Don Cherry wasn’t ready to back down from his criticisms of the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday morning.
The outspoken Cherry shared his strongs belief on the weekend that the Leafs have struggled over the last seven years due to the lack of Ontario-born players in their system — an argument he stood on Brady & Lang on Sportsnet 590 The Fan Monday.
“Maybe I am prejudiced,” Cherry said. “Maybe I am for Ontario players … Go back to 1993. Think of all the guys. They were all from Ontario … We were promised truculence and we never got it. I had to say it. I was a little carried away but that’s how I feel.”
Cherry refused to single out Leafs GM Brian Burke again after he called him out on Saturday night, but remained insistent the franchise’s drafting and handling of Ontario players such as Nazem Kadri over the past decade has been misguided and problematic.
“(John) Ferguson (Jr.) was worse,” Cherry added. “Don’t get me wrong. He does his best not to have anyone from Ontario. It was like a joke … What really ticked me off, I’m out with the Ontario guys and the kids are coming up to me and thank me for sticking up …”
Cherry shot down the notion that many local players such as John Tavares, Rick Nash or Steven Stamkos have signed long-term extensions in smaller markets to avoid playing in the “hockey centre of the universe.”
“It’s not Toronto, it’s not the coach or the general manager,” Cherry said. “It’s that they’ve been out of the playoffs. If you have chance to win the Stanley Cup when you’re a free agent then that’s the team you’re going to go to. It’s not Toronto.”
The 78-year-old Cherry, who is a massive proponent of the GTHL and a junior hockey enthusiast, believes there is a correlation to the successful teams in the league and the significant Ontario-born players they have on their clubs.
“I like Ontario guys, there’s four Ontario guys on Vancouver,” Cherry explained. “How about the Boston Bruins with seven last year and nine this year. How about Chicago the year before with nine? Everyone has Ontario guys. More hockey players come from Ontario than any other place in the world. Forty-thousand kids play in the GTHL; more junior clubs than any other place in the world. I still say it’s ridiculous … I’m not making excuses. That’s just the way I feel.”
Cherry, who has personally been critical of Burke and former Leafs head coach Ron Wilson in the past, is supportive with the Leafs’ hiring of Randy Carlyle and thinks he could lead the franchise back in the right direction.
“(Randy’s) a good coach,” he explained. “Good Ontario boy, I must admit. I feel sorry for (Rob) Zettler. He took it in the ear and he’s a terrific guy. Carlyle can do it. I think they stopped listening out west. If you’re there five years, you get a little stale or something. He’s a good coach. He knows what’s going on. You’re not going to fool him.”
The Maple Leafs, who currently sit in 12th place and three points out of the eighth spot in the Eastern Conference, take on the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night.