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Alternate Realities: Dion Phaneuf is the New Dalton McGuinty
Like it or not (four words that can and have been applied with regularity to both the Maple Leafs and Dalton McGuinty's Liberals) the Leafs bear a striking resemblance to the Ontario Liberal government.

(Photo: Toronto Maple Leafs)

The results are in. It can safely be said that, like the Ontario Liberals, the Toronto Maple Leafs are here to stay. You might ask yourself, was that ever in doubt? The answer is a resounding no. Of course the future, the longevity, the ever-present and ubiquitous nature of the Leafs was never in question. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something to be made of the similarities between this season’s Maple Leafs and Ontario’s newly re-elected McGuinty Liberals.

Of course, being a fan of the Leafs in Toronto is almost redundant. The recent election wasn’t redundant, there were more than a few moments during the run of the campaigns when the outcome of the election was far from certain. But even still, with the years that have by now accumulated, and the years ahead of them still, Ontario’s Liberal party is developing quite a similar feeling to the Maple Leafs. Sure, this is a bit of a stretch, but consider that for three consecutive terms now, just like how the Leafs simply always are the object of your support as a sports fan in Toronto, the Liberal party has become simply who Ontario always votes for.

The 2011/12 season began last night for the Leafs, and right from the beginning there was a clear mandate. Don Cherry kicked it all off by saying that he knows everyone thinks it’s the first game, it’s going to be a lot of fun, but make no mistake about it this is an important game. It’s possible Toronto and Montreal will end up scrapping it out at the end of the season for the last playoff spot. And with everyone in Toronto waiting for something good or bad to happen, the Liberals won the election, albeit with a minority government, and Toronto blanked the Montreal Canadians 2-0 at the ACC. If I were the type to seek out oracles, I might be inclined to look at these results as being connected by some kind of prognostication. This season’s Leaf’s are a minority government. What can this tell us about how well they’re going to fare?

Like any good political strategist, I’ve mapped out the contingencies. I game-planned for various scenarios, many possible outcomes against which I can measure my theory that, like it or not (four words that can and have been applied with regularity to both the Maple Leafs and Dalton McGuinty’s Ontario Liberal party) the Leafs bear a striking resemblance to the Ontario Liberal government.

The reality: Leafs win, Liberals win minority government
Sure things are a little precarious, maybe everything could very realistically come crashing down around us all like a non-confidence vote, but for now at least, it’s on. Make no mistake about it though, any measures that could strengthen our position should be taken sooner rather than later. But in the meantime, let’s get the actual team on the ice. The Leafs are beset early by injuries in training camp, but a late surge of heath from Matthew Lombardi was exactly what was needed in the opener. Tim Connolly where are you? It might be time for the Leafs’ doctor to play party whip.

Leafs lose, Liberals win minority government

This is a slightly worse-news situation, even though nothing much is different. But is it time to reach out, in the spirit of strategic alliance, in order to get some real work done, coalition-style? And who exactly is waiting across the aisle for the Leafs to extend an arm towards, in the hopes of a complicit handshake? Well, it’s up to the leader to make the first move when considering such a gesture. For the Leafs, that could mean team captain Dion Phaneuf. And if Phaneuf is to reach out to a rival for some help, could we possibly suggest Phaneuf’s, shall we say, ‘media rival’—Sean Avery? He is available. (I don’t know if Avery’s actual production on the ice is exactly what the Leafs need, but if the Leafs get desperate it sure would be a way to shake things up.)

Leafs lose, Liberals win majority
Some things about the Leaf’s nation are unavoidable. There are certain truths. We may not be the kind of team that wins all the games we’d like. But the state of the Toronto Maple Leafs this season is laid out before us, not unlike a government returning to office and sizing up the term which awaits. We can consider the situation in the kind of terms familiar to what was written in the Toronto Star this week about a particular kind of Leafs fan. You can’t waltz into Mary Vinci’s shop and start criticizing the Leafs. If she wants to sound off, that’s her prerogative, she’s the Mayor of the Leafs Nation. But for everyone else, it’s all about the party-line.

Leafs win, Liberals win majority

There is nothing like starting off right. A clear and decisive victory for the Leafs against this year’s Habs means maybe, just maybe, if things keep going the way they are, there is nothing we can’t do. With the clear mandate being ‘success’ I’m thinking that it’s time to make a bold promise to everyone who helped get the team this far. Dare I say it? This is the year that the Leafs are finally going to return to the playoffs… no, I’m not about to get drunk on elected power or anything.

Kyle Buckley is the Toronto Standard Sports Critic

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