As struggles continue, what's up with Toronto's sports teams? Staff

10/7/2009 10:38:13 PM

The Sporting News released its annual list of the 399 Best Sports Cities on Wednesday, with nine Canadian locations ranking on the charts.

Toronto was the highest entry north of the border at No. 36, based on a scoring system that awards points to criteria such as number of teams, championships, attendance, won-lost records and playoff berths, among other factors (Vancouver placed 39th, Calgary 42nd, Montreal 45th, Edmonton 53rd and Ottawa 54th. Oakville, Ontario was 309th, while Winnipeg came in at No. 313 and Hamilton landed the No. 325 spot).

Now with teams in the NBA, NHL, Major League Baseball and the CFL, it's easy to assume that Toronto has more of a chance than most Canadian cities to succeed at any given time in the sports world - both on the field and in the stands.

But it also has more of a chance to fail.

And with the Big Smoke going oh-fer in championships in all four sports (some longer than others), fans in Toronto have been left scratching their heads in recent years at the misfortunes of their favourite franchises.

Here's a look at the recent struggles of some of Toronto's professional squads:

NBA - Toronto Raptors

Total Championships: 0

Last Championship: -

Last Playoff Appearance: 2008 (lost 4-1 in the first round to the Orlando Magic)

Toronto got a brief glimpse of NBA glory in 2000-01 when Vince Carter led the team to Game 7 of the Conference semifinals against Allen Iverson and the Philadelphia 76ers. The series ended in heartbreak as Carter's last-second jumper rattled the rim and fell to the floor, ending the Raps' exciting playoff run. But it gave fans an idea of how thrilling things could be that deep into the basketball post-season. Unfortunately for the Raps, they haven't even come close to that point again.

The Raptors finished 33-49 last season, well below most fans' expectations, but with the addition of Hedo Turkoglu, DeMar DeRozan and Jarrett Jack in the off-season, Chris Bosh and the new-look Raps are arguably T.O.'s best bet to get serious results this season.

MLB - Toronto Blue Jays

Total Championships: 2

Last Championship: 1993

Last Playoff Appearance: 1993 (won the World Series against the Philadelphia Phillies)

The Blue Jays finished the 2009 season with a mediocre mark of 75-87, particularly disappointing considering how strongly they came out of the gate, with fans seeing shades of '92 and '93 in the early-going. The Jays wrapped things up 28 games back in the American League East Division - 20 games out of a wild card spot - and closed out the season on a three-game losing streak.

General manager J.P. Ricciardi was shown the door on Saturday, less than 48 hours before season's end. There were also rumblings that Cito Gaston, the man who had brought the team to greatness in the early 90s, had lost the locker room. It was not a pretty year.

Those 1992 and 1993 teams sent the city into hysterics, bringing baseball's ultimate prize north of the border for the first (and second) time and setting massive attendance records in the process. In contrast, on September 9 of this year, only 11,159 showed up for the Jays' tilt with the Twins (even with Roy Halladay on the mound), marking the lowest turnout ever at the Rogers Centre/SkyDome in its 20-year history. The good news? Things can probably only go up.

CFL - Toronto Argonauts

Total Championships: 15

Last Championship: 2004

Last Playoff Appearance: 2007 (lost Divisional finals to Winnipeg Blue Bombers)

The Argonauts are 3-10 this year and are fresh off their recent quarterback controversy. With the Buffalo Bills taking up a part-time tenancy at the Rogers Centre for two games this NFL season, the Argos are also competing for Canadian football fans' attention and money.

MLS Soccer - Toronto FC

Total Championships: 0

Last Championship: -

Last Playoff Appearance: -

For many, the FC are a bright spot on Toronto's sporting landscape, particularly in the area of fan enthusiasm. While the team sits at 9-10-8 this season, they regularly sell out home games at 20,000-plus capacity and seem to have generated a hardcore, loyal fan base, and one that is made up of a relatively young demographic.

NHL - Toronto Maple Leafs / St. Pats

Total Championships: 13

Last Championship: 1967

Last Playoff Appearance: 2004 (lost 4-2 in Conference semi-final to Philadelphia Flyers)

The Leafs have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967, when George Armstrong and Dave Keon helped lead them to hockey's Holy Grail. It was a great achievement for the organization - but that was a long time ago. There are Leaf fans whose dads can't even remember this.

Toronto finished 34-35-13 in 2008-09, last in the Northeast Division and 12th place in Eastern Conference to miss the playoffs once again (the last time they made it was 2003-04). In the off-season, Toronto bulked up on the blue line and added some grit and skill up front, and while it's still far too early in the season to draw any conclusions, the Leafs are 0-2-1 to start things off.

With teams in every major North American sport but little to show for it, Toronto has been widely maligned for a lack of results on the field, the court, the diamond and the ice. They still finished first on the Sporting News' list as far as Canadian cities go, but perhaps more by default than anything else with four teams involved in the criteria used to select cities.

With the Jays' season done and the Argos struggling, will this be the year the Leafs and Raptors finally turn it around? What are the reasons for the unremarkable results of Toronto's sports franchises in recent years? Can they return to past glory? Weigh in with the Your! Call feature.