Leafs good for a laugh

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

VANCOUVER -- They are laughing at the free-falling Maple Leafs out here on the left coast, cackling with glee at the early-season struggles of the team from The Big Choke.

With Toronto's bumbling boys in blue attempting to snap out of an 0-6-1 funk by going head to head with the Vancouver Canucks at GM Place tomorrow, a logo in one of the local dailies here pretty much sums up the perception many in this Olympic city harbour toward the Leafs.

BAG ON HEAD

The logo, found in the Vancouver Province, shows a fan decked out in a blue Toronto jersey wearing a bag on his head. The photo is accompanied by the phrase "Leafs Weak." The word "weak" has been crossed out, with the word "week" scribbled beneath it.

Given that Toronto makes only one regular-season visit to Vancouver per year, Leafs Week normally would be the perfect way to welcome Brian Burke's team to town. But, looking at the fact that this is the only NHL club not to have registered at least one victory this season, perhaps the original "Weak" reference shouldn't have been deleted.

The best way for Burke's team to silence such ridicule would be to post its first win of 2009-10 over the Canucks, a team Burke and his right-hand man, Dave Nonis, once worked for. Each, in fact, spent time as general manager of the Vancouver franchise before Mike Gillis took over the position in 2008.

There is no love lost between these two organizations. Behind closed doors, there is ill-will bubbling from the Canucks' allegations against the Leafs of tampering earlier this year.

Those accusations ended up seeing coach Ron Wilson slapped with a $25,000 US fine several weeks ago, his punishment for suggesting during a June 30 interview on The Fan 590 that the Leafs might take a run at signing the Sedin twins. Unfortunately for Wilson, the Sedins, not being eligible for free agency until the next day, were still the property of the Canucks at the time.

The Canucks also tried to get Burke punished for a statement he made during a recently released Leafs TV documentary shot at the 2009 June entry draft. Burke, addressing his war room, suggests the Canucks offered Kevin Bieksa, Alex Burrows and their first-round pick in order to land the No. 2 overall selection from Tampa Bay, allegedly to snap up defenceman Victor Hedman.

Burke escaped without being disciplined, although the league warned that "any future inappropriate conduct" by the Leafs that would in some way damage the Canucks, would result in the NHL taking punitive action.

There also have been published suggestions that Nonis may not be the biggest Gillis fan, implying that the former player agent may have played a role in getting Nonis relieved of his GM's duties in 2008.

Since the NHL has ordered the parties involved to keep their respective yaps shut, at least where the tampering issues are concerned, there has been no war of words as of yet.

Asked about the Canucks and the city of Vancouver, Burke, who parted ways with the team in 2004, replied: "All the people (with the organization) who got rid of me are gone now. As for the city, three of my six children were born there. I met my wife there.

"But there is no sentimentality involved here. I want to win (tomorrow) because we need a win."

A win that would stop the panic in Toronto.

And the laughter in Vancouver.

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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