This Sorry Season
Sorry, I don't understand what they're saying sorry for.
Which also means I don't believe MLSE is sorry about anything, and its hard to be believe anyone would take this corporate press release as something either meaningful or necessary. That it was delivered not in person but rather by type underscores the reality that it means little. Actually, less than little.
Still, sorry for what? Not winning enough NHL games this season? Well, presumably another 28 teams will soon be issuing similar apologies, for only one will actually have won enough games when its all over.
Are the Leafs saying they didn't try, or that there was some kind of mole buried deep in the organization who sabotaged their best intentions? Were there laws broken, innocents abused or victimized?
To me, an apology like that offered today in full newspaper expression was something that was necessary after the sex scandal was totally unveiled at Maple Leaf Gardens. It would be necessary if someone deliberately misled customers into purchasing tickets or diverted funds from a charitable effort to their own pockets, or if, like the Boston Red Sox, it was discovered a cabal of veterans was gorging itself on junk food and cheap booze between periods of important games.
Just don't see what the Leafs have to be sorry about.
These are the facts, folks. A large group of well-meaning, well-paid, well-intentioned hockey people spared no expense in organizing and training a team for the 2011-12 season, a very young team that most industry observers believed was destined to miss the Stanley Cup playoffs because it lacked both sufficient talent at key positions and experience and because teams at this stage of development generally don't make the playoffs.
Most analysts acknowledged that the nature of the NHL salary cap system has squeezed the free agent market, so the team assembled by Brian Burke and Co. really relied (hoped?) more on the improvement of individual young players than others acquired over the months of July and August.
From October to mid-February, this team was good enough to secure one of the eight playoff positions in the Eastern Conference. From mid-February to early April, it slumped horribly, lost key players to injury, made a coaching change in an attempt to reverse the flow but ultimately was one of the worst teams in the league over the final crucial weeks.
Were there, and have there been, miscalculations and investments made in individual players that proved faulty? Absolutely. That's pretty bloody obvious, wouldn't you say?
But unless Larry Tanenbaum is saying those decisions were deliberately made in order to make it impossible for the team to prosper, its very difficult to understand what this apology is for. Unless he's saying the front office knew Ron Wilson would steer the team into a ditch and retained him as head coach anyway, or reveals an internal memo warning that James Reimer would be unable to stay healthy the entire season, what does sorry mean? Truth is, he's saying he and MLSE believe in the plan, which means they actually don't believe at all there was any flaw in their thinking.
Is it for not winning the Stanley Cup since 1967? Well, Tanenbaum and those that own the team can hardly take responsibility for all of that. For missing the post-season since 2004? Sure, except they've overhauled the team and management in the intervening years, ostensibly to try and produce a more successful squad, and they did so while being told it would take years to get back on a winning track.
See, MLSE is mixing up the need for an explanation with an apology. They don't need to say sorry. They need to honestly articulate that what went wrong.
And they're never, ever going to do that. Apologizing is much, much easier.
There's no chance there will be a detailed explanation as to why Wilson failed as head coach, or a step-by-step presentation by goalie guru Francois Allaire on why Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson couldn't stop enough pucks.
That stuff is top secret, folks.
There's no chance Burke or Randy Carlyle are going to give a truthful assessment of the leadership abilities of Dion Phaneuf, or tell you why Phil Kessel can be such an effective attacker but so mediocre or weak in other elements of the game, or tell you which players didn't get along or which weren't in good enough physical condition to compete.
Understand, sorry is just way to avoid having to explain. That's what your 13-year-old is hoping for when he breaks a basement window and quickly apologizes, and why he gets such a pained look on his face when you say, "Well, what were you thinking?"
If I were a Leaf fan, I'd be offended by this corporate missive disguised as sincerity. The only thing Tanenbaum should be sorry about is paying a PR flack or consultant to come up with this pointless corporate strategy. Don't tell me you're sorry. Offer me a refund. Or tell me how it went wrong in meaningful detail and what organizational and personnel changes you're going to make to deal with the problem.
"We failed, and I apologize for years of consistently putting the needs of our shareholders ahead of our hockey fans. Today, because of that, I want to announce the following organizational decisions effective immediately and a reduction in ticket prices of 25 per cent across the board for next season. . . . . "
But the fans didn't hear that from Tanenbaum, did they?
The rest is just wasting time. And trees.