Sports Bulls & Bears: Flames working hard, Leafs hardly working

 

 
 
 
 
Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

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VANCOUVER — Sorting out the major winners and losers of this week — with a bottom-line twist — in the world of sports:

BULLS OF THE WEEK

While the Toronto Maple Leafs continue to take a brand hit in Canada’s largest media market, the Calgary Flames continue to impress as the most surprising team in the National Hockey League. They weren’t on anyone’s lists as a playoff team at the outset of this 2014-15 campaign, but here they are, skating into the final four weeks of the regular season in third place in the tough Pacific Division.

They’ll be hard-pressed to qualify for the post-season, given the unfortunate season-ending injury to captain, workhorse and top defenceman Mark Giordano, but no one appears prepared to rule them out because of how they’ve kept bouncing back all year.

Props on that front goes to head coach Bob Hartley. Call them a surprise. Call them overachievers. Or call them what they sure seem to be: The hardest-working team in the NHL.

BEARS OF THE WEEK

Meanwhile, it’s been one of those years — and another one of those weeks — for the enigmatic Maple Leafs. The negative energy around the franchise and its highly dysfunctional core players reached absurd proportions this week in the aftermath of an NHL trade deadline in which neither star forward Phil Kessel nor defenceman Dion Phaneuf were moved. The Leafs are not only officially the sports business soap opera among Canada’s NHL teams, they are a contradiction of the highest order.

Off the ice, they are the NHL’s richest franchise at a Forbes Magazine valuation of $1.3 billion based on estimated revenues of $190 million a year. On the ice, they are among its most under-performing clubs, having slid this week to the point where the Leafs are within striking distance of the Connor McDavid sweepstakes and on their way to missing the playoffs for the ninth time in the past 10 seasons.

It is among the absolute low points in franchise history and Kessel and Phaneuf are the poster boys of its collapse. The single biggest bear has to be Kessel, a hugely talented sniper who lags in two-way play and consistent effort. What’s more, if he hasn’t provided $8 million of value on the ice, he certainly fails off the ice when it comes to the job of media relations. It’s one thing for him to not be comfortable dealing with the media, which he isn’t. It’s quite another, however, for him to not understand that the team’s highest-paid players would be the natural lightning rods for media commentary and fan criticism. Real leaders in pro team sport suck it up and take responsibility.

For Kessel to call out and lay blame with the media this week is both weak and hypocritical, especially when he and many of the Leafs top players have brought it upon themselves with their poor play and questionable leadership throughout the season.

Tom Mayenknecht is host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and TSN Radio, where he regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of sports business. He reviews the major winners and losers of the past week every Saturday in The Vancouver Sun.

 
 
 
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Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.
 

Tom Mayenknecht, host of The Sport Market on TSN 1040 and the TSN Radio network, regularly rates and debates the Bulls & Bears of the sports business.

Photograph by: Vancouver Sun graphics, .

 
 
 
 
 
 
 
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