Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your Maple Leafs questions. Click here to send Damien a question.
Q: Watching the Leafs PP this year has been sad. Why didn't they pick up Allison who scored 80% of his points on the PP? Use him as a PP specialist and keep his 5-on-5 minutes down. I can't help thinking the Leafs would be in a much better seed if only a few more PP goals were scored. With the PP dictating games these days I can't believe teams haven't thought of having PP specialists. Your thoughts about this role?
Don Bai, Toronto
A: Well, I think to believe you could just sign Allison today and he’d be an effective player is a bit of a stretch. It would take him a while to get up to speed, and he was never a fast player in the first place.
There would be cap considerations, as well, plus waiver considerations. I’ve rarely seen teams carry players solely to use on the power play, particularly forwards. It’s just too hard to jump into the game mid-stream.
Allison would not be a player, in my opinion, that would flourish under Paul Maurice. His tendencies are all offensive, he would tend to turn the puck over in dangerous parts of the ice and I don’t think he would fit in the quick transition, quick puck movement game that Maurice endorses. I think the final nail in Allison’s coffin, as a Leaf anyway, was how well the team played and with more jump and zip when he went down for the season last year with an injury.
That said, I am surprised somebody didn’t sign him. Guess the Leafs weren’t completely out of their minds to cut him loose.
Q: Mr. Cox - What chance, if any, do you give the notion that if Ted Saskin is forced out of the NHLPA, Bob Goodenow will return to the helm? Is it possible there could be a wave of support for him as the best man for the job at this time? He knows the players, the owners, the CBA, and Saskin's ouster would be a clear repudiation of the pro-Saskin (and pro - CBA settlement) movement that swept Goodenow out in the first place. Or did Goodenow burn too many bridges w/in the Union to return?
Todd Sloan, Phoenix
A: Well, for starters, Goodenow might know the owners, but they hated him as executive director and would not welcome his return. As far as knowing the CBA, Goodenow’s a very smart fellow and a strong negotiator, but let’s be clear; this was not his CBA, whether he understands it or not.
In terms of whether he could come back, the union’s politics at the moment are so divisive and antagonistic that it will be difficult to reach a consensus on the type of leader the players want anytime soon, let alone who that person might be.
Goodenow, you can’t imagine, would want to go through a long interview process for the job along with 10 or more other candidates, and that’s the process the players are intent on. He took his $8 million buyout (and I don’t think he’s giving it back). He’s gone. Goodenow has moved on, and so have the players.
Q: Hey Damien! Can you please explain to me the love-in everyone seems to be having with Paul Maurice? This team, on paper, is a better team than the one iced last year, yet is no further ahead when you look at the standings. PP and PK are both worse for wear (yes, injuries, but every team has injuries. And this time didn't have Mike Peca last year, so we can't use him as an excuse either). If I remember correctly, Paul has a losing coaching record. Please help me to understand how we are so much better off with Maurice behind the bench.
Ron Gillespie, Listowel, Ont.
A: Well, I’m not sure there’s a Maurice love-in yet. I think fans are waiting to see if he can mold a winner. As well, I’m not sure the roster has been particularly strengthened, except perhaps on the back end. You could even argue there’s less proven firepower up front. What John Ferguson was looking for was a more systematic approach than that which Pat Quinn favored, and he was impressed with the work Maurice did with the Marlies. Obviously, his familiarity with some of those ex-Marlies helped, and he has certainly been willing to give the likes of John Pohl, Kyle Wellwood, Carlo Colaiacovo, Ian White and Andy Wozniewski significant opportunity.
I agree that the inability to progress on special teams is to some degree a reflection on the coaching staff. At the same time, I believe this team’s resiliency this year and its ability to play well on the road are also considerable strengths that are also reflections upon the coaching staff.
You’re correct – Maurice does have a losing record. And he also has a trip to the Stanley Cup final on his resume. How he does here in Toronto is going to define his NHL career, but less than a full season is way too early to reach a final judgement.
Q: Hi Damien,
Players such as John Pohl, Battes Battaglia and Boyd Devereaux have all come from the AHL last season to make the big club this year and have performed quite well for the Leafs.
With the salary cap restricting how much money teams have to spend, do you think general managers are going to look to bring in more minor-pro veterans from North America and the prominent European leagues who are willing to play for a lower salary to stock their 3rd and 4th lines?
That way, you have guys who you know can come in and be professional and give you solid minutes (unlike some young players who regress without quality ice-time and lots of chances to play) and also spend the majority of your cap dollars on the team's top-end players.
Chris Clay, Mississauga
A: Well, there are a lot of “buts” inherent in your suggestion. For starters, there’s a limit per AHL team of how many “veterans” you can carry. It’s not open-ended, although there’s some talk of changing the rules. As well, there can be waiver issues depending on a variety of factors, including salary.
Remember, for example, when Anaheim tried to promote goalie Michael Leighton earlier this year when they had injury problems in goal. Leighton was immediately lost on waivers.
Both Battaglia and Devereaux, on the other hand, were at a stage in their careers where they were looking more for opportunity than salary, so when the chance came to move up to the NHL from the Marlies they weren't held back because they were making too much and had to pass through waivers.
There are ways to get around the cap's financial restrictions by spending on your minor-league affiliate, but for the most part that is restricted to areas like coaching, training and facilities.
Q: Hey Damien,
A couple Saturdays ago some buddies of mine and I had a debate. Is or was Mats Sundin ever the right guy to build a franchise around? Now I used the typical argument that he's never had elite players around him. But here's what I was up against: Sundin has played with the likes of Gary Roberts (who put up a 30 goal or close to it season in Toronto), Mogilny (who also had some strong campaigns in blue and white), Stumpy Thomas and briefly Doug Gilmour. He's also recieved excellent goaltending from Cujo and one great season from Ed Belfour (both were nominated for Vezinas while in blue and white).
Yet he has never won a scoring race, or been nominated for a major award. Nor have the Leafs played in the Stanley Cup final. Personally, I love the guy. He's been incredibly loyal and the epitome of class even if the Leafs haven't always been. I did question his work ethic earlier in his career but I truly think he was a casualty of bad GM's. So I guess it's up to you to come up with the final say in our debate.
Was Mats Sundin legitmately a franchise player in the same vein as Sakic, Yzerman and Messier?
Joe Chistens, Pickering, Ont.
A: The answer to this enduring question is probably worth a book, not just a short answer in a mail bag.
Let’s break this down.
As a player, is Sundin the equal of the players you mentioned, Joe Sakic, Mark Messier or Steve Yzerman?
No. For the most part, he hasn’t been as prolific as an offensive player. But he has been very durable, and he has been very successful on the international stage, as well.
Is he an outstanding captain?
I would argue that he is. Almost universally his teammates respect and adore him, and he’s the kind of leader who truly cares about his teammates even though he may not express his sentiments through fiery public speeches.
Could you win a Stanley Cup with Sundin as your captain?
Absolutely. He’s every bit the measure of Rod Brind’Amour or Dave Andreychuk, the last two Cup-winning captains. Whether the Leafs do it with Sundin wearing the “C” has a great deal to do with how much he has left in the tank at age 36 – it appears quite a bit – and whether in a new cap system the Leaf management team can put together a strong enough roster.
To me, then, he’s a franchise player. Such players come in all shapes and sizes, and while many hold Messier up as the greatest leader, remember that he didn't make the playoffs for the final seven years of his career. Sakic, meanwhile, played with Peter Forsberg, Rob Blake and Patrick Roy when all those players were in their prime, and I don't think Sundin has had teammates of that calibre since he became a Leaf.
I was just reading your comment on Sundin where you stated the Leafs' "plan is to scrap the option year of his current contract and sign him to a new arrangement that will reduce that cap number for the next two or three seasons". It is my understanding that, under the terms of the new CBA, if the Leafs decline Sundin's option they cannot resign him for one year. This clause is obviously to prevent teams from circumventing the salary cap. So the Leafs either pick up Mats‘ option and take the cap hit or say good-bye to their captain. Is this not the case?
Chris D, Toronto
A: Chris, this is a very complicated business without an easy answer. For starters, you are incorrect, there is no CBA provision that says they cannot re-sign him to a new deal for a year if they decline his option.
Option years, you should know, are no longer allowed, partly because they are confusing as in the case of Sundin, and there are transition rules from the old CBA to the current one as to how option years can be dealt with.
In terms of Sundin’s deal, the Leafs could actually negotiate with him now, but they if they reached a new arrangement they could then face a cap adjustment (upwards) immediately, which could be a problem. For that reason, they want to wait until the playoffs begin – the cap disappears – or after the season so as not to affect their 2006-07 cap figure.
After that, Leaf officials say the option year effectively just “drops away” if that’s the club’s intention, and they can then pay any buyout figure (which would have cap implications) and then negotiate a new one-year deal or multi-year arrangement.
The key for the Leafs is to try to find a way to help their cap figure, which currently sits at $6.3 million for Sundin. Both sides appear willing to find an accommodation to make this happen.
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