In the quietest periods for non-playoff teams — letting the postseason take its whirl around as the center of attention — some rumors always sneak through as the teams with disappointing performances (and their fans) wiggles their way around the league looking for players to snatch up and devour upon.
With every playoff round loss — and there’s been a lot — they take a look around each team and spin the wheel on CapFriendly trade simulators as ways to make their eventual future losses more palatable. Soaked in that depressive stench of underperforming, all of Toronto desperately tries to lick their postseason wounds with trades that only work with a controller in your hand. It’s not surprising either, as the center of the NHL’s media and almost every national reporter living within a few dozen miles of the Scotiabank Arena, they are the one that pops up first when wanting to talk about trade rumors and the fans lap it up as the self-proclaimed Next Great Super Team destined for greatness — almost deserving of a better team.
In a predictable sense after the Leafs fell yet again in the first round, this time against the Montreal Canadiens, the propaganda machine kept on whirring around and landed on the Philadelphia Flyers. Armed with the undying attention of saddened Leafs fans, NHL insider and Sportsnet personality Chris Johnston appeared on the Steve Dangle Podcast to try and instill some hope in Toronto landing a big name this summer.
“There’s gonna be like one player on this roster on Opening Night that is going to get everyone excited about,” Johnston said. “I’m talking about a big name or big promise player and no one’s gonna see it coming. I think they’re gonna make a big move of some sort, it’s not just gonna be the same group next season.”
He went on to talk in more detail. That this hypothetical trade target is playing for an American team out of the playoffs and has a few more years on their deal.
In this cryptic game of Guess Who? a couple names spread like wildfire through the Toronto fan base and Travis Konecny was the one they circled around like vultures picking apart any non-playoff team. If you just go and boot up the hellish machine and search “konecny leafs” it will be a flood of fans trying to pry the 24-year-old winger away from the Flyers.
He does fit all their supposed criteria as a target, being that he’s very good and has four years left on his deal with a $5.5-million AAV cap hit. Hypothetically I would want him on my depressingly horrible team too — just to yell at opposing players even.
But just as Toronto can’t get out of the first round, the Flyers won’t let Konecny just go away to another team on the basis of desperation. It’s no secret that Philadelphia and their entire front office is aching after this awkward season that had their defensive held out to dry and their goaltending be historically awful; leaving them out of the playoffs after a stellar 2020 season. Despite that horrendous outcome, it’s so hard to justify giving up a player that consistently provides a decent amount of offense and drives play well enough for all the charts to go all gooey-eyed while looking at him.
But that doesn’t stop the Maple Leafs Rumor Machine from gobbling up any unsuspecting victim from an American market. The self-absorbed media contraption will not let reality or reports get in its way to creating buzz around a certain player of a non-playoff team. It will keep on rolling, demolishing everything in its sight; a deadly tornado of hype that can lay waste to actuality. Creating their own ideas out of thin air — we have enough of that in Philadelphia — just to appease some fans and calm their disappointment in the current form of the team that they support.
It’s always the “next year is our year” mentality that gets you. Tweaks of their current roster, making hypothetical blockbuster trades that see your team always winning them and walking away with a ghost of half a Cup ring already on your finger. This will not stop for as long as a team in any major market exists. It’s a common enough theme in all of professional sports — the biggest media hub always getting the hype for whatever player is hypothetically available. It’s just that now it’s personal and Konecny is going to be a Flyer next year.
This trade rumor, no matter what amount of prospects of depth defensemen Leafs fans jot down and throw at the Flyers, doesn’t even make sense in the first place. Yes, Konecny would make Toronto a much-better team and can solve a lot of issues on the wing of John Tavares and William Nylander, but that’s just selfish. He’s here and will be here for at least the next four years if the Flyers want him to be.
There are other ways to fix this team — that might just be a regression to the mean — and trading away probably your best piece of the young core that you have been forming for the last five years, isn’t the best way to do it. Imagine this team getting older?
Toronto will always claim its victims and right now it’s all of us trying to just stay above the rising tide that is the annual Leafs fan disappointment.