Lou Lamoriello has never shown much love for the Number 13. In fact Lou has gone out of his way to avoid this “unlucky” number during his tenure as possibly the greatest GM of our era. No devil ever wore it until Lou had left and Mike Cammalleri finally donned the “black cat” of numbers just this year past. The irony, I am sure not lost on Lamoriello, is the final lottery ball that brought the first pick to Toronto was marked “13”.
13 has never been a bad luck number for the Toronto Maple Leafs. From 1995 – 2008 our Captain, Mats Sundin wore this number with tremendous success and has cemented himself in our record books. He was last one to wear the #13 number for the Leafs, and maybe the last ever. Why? Well, he was admired, polite, a leader on and off the ice, and was our last “true big centreman”. Something we haven’t had since and really no one close. We’ve tried Naz, Bozak, and a holy host of others, and with all due respect to them and their talents (which they are) they simply were not a #1. Don’t mistake me, it’s not a slight on them at all. Just another example of players being miscast here. It would be the same as if you asked Tom Hanks to play Stanley Kowalski. A great actor, but a role even he couldn’t pull off. There are often times even in everyday life things you aren’t not suited for. Leaf fans have gone through their share of “pain”, with the promise of more pain coming, and you can trace the start of it to when our big Captain left the Toronto Maple Leafs. Thus leaving a void at Centre for almost 10 years.
Fate, Luck and the Force:
At the end of the day sports is simply entertainment. That’s it, that’s all. So please allow me to entertain you the fan here and hang on, it’s about to get weird in a “long time ago in a galaxy far, far away” sort of way….
If last year taught us anything it’s you can be lucky or unlucky. The Toronto Maple Leafs had 4 of the remaining 11 balls left in the Lottery that would have brought us Connor McDavid (The Saviour, The Jedi, The Young Skywalker). We were so close yet we were unlucky. The force was not strong that night for us, and we could have lived 300 years without knowing what Chris Johnson told us an hour later: The Leafs had the best Odds after the 3rd ball, then….
A lightsaber through the heart.
Fast Forward one year:
Going into the Draft the Leafs had the best odds to secure the number one pick: Consensus number 1, Auston Matthews. The Leafs had a 20% chance at the next big thing in the NHL, but an 80% chance of being disappointed in not getting the # 1 centre that they have been missing since Mats awkward departure. We here in Leafs Nation resigned ourselves to the fact this lotto win was probably not going to happen. In retrospect, maybe we should have felt it though. The Force was strong this year. Think back to “Salute-Gate” and everything that’s happened since: Babcock, Lou, Draft picks galore, trading the broken down parts of our decrepit Millennium falcon in badly need of repair. Everything went right. It was as if there was something “willing” this to happen. A force of sorts?
The light side finally destroying the dark.
After the 3rd ball the odds dropped from 20% to 9% with Columbus and Edmonton with a greater chance at the number one pick. We had only ONE ball left of 11. But the force would not be denied this time. Maybe the hockey gods missed by a half a second last year from bringing us McDavid, but this year against all odds the last remaining number, 13, went into the tube just as the button was pressed and the ping pong ball came barrelling up and came to rest.
1995 when we got one. 2008 when we lost #13 and 2016 when we were gifted another..
As the gentlemen at Ernst and Young were pouring over their papers to see was the winning team, irony secretly filled the air in the locked room.
A number always unlucky for Lou had brought the Leafs the Centreman that they have been missing since #13. The dark side of that number for Lou had become the Light side in an instant.
Lucky Number 13!!!
“and who has that combination?” bellows Gary Bettman.
(After about 30 seconds or so) “Toronto” is the reply back. Steve Keogh is the only maple leaf representative in the room and he must have felt like a kid who knew what the family Christmas present was on December 1st. Super excited, yet can’t tell his brothers what is under the tree for them.
The fans, us guys, won’t know this result for almost an hour. But our fate was revealed when Bill Daly repaired our hearts one year after ripping it apart by revealing the #1 card with the new Maple Leafs logo behind it.
A New Logo, A New Hope
If we missed out on Skywalker last year then Matthews could be the Han Solo of the NHL. Efficient, handy, dark, not afraid to take chances (Swiss league anyone?) and a possible hero we have been waiting for.
Team Han or Team Luke has been a debate for years. Each of them has their own virtues. One is more powerful, sure, but Han is a hero in his own right and can certainly handle a mission. Frankly, Han Solo was a winner. Not even death by his son’s hand can erase his legacy. Matthews could be that hero, that leader of a legacy. Anyone that has coached him or played with or against him remark on his skill and his “drive train”. The kid is a pure winner.
If I sound euphoric, it’s because I am. For this I will not apologize. We deserve to be. The NHL needs this right now and the Leafs have always been an “Empire” – an Empire that has crumbled over the years, bringing upon pain, and pleasure in Montreal, Buffalo, Ottawa, Vancouver and Calgary. We know this. They hate us and they hate that we got the Top pick. Look at ANY negative comment about Matthews and the user will most likely reside in any of the places above. We are on to your act!! They are nervous because the Force is rising. An Empire is building and we are surrounded by Jedi’s with Shanahan, Lou and Mike Babcock. Winners. And our Planet is being helped by a young kid that will take the Millennium Falcon, oops airplane to Toronto to make this his new home and give us, the fans, A NEW HOPE.
For years and years we have been searching for this chance to have a top player and it has never seemed to work out for us. We bought into dark leaders of the past who took us to the planet “Kessel” (Star Wars fans should get that) for almost 6 years! Missed chances, traded draft picks and key pieces, and rebuilt and rebuilt again. Leaving us as fans wandering aimlessly, wearing masks to hide our embarrassment like Vader with disfigurement.
Fate, hope and the force has brought us here today to start this trilogy of greatness. I warn you though, there is so much more story to come, with more characters. There is a kid out of London as well, that I hear possesses Magic and can move things with his mind and will. The jedi is strong in this one. He’s coming too.
They are all coming.
A rising force.
A thought to be extinct greatness being restored.
Mats was our last one, but he will not be the last one…
THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK –> COMING FALL OF 2016