Toronto Maple Leafs: Colton Orr and the End of an Era


Toronto Maple Leafs: Colton Orr and the End of an Era

On April 11, Colton Orr played in his one and only game of the 2014-2015 season. It was also the final game of the season for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Nov 30, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Colton Orr (28) before the game against Montreal Canadiens at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

The team specifically called up him from the Toronto Marlies to play in the game – a move meant to acknowledge and show appreciation for all of his services to the team. This was the end of the line for Orr in Toronto and the team wanted to do something special for him.

It was also the end of an era for the team – the end of the big fighters.

Orr was truly the last of his breed to wear a Leafs jersey. He lacked the versatility of some of his fellow fighters who once called Toronto home like Mark Fraser and Frazer McLaren, but he was always the team and the fan favourite. That saw him rewarded with an unexpected two-year contract extension in the summer of 2013, and it saw him outlast Fraser and McLaren in Toronto.

If you look at the current roster, there are no clear fighters on the team. Shawn Matthias promises to add some impressive size, but he’s known as a quiet giant. Roman Polak – arguably the toughest player on the team and one of the toughest players in the whole league – is known for his devastating hits, not punches. Dion Phaneuf will drop the gloves on occasion, but this isn’t really a key part of his game anymore.

The Leafs have set a new direction for themselves as a team and an organization. Emphasis is now placed on talent and extended versatility. We can see this through the acquisition of Kasperi Kapanen and the drafting of Mitch Marner. Even Nazem Kadri – the de facto top-line centre in Toronto and the future engine of the offence – isn’t an over-imposing figure at 6-0 and 188 pounds (he just plays a really big game).

Nov 30, 2013; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens right wing George Parros (15) and Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Colton Orr (28) fight during the second period at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

I have no problem with this new direction and this article shouldn’t be understood as a complaint. It quickly became clear over the past six years that the big-is-best approach under former general managers Brian Burke and Dave Nonis didn’t reflect the realities of the new NHL, but that’s now in the past. The team is finally moving in the right direction after all of those wasted years.

This isn’t meant as a lament either. It’s simply an acknowledgement of how the team we all love so much is slowly catching up to the times. The heroes of our past – the guys who lived to drop the gloves like Tiger Williams, Tie Domi, Wade Balak and Orr – fit into this past and belong there. We can still appreciate them, but we can appreciate how both the game and the team have evolved as well.

This may be the end of an era, but it’s also the beginning of a new one. The game has evolved and we’re finally on board with those changes. That’s ultimately a good thing even if we have to say goodbye to a few old friends along the way.

Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson