- Steve Etheridge, ESPN Playbook
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On Monday night, the Toronto Maple Leafs were eliminated from the Stanley Cup playoffs following a crushing Game 7 loss to the Boston Bruins. Despite carrying a 4-1 lead late into the third, the Leafs collapsed under the weight of a last-minute Boston surge and ultimately succumbed to their divisional foes in overtime.
It was unfathomable. One analyst’s estimate pegs it as the kind of thing a fan might experience once every 4,757 years. To watch the game was to be in a state of disbelief. And rightfully so. Because what we saw Monday wasn’t real. It wasn’t the result of honest competition between equally advantaged opponents.
It was an inside job.
Proof of deliberate sabotage has been piling up all season long, and the patterns clearly indicate a systematic campaign by the Maple Leafs organization to undermine the team’s success.
Don’t dismiss this as a conspiracy theory. It’s the truth -- if it weren’t, you wouldn’t be reading about it on the Internet. I’ve uncovered NUMEROUS pieces of vaguely coincidental evidence that, when presented in a misleading fashion, UNDENIABLY proves that treachery has been afoot.
Let’s examine the facts:
• Earlier this year, the team made "The Harlem Shake" its new goal song. But why would you make your goal song a song that nobody in their right mind would ever want to hear? Because the team knew it would keep the players from ever wanting to score goals. And it sort of worked. At the end of the regular season, they’d been outshot more than any other playoff-bound team in the past decade. Clearly, they were too terrified to score.
• And not only were they afraid to score, but they went to great lengths to stay away from the puck itself. The team’s regular-season Fenwick percentage, which measures puck possession compared to opponents, was dead last in the league. Did team executives blackmail the players into avoiding the puck? While there’s no concrete evidence to support this theory, we can conclusively say that yes, yes they did.
• But if the Leafs were scared of the puck, how did they make the playoffs? Well, it was largely due to the incredible aplomb of goaltender James Reiner, the team’s undisputed MVP. Yet, inexplicably, the front office was negotiating to get rid of him all the way up to the trade deadline, hoping to pawn him off for an aging backup from Vancouver named Robert Long or something like that. Why trade the future of your franchise for a high-mileage nobody unless you want your team to lose? I don’t know. But you know who might? The Illuminati.
• The Leafs raised their ticket prices by 75 percent for the playoffs, almost certainly in an attempt to shoo away ticketholders and demoralize the players with a sparse hometown crowd. I mean, why else would they do it? If you remember the owners’ rhetoric from the lockout: serving the fans is their No. 1 priority -- they wouldn’t dream of raising prices simply to make more money. Regardless, their scheme ultimately didn’t work. The noble bankers and lawyers of Toronto were not intimidated by the high prices, and they bought all of the tickets anyway, proving their loyalty over the working-class fans.
• It seems awfully suspicious that the Leafs didn’t play a single playoff game throughout Pope Benedict XVI’s entire papacy, but as soon as a new guy takes over at the Vatican, they suddenly get a playoff berth. Really makes you think, doesn’t it? Anyway, not sure what kind of accusation I’m trying to make here, but I’d definitely be keeping an eye on that new pope.
• When Jose Canseco says something’s gonna happen, it’s almost as if he’s putting a jinx in place to ensure that that thing will never, ever occur. Like when he said he was buying a baseball team with Mark Zuckerberg, or when he claimed he was going to travel back in time, or when he said he was taking over Jimmy Fallon’s late-night slot on NBC. Etcetera. In April, he boldly declared that the Leafs were going to win the Stanley Cup, so perhaps someone up north called in a favor. After all, if R.A. Dickey’s slow start is any indicator, Canseco’s jinxing powers are especially potent in Toronto.
• In December, numerous retail outlets suddenly stopped carrying Leafs gear, even though they continued to sell the wares of other Canadian teams. When people took notice, the stores backpedaled and restocked the merchandise. But why remove it in the first place? You almost get the sense that someone was trying to make the team disappear, sort of like that "Simpsons" episode where Homer exposes the Isotopes plan to move to Albuquerque. It also just so happens that an enormous hockey arena in Atlanta mysteriously went vacant not too long ago. Perhaps it was to make room for ... the Atlanta Maple Leafs.
• The Maple Leafs have 13 Stanley Cups but haven’t won one in 46 years --> 46-13=33 --> 33 was Scottie Pippen’s number --> Scottie Pippen played basketball --> Basketball is Spike Lee’s favorite sport --> Spike Lee directed “Inside Man” --> “Inside Man” = inside job --> MAPLE LEAFS = INSIDE JOB!!!!!!!!!
While the conspirators' names and motives are still unclear, they probably assumed they could get away with a con like this because the team’s fans are Canadian, and Canadians are the most civil and trusting species alive.
But who can the fans trust now?
Probably the Blue Jays. They’re really trying, y’know? And while it hasn’t yet translated into wins, Dickey’s move to Canada has taken his knuckleball from a ho-hum 76 mph to a blistering 122 kph. The future’s bright for the Jays.
But the Leafs are like a piñata full of rattlesnakes. You expect good things to start raining down, but then you get the worst surprise ever. Your 4-1 lead in the third suddenly turns to disaster.
The evidence is clear: Someone inside the organization is stuffing rattlesnakes into piñatas. And he’s keeping all the candy for himself.