Ex-Leaf Larry Murphy no stranger to hearing the boos
|Toronto Star 15 Jan 2019 at 15:31|
The hall of fame defenceman was mercilessly jeered by Toronto crowds during the lost 1996-97 season â€” a scapegoat as the team stumbled its way through the schedule before he was eventually traded.
â€śWhen youâ€™re losing, thatâ€™s just the way it works,â€ť Murphy said Tuesday. â€śWhen things arenâ€™t going well, fans arenâ€™t happy.
â€śItâ€™s just the way it is.â€ť
While things arenâ€™t nearly as bad as they were in the mid-1990s â€” Toronto remains second in the Atlantic Division and has hopes for a long playoff run despite losses in five of its last seven games â€” Jake Gardiner got a taste of that treatment Monday.
The Leafs blueliner made the crucial mistake on a short-handed goal in a 6-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche, leading some pockets of Scotiabank Arena to voice their displeasure with the polarizing and sometimes-frustrating player every time he touched the puck.
The sequence came on the heels of another goal-creating giveaway in Saturdayâ€™s 3-2 setback to Boston, one that had fans cringing at the memory of last springâ€™s Game 7 loss to the Bruins in the first round of the playoffs when Gardiner finished minus-5.
â€śHasnâ€™t happened before, thatâ€™s for sure,â€ť an emotional Gardiner said of the boos Monday. â€śNot something you want to hear â€¦ fans are passionate and they want to win.â€ť
Murphy, who played 151 games in Toronto prior to waiving his no-trade clause to finalize the deal that shipped him to the Detroit Red Wings, said itâ€™s important to block out the noise in difficult times.
Born in Whitby, Ont., and raised in Torontoâ€™s east end, Murphy registered 100 points with his hometown team as part of a career that spanned 21 seasons.
He won the Stanley Cup immediately after the trade with Detroit in 1997 and then again in 1998 â€” his third and fourth titles â€” before retiring after the 2000-01 season.
â€śJust because somebody spews and dumps on you, it doesnâ€™t really mean itâ€™s an accurate evaluation of how youâ€™re playing,â€ť said Murphy, a member of the Hockey Hall of Fameâ€™s 2004 class. â€ś(Gardiner) just has to answer to his teammates and the coach, and, of course, to himself.â€ť
Murphy, who had 288 goals and 929 assists for 1,217 points in 1,615 career games, said the boos at Maple Leaf Gardens never impacted him on the ice.
â€śI just continued to play well,â€ť said Murphy, sixth all-time in scoring among NHL defencemen. â€śThe team wasnâ€™t winning, so fans are upset. They voice it.
â€śI enjoyed my time in Toronto. The only thing I wish for is we won more often, and that wasnâ€™t the case.â€ť
The current Leafs came to Gardinerâ€™s defence Monday.
â€ś(The) guy does everything for this team,â€ť winger Mitch Marner said. â€śPeople donâ€™t give him enough credit.â€ť
Added fellow blueliner Morgan Rielly: â€śGuys make mistakes out there all night. Thatâ€™s the way the game is. Itâ€™s played on ice, so things happen that can be unpredictable.â€ť
Murphy and Gardiner arenâ€™t the only high-profile defencemen to have heard boos in Toronto. Bryan McCabe, another blueliner with offensive flair, drew the ire of some Leafs fans during his seven-season run in Toronto from 2000-08.
The numbers show that Gardiner, who is coming off a career-high 52-point season and is set to become an unrestricted free agent July 1 with the potential for a big payday, is not the main issue for a team that finds itself in its first slump of 2018-19.
The 28-year-old has been on for 60 of Torontoâ€™s 161 goals for and 36 of the oppositionâ€™s combined 128 against through 45 games. His 24 points ranks second among the teamâ€™s defencemen behind Riellyâ€™s 42.
But there has been a growing fan angst toward the player during his eight seasons, where the mistakes in his high-risk, high-reward style are often glaring.
â€śThe good thing about our fans is theyâ€™re passionate,â€ť Leafs head coach Mike Babcock said after the loss to Colorado. â€śThey paid their money, theyâ€™re allowed to say what they want.â€ť
Murphy said itâ€™s imperative Gardiner focuses on his own game and ignores opinions outside the locker-room walls.
â€śHopefully, he just looks at how heâ€™s playing,â€ť Murphy said. â€śThe rest of the stuff, you canâ€™t control.