Without further ado, I'd like to introduce you all to our friends at Pension Plan Puppets! Thanks to my good friend PPP! Tell Chemmy he owes us!
- For the uninitiated and monumentally lazy... what does the name of the blog mean?
The Ontario Teachers Pension Plan owns a large portion of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. They also own a couple of billion dollars worth of prime downtown property in Toronto. Toronto has not won the Stanley Cup since 1967. When they do the celebration will rival anything ever seen before and there may or may not be a massive amount of damage to prime downtown property. As a result, my buddy and I joked that the Pension Plan kept the Leafs good enough to give fans hope (not that we necessarily need a good team for that) but not so good that there would be a chance of winning the Cup and suffering an insane amount of property damage. Also, it's a knowing nod to Leafs fans about the popular but wrongheaded belief that Leafs fans are sheep and the cause of their own problems.
I like to think it's mostly about how good Chemmy and I look great with Wendel Clark moustaches. More likely it's a combination of covering a team with an enormous fanbase, working hard to create a welcoming community, and having a platform that allows our great readers to share their own thoughts on the team.
The other aspect is that we basically write to entertain a small core group that has been there since the beginning. We do our podcast mostly because we like to talk to each other about hockey and people seem to like it. I think all four things combine to make people not only want to read but to comment and write.
It provides an insane amount of material. CoxBloc used to handle it but eventually became so dispirited. For me it means that there is always something to write about. The other thing is that it has created a group of fans that are fed up with the vast majority of the local media. They are looking for an alternative and we present a pretty varied option. If they are stat heads, we have that. If they are history buffs, we have that. If they are looking for humour, then...well, we make ourselves laugh.
Being a Leafs fan is funny because even the most optimistic among us is usually thinking about how things can go wrong. Years of having our hearts broken has created a fanbase that looks for the bright side in everything because we know that we will eventually be miserable so we might as well delay it as much as possible.
- How do you handle cheering for a team with such a proud history during what is obviously a disappointing point in that history?
I read a lot of 1967ers', our resident historian, posts. The bright side of the team's history is knowing that it's never been this bad and that it always gets better. This time period has grated on newer fans but the older ones (especially the ones that are actually old and not just 27) take things much more in stride.
I think that Leaf fans recognised that he was always going to be a controversial GM but we're realising the extent right now. He has definitely made a lot of good moves from seemingly solid draft picks to a lot of the infrastructure and organizational behaviour to some of his trades. Obviously, he's had some missteps as well that are well documented on the site and really everywhere in the hockey blogosphere. Ultimately I think that he's still being given the doubt because we know just how terrible of a job John Ferguson Jr. did. However, because of some of the calculated gambles he's made there is definite pressure to perform this season. Burke has the Fire Ron Wilson card to play but he has been public about the fact that he considers all of the detritus cleared out and this is clearly his team.
I think that a lot will depend on his relationship with the veterans. If they are on board with him then I think that he will succeed. While much has been made by both Burke and Wilson about Phaneuf's bark I think that he is coming into a dressing room that is largely made up of players that are both younger and have less pedigree so the awe factor might work in his factor. I agree that he needs to perhaps harness it but from what I've seen he never takes a shift off and had a noticeable effect on a number of players. They were effusive in their praise for him before he became captain so hopefully that gives it a bit more credence.
I'd love to be able to see the Leafs play more often. I actually signed up for season tickets when Balsillie made his ill-advised move. I don't think that it's as big of a slam dunk for success as people suggest. The city, as much as demographics are changing, is a Leafs town first and foremost. There is a massive fanbase in place and coverage of the team is pervasive. The economic impact would also be much less than people expect. My theory is that LeafsTV would leverage some of the new team's games and use that as a jumping off point for turning that into the equivalent of YES. Also, the idea that it would be the silver bullet to 'make the Leafs try to win' is so stupid I won't even bother refuting it other than to say that if you believe that you probably think Damien Cox is a good writer.
Last year I had to answer that on the record on the radio and said that it would depend 100% on goaltending. Nothing has changed. The Leafs' goaltending has torpedoed every season since the lockout. Thankfully, Old Eddie, Raycroft, and Toskala are just terrible memories. January 31st onwards Gustavsson and Giguere gave the team .913 save percentage which, for Leafs fans, might as well have been .999 it was such a change. Goaltending like that could help the Leafs get in the fight for the playoffs but it'll still be a stretch.
Oh man, it really depends. So many of them have been traded. Right now, illogically, people are zeroed in on hating Mikhail Grabovski which doesn't make a lick of sense. The guy drives play in the right direction, works hard, makes a salary more than commensurate with what he contributes, hate the Habs with every fibre of his being, and has the best hockey hair on the planet.
Boring. Sorry. I really enjoyed that run they had the year they came back on the Avs from 3-1 but outside of the playoffs I have to plead a lot of ignorance. I know that you guys have one of the most underrated players in the league in Mikko Koivu and that you've developed some good goalies. Oh and Brent Burns! But seriously, we don't get much Minnesota hockey here other than hearing how much you guys love your hockey which obviously endears you guys to me. Oh and I do appreciate that Minnesota was pretty forward thinking in hiring Chris Snow. Also, sorry about Doug Risebrough. Didn't anyone in the front office follow hockey in 1992?
Some might say it's divine but I like to think it's just a product of not being raised as a filthy Habs fan.
Honestly, I don't know. Chemmy masterminded Throw the Snake for the playoffs last year and tells me that he has tonnes of amazing ideas for the next time the Leafs make it. Otherwise, we'll keep doing what we do, wouldn't be surprised if we added a few writers during the season, and hope that we get our first successful season during the blog's existence. It's been a pretty crazy growth considering how depressing the team has been.