Is Maple Leafs fans’ long national nightmare over?

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Bob Cole trended on Twitter earlier today which, during COVID-19 times, may have lead many to initially think the worst about his health. Luckily the legendary broadcaster is fine, and people were just debating their favourite NHL broadcasters in the light of this bombshell announcement:

That’s right. Widely considered the top of his class among NHL play-by-play callers, Chris Cuthbert has jumped ship to join Sportsnet’s broadcasting team, leaving TSN after 15 years calling games for Sportsnet’s main rival network.

This is a huge get for Sportsnet, whose on-air talent decisions have come under fire often over the last number of years. Crying afoul about Sportsnet’s hockey broadcasts has become a national pastime ever since the network acquired the national NHL broadcasting rights in 2013 and assumed control over Hockey Night in Canada. From the decision to bullpen Ron MacLean in favour of George Stroumboulopoulos as HNIC host, to the long-overdue firing of Don Cherry for incendiary comments, to inexplicably keeping Glenn Healy between the benches for as long as he was, to relegating Leafs broadcaster Joe Bowen to radio duties, Sportsnet has received a lot of criticism for the quality of their broadcasts. This should help.

Cuthbert has formed one of the great all-time broadcasting duos with player-turned-analyst Ray Ferraro on TSN. Perhaps best known as being the voice behind the Golden Goal call, Cuthbert is precise, uses his broadcast partners well, and has an unmistakable voice that rises to the occasion. In addition to his work on NHL and CFL broadcasts for TSN, Cuthbert has also been the annual voice of the World Junior Hockey Championships each New Year.

What does this mean for the Leafs?

Details are currently unavailable, but the consensus is that Cuthbert is not leaving TSN to do regional games on Sportsnet. It is believed the allure of being able to call Saturday night games on Hockey Night in Canada was too much to pass up for Cuthbert, who surprisingly has never called a Stanley Cup Final game.

With the Leafs being the marquee team of Hockey Night in Canada’s broadcasts, it is assumed that Cuthbert will supplant another much-maligned Sportsnet personality, Jim Hughson, as voice of the Leafs on Saturday nights. Hughson, along with his partner Craig Simpson, have long drawn the ire of some Leafs fans for what is perceived to be snide and biased commentary about the team and its players from the Canucks’ former long-time broadcasting duo. Cuthbert is much more well-regarded within this fanbase as an unbiased play-by-play man. Logic dictates that Hughson and Simpson would return to the 10PM ET slot, doing the west coast HNIC games. It is important to note that nothing as of yet has been made official and this is pure speculation.

What is also unknown is whether the duo of John Bartlett and Greg Millen will continue to do regional games for the Leafs. Bartlett took over for the heavily criticized Paul Romanuk (Do you see a pattern here?) in 2018-19.

So stay tuned, Leafs fans. You may have one less reason to throw your remote through your television screen, starting in the 2019-20 playoffs.