Leafs fans: Impatiently patient for a rebuild

(CP/Frank Gunn)

They say there is no such thing as a dumb question, but there is such thing as a question with an obvious answer.

The one I always hear: “Do Leafs fans have the patience for a rebuild?”

Many people have asked this question and I’m sure Leafs management toils over it everyday. That doesn’t make the answer any less obvious: Yes. Yes they do. For the love of CuJo, yes they do.

Today’s NHL Trade Deadline was a perfect example of how patient Leafs fans are willing to be. Leafs fans are so patient, in fact, they’re impatient. I know that sounds weird. Stick with me for a minute. Here’s a sample of the stuff people were tweeting today:

OK so a lot of Leafs fans are miserable. What else is new? Do you see the difference though? These fans are impatient with the fact the Leafs haven’t traded away enough players. The Leafs have supposedly been given the go-ahead for a “scorched earth” rebuild and that seems to be exactly what fans want at this point.

The Leafs haven’t won a road game since New Year’s Eve. They’re fourth-last in the NHL and have a 9.5 percent chance at drafting Connor McDavid first overall. When I first mentioned that I was hoping for the Leafs to tank, fans started tweeting me pictures of them wearing pots, lampshades, and tupperware on their head to show support. Today we have fans saying the Leafs didn’t trade enough players away at the deadline. Didn’t trade away enough players? Are we talking about the same team that traded Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik, and by some miracle, David Clarkson in the 15 days prior to the deadline?

That’s how willing Leafs Nation is for a rebuild. They want the team they cheer for to get rid of everybody faster.

I do have some comfort to offer those impatient fans, however. You want Dion Phaneuf gone? You want Joffrey Lupul gone? You want Tyler Bozak or Phil Kessel gone? A trade shipping any one of those players out of town could be coming just a few months from now when the 2015 NHL Entry Draft hits sunny Florida. Even after that there’s free agency! Some teams will get the players they wanted, but for everybody else it’s “Can I interest you in a slightly-used Roman Polak?” The Leafs still have many rebuild options. Oh, and there’s that little chestnut that the Leafs have a little less than 10 percent chance of drafting a player who only took 38 games to score 100 points in the OHL.

Do Leafs fans have enough patience for a full rebuild? If it’s done properly, of course they do. Most fans will be willing to forgive losses if the team drafts well, shows progress, and maybe has a rookie or two contending for the Calder. That’s the fun part, though. That’s the part where you fall in love with a young, exciting team like the 2007-08 Chicago Blackhawks and watch them blossom into the 2009-10 Chicago Blackhawks. Unfortunately, right now is the part where the team stinks for a little while.

The impatience some Leafs fans showed today is a good thing. It shows that fans understand the process. Gather assets, develop properly, then win. Fans get it.

If you see a Leafs fan being impatient, be patient with them. They’re not being impatient, they’re just being aggressively patient. It’s a Leafs thing. You’ll just have to trust me on this one.

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