd be awesome. They'd never see that coming. Heh, heh, heh."

The lockout has been a trying time for all of us. Fans are angry that there’s no NHL hockey to watch, players are angry that they’re kind of unemployed at the moment (except for the ones who are playing in Europe but they’re angry too, dammit), and journalists are angry because they have to invent things to write about (I invent things to write about all the time and am not a journalist so thanks for pointing that out, voice inside my head). However, in times of hardship and trouble like these hockey-less weeks, we turn to our elders. We turn to those who have always shown us that they are the best of the best of the best at what they do. Like the Men in Black. We turn to the progenitor of the pointless, the regent of the ridiculousness, Mr. Damien Cox.

Oh, how we love thee so, Mr. Cox. How we long to hear your ruminations on the world of sports. How we love to hear you completely miss the point in an article about a story that you, yourself invented. It’s truly an amazing feat to watch as you throw strawman after strawman against your own arguments. We are in awe, good sir. For you are truly the greatest and your column in the Toronto Star, the most elegant of all newspapers, has lifted you to noble status above all us commoners and has given you the ability, nay, the right, to condescend to us all on your Twitter machine. I come before you today, sir, not to make fun, but to uphold the truths that you trumpet. For you are truly sportswriter royalty and I would be wrong to question your brilliance.

But I’m going to anyway because you wrote something really stupid and because I need to invent things to write about as well. Let’s take a look at Cox’s latest opus and take this thing apart Fire Joe Morgan ((RIP, I miss you every day) style.

Maple Leafs might be better off without a season: Cox

I do enjoy how his name is in the headline. Like anyone else would have written this. You know that irritating kid in your neighbourhood or jackass in your office who likes to make the same Leaf jokes over and over again? Cox has, apparently, made a career out of being that guy. There are plenty of valid reasons and ways to make fun of the Maple Leafs, let’s just aim a little higher.

“Stalled.”

That was the word used Thursday by NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly to describe the non-talks with the players union. Daly also said “we are done with making proposals and we don’t have any new ideas.”

Hmmm. Promising.

I love how this is written to sound as dramatic as possible. I also love how a major writer for a major newspaper puts “hmmm” in his column. I mean, I really have no right to call someone out on this sort of thing but, I mean, come on. I compare hockey players to Pokemon, Damien Cox writes for The Toronto Star.

Nothing going on then except for lots of idle chatter. One of the more intriguing — and totally unconfirmed — bits of speculation making the rounds these days is that there are only two clubs particularly anxious to play, Vancouver and Montreal.

So…something is going on, then. Idle chatter is going on. Cox’s ability to contradict himself in the same sentence will never cease to amaze me.

I also love how the fact that Vancouver and Montreal are anxious to play is intriguing, totally unconfirmed, and speculation all at the same time. Sounds like basis for a totally valid starting point to me. Who cares about “facts” and “accuracy,” am I right?

With the Habs, the suggestion has been that chairman Geoff Molson is a dove, which might be a euphemism for a clear-thinking NHL owner/executive who keenly understands his franchise has little to gain in this destructive clash between the very wealthy and rather wealthy.

The Aquilinis in Vancouver, meanwhile, would be forgiven if they were to think a little selfishly. These days, windows for NHL championships open and close very quickly. With key players into their thirties and former No. 1 goalie Roberto Luongo on the trade block, it’s possible Vancouver’s window for a Cup is already closing.

And once it’s gone, it’s gone.

Man, it’s a good thing that we’re not speculating about totally unconfirmed reports or anything. I mean, I know they teach you to bury the lede but I think it’s supposed to be done with something that either a) relates to the headline and the article that you’re writing or b) has anything resembling truth or fact in it. Also so glad he found a way to sneak a Luongo reference in there. The gap between Eklund and Cox is shrinking so rapidly, I didn’t even notice it was there in the first place.

So what about the Maple Leafs?

What about the Maple Leafs? Seriously, what about them?

Obviously, it would be the worst way for Bell and Rogers to begin their stewardship of English Canada’s most famous franchise. Then again, these companies are so big they might barely notice.

But what about on the ice?

I don’t…what? How does Cox think that large companies work? He does know that Bell and Rogers aren’t anthropomorphic things, right? Pretty sure they’d notice if the main cash cow of the company they just purchased for $1.07 billion wasn’t doing what they’re supposed to be doing. Considering, you know, they’re companies run by human beings and aren’t just a hivemind controlled by the frozen head of Ted Rogers and act according to his synapses randomly firing off (though that would be fucking awesome). Pretty sure the human beings with their own minds and free will have noticed what is arguably one of the biggest stories in the country right now. But, no, your joke was hilarious.

You can construct a case — not that Brian Burke would buy it — that missing the season wouldn’t be a bad thing at all for the Toronto hockey club.

For example, it would save the team from a chronic and self-destructive habit that has long bedevilled the team, and that’s rushing young players to the NHL without adequate training.

Doing the right thing with young players is more difficult in Toronto than in any other NHL city. Only minor-leaguers who play for the Marlies are the subject of discussion on CBC’s Coach’s Corner on Saturday nights. Heck, the possibility that Leaf farmhand Leo Komarov might return to the KHL became a national story this week.

What the fuck? How the fuck? Error, error, does not compute. Danger, Will Robinson. Other robotic cliches. What the hell does any of this mean. In Cox’s world do the Marlies just cease to exist if there’s an NHL season? If the Leafs are playing hockey does Burke just say “you know, we have this whole roster of NHL players but forget all that, let’s bring up every young player we have and throw them all on the ice, I want to field a horrendous team.” I also don’t buy this “Toronto as the center of the universe” bullshit. Is Nail Yakupov not under constant scrutiny? Didn’t Damien Cox himself go on Sportsnet and start criticizing him? Didn’t that happen, I don’t know, yesterday? But, no, the Leafs are the ONLY TEAM IN THE WORLD that have young players under constant scrutiny and it makes it so, so hard for them to do their job. It’s a good thing there’s a lockout so the Leafs can be saved from themselves.

If a top draft pick needs two or three years of minor pro experience in the Carolina or Detroit or New Jersey system, he gets it. No big deal. In Toronto, Nazem Kadri’s presence on the Marlies roster is treated as though he is a persecuted political prisoner.

So the fact that Kadri, Jake Gardiner, Ben Scrivens, Joe Colborne, Jesse Blacker and others are continuing to serve their apprenticeships with the Marlies and Tyler Biggs learns in Oshawa isn’t a bad thing at all.

If the NHL lockout lasts the year, it won’t hurt any of those players. They’ll only be the better for it.

You can’t see it but right now my head is in my hands and I’m shaking in a corner. Who, ever in the history of ever, has suggested that Jesse Blacker of all people was going to see extended time with the big club this season? Raise your hand. If I see you raise your hand then I must be going crazy because you don’t exist. The Nazim Kadri thing has so many other factors, mostly relating to the fact that he keeps showing up to camp out of shape and just might not be that good but Don Cherry mentioned his name so it’s a fucking travesty the likes that we have never seen. Pretty sure Jake Gardiner played most of the 2011-2012 season with the Leafs and was pretty damn good for the most part, one might even say that sending him down to the Marlies for a year would hurt his development because he’d be playing against lesser talent. But that would just be crazy talk because HE’S BEING RUSHED TO THE NHL TOO QUICKLY BECAUSE THAT’S WHAT THE LEAFS ALWAYS DO LA LA LA LA.

It’s not so much that Cox is wrong that some of these guys would be well served with more time in the Marlies, it’s that he’s wrong to suggest that, if there were an NHL season, that they’d magically all be called up and that they’d be deprived of that time. It’s not like Brian Burke is actively trying to screw these guys over and wants to ruin their development as quickly as possible. I mean, what planet are you living on, Cox? Oh, right, the planet of totally unconfirmed bits of speculation.

Similarly, you know that if the lockout ends tomorrow, Moose Jaw defenceman Morgan Rielly will be on his way to Toronto for an abbreviated training camp and there will be, as there always is, intense pressure to keep him in the NHL.

Which would be exactly the wrong thing to do. Again.

So, no NHL, no chance to recall Rielly, who can then continue playing a prime-time role with the Warriors and quite possibly skate for Canada at the world junior hockey championships.

The lockout might save the Leafs from themselves in other words.

Holy shit. Did you just say the thing that I said as a joke in this thing? That is amazing. I swear to the God I don’t believe in that I didn’t know that was coming. Apparently I didn’t read this thing close enough the first time through or I couldn’t see through the bullshit. I love you, Damien Cox.

In terms of the NHL roster, other GMs have already suggested the Leafs are as well positioned as any franchise in terms of the general youth and affordability of their personnel. They may not have the talent of Boston or L.A., but they have loads of kids and no anchor-like, decade-long contractual commitments.

Then why would they rush them all to the NHL and ruin that? What is it? Are they well positions or so completely mismanaged that at the mere whiff of an NHL season, they’d just completely screw up this great system that they’ve built? My head hurts.

If this season were to be erased, the contracts to Tim Connolly, Joffrey Lupul, Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur, Tyler Bozak and David Steckel would expire, making them unrestricted free agents.

Only Lupul would be a major loss and he could be re-signed. Lopping off the $8.25 million owed Connolly and Lombardi would be a plus, particularly if the salary cap, as most anticipate, drops to $60 million or less.

A thornier problem would be that both Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf would move into the final years of their contracts before they gained UFA status, which would require very tough calls to be made on both.

These are all true statements, congratulations. Unfortunately, they have literally nothing to do with the column you are currently writing. I thought we were talking about the Leafs rushing rookies to the NHL, now we’re onto contracts? Do you have a quota for words? If all those contracts expire wouldn’t there be more room for the rookies to come to the big club? Is that what you’re going for here? But isn’t that supposed to be the worst thing they could possibly do?! What is happening?

But in the grand scheme of things you could certainly make argument the Leafs are one of the clubs that, at least purely in terms of hockey, could benefit by having the season lost. It’s not like a Cup is on the way next spring, after all.

Sure, that’s a cynical way to look at things. But coldly practical. And practicality is in short supply these days in the NHL.

Oh, the Leafs aren’t going to win the Cup this year, might as well just not play the damn thing. Oh, hey, all 20 or so teams that weren’t go to win the Cup this year? Yeah, Damien Cox says you might as well just pack up your shit and leave. Let’s not even bother playing this thing out. Want to go to the bar or something?

Also, something that is entirely hypothetical and completely unfounded cannot be coldly practical. But we’re at the end of this thing, why should we start caring about accuracy, logic, or the English language now?

At least we have Damien Cox to be the bastion of practicality in these desperate times. I, for one, am glad he’s here. He’s truly a legend, a king among men. Thank you for all you do, Damien Cox. Thank you for being you.

Please don’t block me on Twitter.