No Easy Way Out
LONDON--Last summer it was Brad Richards going to the New York Rangers.
Last winter it was Yu Darvish becoming the property of the Texas Rangers.
This week, at least it wasn't a basketball version of the Rangers. Try the L.A. Lakers, who got Steve Nash to play for them when the Toronto Raptors really, really, really wanted him to come north to Toronto.
And once again, the sky-is-falling reaction in Toronto is typical. All Toronto teams stink, nobody good wants to play here, the executives running the teams in T.O. are full of hot air, Toronto teams in every sport are irrelevant, etc., etc.
There's certainly a lot of bottled up frustration out there. Lots of cynicism, too, and when you've got teams with the records of the Raps, Jays and Leafs, not just this season but in a number of seasons, all of this is understandable.
But perspective is necessary.
Nash wasn't going to turn the Raps into a winner. At best, he would have bridged the gap between the group of young players that GM Bryan Colangelo has put together and that group maturing into a decent basketball team.
It would have been great to see Nash in Toronto. Certainly entertaining. But not getting him doesn't materially change what has to happen with the Raps. They've got to develop good young players and a reputation that makes players want to come.
Whether Colangelo is the right guy to do that is open for debate. But Colangelo's success, or failure, will have a lot more to do with whether Lithuanian youngster Jonas Valanciunas can become an NBA star than what Nash could've done for the team.
But there's no easy answer here, no quick fix. So all the moaning and gnashing of teeth over Nash is a little misplaced, or exaggerated.
But that's the way it is in Toronto right now. When the Leafs were in a playoff position in early February, Brian Burke was a genius for pilfering both Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul out of Anaheim and good things were happening. Then the goaltending went south and analysts were popping up everywhere saying the Leafs had "nothing" and Burke needed to be replaced because he hadn't turned the team around in 3 1/2 years.
Meanwhile, the Rangers finally turned into a good team in the 11th year of Glen Sather's run as GM, while the Kings won the Cup nine years after beginning a rebuild.
But perspective is not what many Leaf fans are currently interested in. Forget the four first round picks - Nazem Kadri, Stuart Percy, Tyler Biggs and Morgan Rielly - taken by Burke currently working their way through the system. Forget the year the Marlies had. It's all "nothing," according to some.
All they see is Richards signing in New York and both Zach Parise and Ryan Suter going to Minnesota on absurd contracts and suddenly that's twisted into more Leaf failure. Justin Schultz signed in Edmonton, picking the Oilers ahead of at least 20 other teams, and there was actually a piece written saying Schultz's decision was indicative of the rot in Toronto. Forget the other 19 teams - just the Leafs looked bad.
Then there's the Blue Jays, out of the playoffs for almost two decades. In the winter, major league baseball analysts were giddy over the potential of this young team, but then the hitting didn't materialize in the early going and then the pitching got hurt and now this team is struggling to say above .500.
Sure, Darvish would have been a significant addition. But there's still lots of youth and potential. That hasn't changed. Nor has to be the path Alex Anthopoulos must follow, which is pretty much the same path that Burke and Colangelo are following.
Only Colangelo, just past his sixth year as GM, has had anywhere near the time necessary to build a winning roster. It's understandable why he wanted to inject some excitement with Nash and add a player who could mentor some of his young players. Depending on what the new ownership of MLSE, he might indeed be on the clock and felt the need to try and make something significant happen.
But Burke and Anthopoulos can't be on the clock yet. Or if one is, the other has to be.
Look, it's been a long time since Toronto has had a winner. A long, long time, and that bugs people.
But it really doesn't change what has to be done with any of these teams, and it shouldn't be used to torque the reality and make it seem worse than it is. Break down the rosters and the prospects, analyze the moves that have been made, critique the decisions made on coaches and personnel. But the all-encompassing sky-is-falling, everybody stinks approach is kind of pointless.
Agreed, there is precious little evidence that Rogers knows how to build a winning baseball team or that MLSE, under old or new ownership, knows how to build a winner.
But the Jays, Raps and Leafs are all at different stages of rebuilding, and all require time to get that done. We can say, with some certainly, that this is the low ebb for pro sports in Toronto, but that doesn't really change much what has to be done or how long its likely to take.