05-25-2016, 08:07 AM
TORONTO -- Shaken, humbled and apologetic. Christian Laettner Jersey . This is the Toronto Maple Leafs as theyve seldom been seen. General manager Brian Burke capped another failed season Tuesday by echoing the mea culpa issued from other key members of the organization that now owns the NHLs longest playoff drought of eight years. "We have the best fans in the National Hockey League and all of pro sports and we need to deliver more," Burke said during a relatively low-key 30-minute session with reporters. "That loyalty needs to be rewarded." His remarks followed an open letter to fans from Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum that ran in newspapers and on the teams website, asking for forgiveness. A similar note was sent to season ticket holders. Tom Anselmi, MLSEs chief operating officer, went so far as providing his email address to each member of that group and has pledged to speak with every concerned member individually. From top to bottom, the franchise is clearly embarrassed by its performance, and it went to great lengths to try to reassure the paying public. The Leafs may have sold out every home game for as long as anyone can remember, but they dont want to be seen as taking that loyalty for granted. "This is about winning, this is about doing right by your fans, this is what were all into this for," said Anselmi. "Sports is a business, yeah, but its a business based on emotion and passion and caring." Toronto fans care, he said. "Theyre paying with after-tax dollars," said Anselmi. "You owe them a great product and when it isnt good enough thats not good enough." The Leafs were not nearly good enough this season, at least over the final two months. They won just 10 of 33 games after the all-star break and missed the playoffs by 12 points in the Eastern Conference -- tumbling all the way to 26th overall in the league. Burke made sure to steer well clear of the panic button in his annual state-of-the-union address Tuesday, saying that his vision for building a winning team remains unchanged from the day he arrived in November 2008. But this was far from a typical performance for the franchises most distinctive and powerful voice, who still seems to be coming to grips with the lack of success during his tenure. Burke famously dismissed the need for a five-year rebuilding plan the day he was hired and now finds himself heading into his fifth season at the helm. "I was in the playoffs seven straight years before I got here," said Burke. "This has been agonizing. Im sure you can see it in my face, I havent slept in a month, two months. "If fans think theyre disappointed, I can assure you the general manager is far more disappointed." It will be difficult to acquire every item on the teams summer shopping list. Burke wants the Leafs to be able to dictate the game to opponents and that means more size and strength, including finding a centre to play on the top line. Hed also like to get another goaltender to play alongside James Reimer. A thin free-agent class offers few solutions and the uncertainty hovering over negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement will complicate the decision-making process. But Burke believes he has the assets to be a player on the trade market, where hes made his best moves as Leafs GM to date. Amid the wreckage of a poor finish he was able to identify some reason for optimism. "Im trying to build a championship team here and thats very hard to see today," said Burke. "But the building blocks, the keys that you need -- the Phil Kessels, the Joffrey Lupuls, the Jake Gardiners, the Dion Phaneufs, the second line -- all those things have been put in place. "And thats what cant be overlooked as you analyze and dissect a season. Even a season thats marked by failure. I think were going in the right direction." There was a noticeable change in direction when Randy Carlyle replaced Ron Wilson on March 2 and the new coach has made it clear hes going to hold everyone to a higher standard in the fall. In exit meetings, he challenged his players to improve their work ethic, conditioning and accountability. Carlyle had a unique view on the late-season collapse after entering at the height of the chaos. From afar, hed seen how much playing in Toronto can shatter a players confidence -- he said it took Francois Beauchemin weeks to recover after being dealt back to Anaheim in February 2011 -- and spotted the trend early in his tenure with the Leafs. "Confidence was the No. 1 thing that I would say this team did not have," said Carlyle. "We were not a confident group. ... Its our job as a coaching staff to force, coddle, kick -- whatever word you want to use -- to get them to believe that they can do it." Its a process the entire organization is going through. On the financial side, the Leafs remain hockeys version of the Yankees, Cowboys, Lakers and Manchester United. But in terms of performance theyre lagging behind the Panthers, Wild and Avalanche -- and every other team in the NHL, all of whom have hosted playoff games since the lockout. Toronto has been shut out since 2004, an almost unimaginable stretch for a marquee franchise. "Im not a patient person," said Burke. "I was born impatient and Im going to die impatient. I dont like whats happened here, I dont like our lack of progress. Obviously, Im driving the bus, Im ultimately responsible and Im not happy where we are today. "I thought wed be further ahead than we are right now." Hes far from alone. Chauncey Billups Pistons Jersey .com) - The Toronto Maple Leafs try to push their season-opening win streak to three straight games on Saturday night as they play their home opener against the Ottawa Senators. Cheap Stanley Johnson Jersey .T-Mac in the house!Cabbie and Leafs goalie Jonathan Bernier.ORLANDO - It is a bright, warm morning in Orlando and Toronto FC are going through an intense match between themselves at training. The smell of freshly cut grass makes you think of those back home chipping away at the ice on their car windows. Young defender Gale Agbossoumonde receives the ball, looks back and sees Steven Caldwell open. He decides not to pass it and instead forces a more difficult pass forward. Minutes later he is handed another opportunity. In his strong Scottish twang, Caldwell screams at his defender for the ball but, once again, he doesnt receive it, instead the ball is given away to the opposing team. It might still be February but Caldwell doesnt let it slide, telling his colleague in no certain terms what he must do next time. In a quick five-second moment, he shows to Agbossoumonde, and the rest of the team, the type of leader he is and the mentality expected inside Toronto FCs camp. Caldwell is as intense as he is driven. Hours after the training game he is preparing for a pre-season match here in Orlando and as he walks out of the dressing room he is focused firmly on the match as if its the most important game of his life. It is hard to believe this is Steven Caldwells first pre-season camp with Toronto FC. Since making his debut last May, the Scot has become club captain and was voted player of the 2013 season. Despite not even playing one full season for the team he also is unquestionably the best centre back the club has ever had. Toronto FC have struggled a great deal throughout their short existence in MLS and one of the main reasons for this has been the genuine lack of talent playing for them at the heart of defence. While the likes of Miguel Aceval, Andrew Boyens, Adrian Cann, Nick Garcia, Tyrone Marshall, Darren ODea and Marco Velez combined to play over 250 games at that position for this team, Caldwell was playing at the highest level in England. "I had some great times at Newcastle and in the Champions League I came on against Inter Milan, played the full 90 against Leverkusen, they were fantastic experiences. We had a good run, we went to San Siro, Nou Camp, Feyenoord was a special night when we scored two late goals to get through," Caldwell tells me. Having played all over the world, the Scot, who signed for Newcastle as a schoolboy, still names St Jamess Park as his favourite all-time stadium: "Fantastic atmosphere, the noise is incredible. I remember against Sunderland, that game sticks out, my first derby, we lost to a Niall Quinn header, but you couldnt hear the person who was five yards next to you, you just had to read his lips." Caldwell was loaned to Leeds in January 2004 to try and help them stay in the Premier League. He failed but remembers his time fondly. "I loved it, it was my first spell of regular football in the Premier League, Eddie Gray was the manager at the time - we had a great group of players, it still perplexes me to this day (getting relegated) - wow we had some team, Mark Viduka, Ian Harte, Alan Smith, stars everywhere really, it was a bitter disappointment for me to not do it for one of the best group of supporters I have ever had." One of the lowest moments of the season for Leeds was a crushing 5-0 loss against Arsenal at Highbury. Caldwell was one of the defenders asked to stop Thierry Henry that day, instead he was given a memory to last a lifetime. "Without even thinking about it, I can say he is the best player I have ever come across. That game he scored four goals and the last one Gary Kelly tripped him up and he still put it in," he laughs as he recreates the goal for me. "He was the best player in the world, for me, then and I was fortunate to say I played against him. What a gentleman he is and it is a real honour to still play against him now." In the summer of 2004, Caldwell joined Mick McCarthy at Sunderland and it was there where he created another special bond. Current Vancouver Whitecaps boss Carl Robinson had played on loan for Sunderland the year previous but would sign permanently the same month as Caldwell. "Mick brought in a special group who could deliver every single week, we were a fantastic grooup. Stanley Johnson Authentic Jersey. We had that togetherness, spirit, camaraderie. We won so many games 1-0, in the end we couldnt get beat, we were just rolling along and won the Championship with games to spare. That year means Robbo and I are very close, we spent a lot of time together in that first season. Our careers moved on and we would play each other and have the weekends together with our families, we always hooked up and stayed in touch. We will always have that bond because we have won something together." Robinson cant say enough about what kind of person and player, Caldwell is. He told me this week: "Toronto has a fantastic leader. He is one of the best teammates I ever had, he is a true friend off the field." Both Robinson and Caldwell experienced that feeling of success at Sunderland and are hoping to bring that to their MLS teams this season. Caldwell said coming to work every day knowing your team is at their best and wont let you down is the best feeling in football. He said: "I had it at Sunderland and Burnley, different makeups of teams but one thing that was the same was the spirit of the team and you just wake up and you know what you are going to get." After winning promotion to the Premier League with Sunderland, Caldwell did it again with Burnley, this time via the playoffs when he would lift the trophy at the iconic Wembley Stadium. "We played Reading in the first leg of the playoffs - they were superb with Kevin Doyle and Shane Long, theyd been in the Premier League a couple of years earlier, and they came to Turf Moor and battered us, but we beat them 1-0 with a penalty late, and I am driving home thinking we cannot play any worse than that (in the second leg) so in my mind we had won it already because I knew it couldnt be that bad. We got bombarded again but held out and scored two goals late on to take us to the final, where we felt the momentum was with us." Burnley ended a 33-year drought of top flight football at Wembley that day and the image of captain Caldwell lifting the trophy sits proudly inside their Turf Moor Stadium. It is the end result of a team going from below average to very good in one season and is something the 33-year-old is leaning on this season for Toronto. "It is a similar type of experience, you start (the season) and it grows and you know you have something going and I feel it here again. I am not speaking too quickly and getting ahead of ourselves, I have that feeling here that something is building at this club and it was very similar at Burnley." Caldwell has heard often about the constant comparisons between the Championship and MLS and, as a veteran of so many matches in the second tier of English football, offers a unique perspective on it. "I think MLS has a little bit more talent, a lot of that comes because we are fresher and play a lot less games. The Championship plays far too many games - you have 46 league games, players get tired, in the middle of the season you are exhausted, its crazy. You cannot even play the game you want to play because of fatigue so you just do what you can and hope you have that striker or that one bit of quality to change a game. "Here we have the quality, the facilities, the conditions, the weather, its a bit more enjoyable to play but where we have to catch up in North America is with our mentality. We have to be a little more tough and once that improves, which it is doing, I think you will start to see MLS teams improving and going on to win the CONCACAF Champions League." Much has changed in the offseason for Toronto. Yet, Caldwell is not the missing piece. He was the first piece awaiting others to surround him. Jermain Defoe, Gilberto and Dwayne De Rosario have been brought in for goals. Michael Bradley has been signed to anchor the midfield and Julio Cesar signed to make the crucial saves. One thing they need to secure to create a strong spine through the middle for this team is a centre-back who brings leadership, experience and, above all else, a strong mentality that becomes contagious. It was once the thing Toronto FC lacked the most. Now it is the one thing they know they can rely on. Cheap Jerseys Wholesale Jerseys Wholesale JerseysCheap Jerseys Cheap NFL Jerseys Cheap Jerseys China Wholesale Jerseys ' ' '