As we head into the last days of the 2014-15 NHL season, the mood in Toronto around the Maple Leafs is one of general apathy.
Apathy among fans is apparent to the point that empty seats can be found at the Air Canada Centre on most nights as the Maple Leafs inch closer to an increased shot at landing a potential generational talent like Connor McDavid or Jack Eichel in the draft lottery.
According to Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt, apathy is a characteristic this current Maple Leafs team wears on its sleeves every night. Brunt pulled no punches when speaking about the Leafs when he joined Boomer & Rhett on Sportsnet 960.
“Part of what’s gone on here is that they’ve managed to produce a team that is not just bad, but appears to not give a damn,” Brunt told Boomer and Rhett. “It’s almost rubbing it in people’s faces – the lack of try, the lack of effort.”
The Maple Leafs sit in 15th place in the Easter Conference and 27th overall. On top of a seeming lack of care, Brunt says they’re a terribly unlikable hockey team.
“They are the least likable group of professional athletes I think I’ve ever been around,” said Brunt. “I don’t know these guys. Just the way they play, outside of the arena, the way they come across – they come across as the opposite of plucky underdogs that are trying really, really hard even if they’re not quite good enough. This is talented guys who are getting paid enormous amounts of money who stopped trying a long time ago and are kind of laughing at everybody. And that’s a bad vibe if you’re a consumer.
“That’s a bad vibe if you’re a fan, to think they care way less than I do. And that’s how it’s coming across whether that’s 100 per cent true. It is really, really sour here.”
Regardless of where the Maple Leafs draw in the lottery, it’s going to be an interesting off-season in Toronto. Trade rumours swirled around captain Dion Phaneuf and veterans Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel, and Joffrey Lupul to varying degrees since the team began its slide in December.
Goaltender Jonathan Bernier and forward Nazem Kadri are both due for new contracts as restricted free agents as well.
The front office team of president Brendan Shanahan, general manager Dave Nonis, and assistant GM Kyle Dubas will have their work cut out for them in putting together a better on-ice product for the 2015-16 season.