Stop us if you've heard this one before: the Toronto Maple Leafs are in the midst of an epic collapse down the stretch, and are in danger of falling flat on their face and out of the playoffs. And the untimely losing streak has an odd, familiar feel of inevitability to it.
When you consider the slew of gut-punch losses that Leaf fans have endured over the past generation - from Wayne Gretzky's obvious but unpenalized high-stick, to Jeremy Roenick's overtime winner, to the improbable choking away of a 4-1 lead in game seven last year - it becomes understandable that fans and management are turning to the team's "culture" as a possible source of the repeated failure.
At least MLSE President and noted dreamer Tim Leiweke is.
"It’s not by chance, desire or intent, but we are dealing with a history and tradition here that have not been great," Leiweke told the Toronto Sun this week. "Sometimes, losing becomes a culture, an excuse. It almost grows into being acceptable. People have a fear about how you get out of it. The longer you learn to accept it, the harder it is to ultimately change it."
Leiweke elaborated on this theme, and even compared the Maple Leafs' struggles to a classic Seinfeld episode "The Smelly Car":
It becomes a way of life. Like the old Seinfeld episode where the guy with the body odour got into the car and they never got rid of the odour. We were that car. We couldn’t get rid of it, so we had to say ‘buy a new car’.
You heard it from Leiweke first: the rank smell of the Maple Leafs' losing culture isn't even B.O., it's beyond B.O., it's B.B.O, Jerry!
So what can MLSE and the Maple Leafs do to reverse their fortunes long-term? Leiweke didn't really offer any specifics beyond a vague promise to be bold.
"At TFC, we bought a Porsche, with Michael Bradley and Jermain Defoe," Leiweke said, pointing to his most recent high-profile accomplishment. "Now they believe around here that you can do anything you choose to do. But you have to be prepared to put your neck out there and take some risk."
Preventing players like super sniper Steven Stamkos from getting wide open in the slot might be a useful place to start, also.
Feature photo courtesy of USA TODAY Sports/Tom Szczerbowski