Sportsnet’s Stephen Brunt sure didn’t pull any punches when he went on 960 The FAN radio in Calgary to talk about the Toronto Maple Leafs.
You can listen to the audio here (starts at around the 5:00 mark), but following is a partial transcript:
“I think part of what’s gone on here is that they have managed to produce a team that is not just bad, but appears to not give a damn. It’s almost just rubbing it in people’s faces – the lack of try, the lack of effort. And they are the least likable group of professional athletes I think I’ve ever been around. And again, I don’t know these guys, but 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 like 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, ‘Boy, they care way less than I do.’ And that’s how it’s coming across — whether or not that’s 100 percent true — that’s what’s coming across.”
Feel free to take issue with the notion the Leafs aren’t trying or don’t care. That’s a heck of an indictment. Phil Kessel certainly wouldn’t agree with it.
But Brunt is right about the perception. And perception, as they say, is reality.
Bottom line: this group of players is not well-liked by its fan base, relative to other fan bases. And based on what we saw earlier in the season, the feeling may be mutual.
That’s not good for business.
Just another reason we could be seeing major changes to the Leafs’ core this summer.
In addition to, you know, all the collapsing and losing.