Damien Cox answers your questions in his mail bag. Click here to submit a question.
Q: Hi Damien,
Instead of going out an getting a big-time forward such as a Daniel Briere or a Ryan Smyth, wouldn't they be better off adding depth and getting two middle free agents, such as Dainius Zubrus and Scott Hartnell?
Matthew Ellis, Gatineau, QC
A: There's any number of ways to deal with the Leafs' depth issues. What they need are top six forwards, and all of those players you mentioned fit that description. Yes, two would be better than one, but let me make this argument. If you add, say, Briere, does that allow Mats Sundin to either share top billing or move to a second line role? That would be the kind of trickle down effect that would help the team. The reality, of course, is that free agency isn't a panacea for all that ails the Leafs. It can help, but it can't solve problems that must be dealt with by continuing to improve the club's drafting and development.
Q: Hi Damien,
Two questions for you. Why didn't the Leafs pick up Danny Markov this past off season? He was a free agent and so far, has had a good season for Detroit this year. He was great when he was a Maple Leaf some time ago and I know for a fact that he would have come cheapier than Pavel Kubina.
And two, what about getting Curtis Joseph as a back-up goaltender to Andrew Raycroft? I think he would make a great role model for Andrew and help him mature in this market. Nothing against J.S. Aubin, but I think Andrew would flourish under the guidance of Cujo (and you never know, Curtis might get his stride back if he puts on the blue and white). What do you think?
Ralph Singh, Brampton, Ont.
A: Well, I guess they didn't chase Markov instead of Kubina because they believed Kubina to be the better player. In truth, they are different players, and a better question is why the Leafs ever parted with Markov in the first place in a ill-fated series of connected deals with Phoenix that delivered Robert Reichel and Mikael Renberg. Re Joseph, I think it's an idea that has merit, although Joseph didn't have a sterling season last year on a very weak Phoenix team. The problem you might encounter is that because of Joseph's popularity, Raycroft might find himself centred out by the fans not because of his own shortcomings but because people simply like Joseph. It could work, but it would have to be managed very carefully by the coaching staff.
Although I agree with the attention everyone is giving headshots, for the life of me I cannot understand why the same attention is not being given to the check from behind hits that keep accumulating in these NHL play-offs. A two minute "boarding" penalty to Shubert of Ottawa is no better than the non-call head shot of Armstrong. Lots of talk about Armstrong's hit which is valid but nothing of Shubert's, why? No injury?
Also, if you watch each night, there are far more checks from behind in the game than there are headshots. I find these types of hits very disgraceful as a Minor Hockey Official where both types of hits are deemed ruthless and unlawful.
Bob Dumond, Gore Bay, Ont.
A: I agree. Last night, Teemu Selanne hit Alexandre Burrows from behind late in the Anaheim-Vancouver game and received a two minute penalty, the same penalty he would have received for tripping Burrows or hooking his arm. It just doesn't make sense, but my answer is the same as it is on all these violence related issues. If the NHL wanted to get rid of checking from behind, it could; the fact it doesn't, means it wants that type of play as part of its game.
Q: Hello Damien,
I have been reading ever since I can remember and appreciate the work you do. While watching the Armstrong hit on Eves my immediate reaction was wow what a great clean hit. Very similar to the Wendell Clark hit on Bruce Bell. I was surprised the next day to read to say that dirty hits like that have no place in today’s game. It only seemed like yesterday that Scott Stevens was praised for his hits that knocked out several players on his way to winning a Conn Symthe trophy. I was wondering what changed the perspective of these hard thunderous body checks.
Mike Davidson, Boston
A: You know, that's a great question. And I guess the answer is that sports evolve just as society evolves, and hopefully we don't stick to certain beliefs just because we once did. Players once played without helmets, but no one would suggest that they do that now. Stevens' hits were thundering and legal in his time, and players can only be asked to play within the rules that are in force at the time they are playing. I guess that would be Armstrong's defence, although my problem is more that he has made a reputation as a head-hunter and the league does nothing to stop players from jumping or launching themselves into the head area of opponents.
Other leagues – like the OHL - have legislated against head shots. I see no reason why the NHL can't, or any reason why it wouldn't want to.
Q: I’ve always enjoyed the NHL overtime “feature” in the playoffs, however there does come a point where it is just too much. A seven hour hockey game in the first round is a little silly.
My question is in regards to overtime and US television.
How quickly do you think the NHL would alter its overtime format if one of the big US networks came calling offering a comprehensive playoff package and big $$? Say the complete last two rounds, in the same manner as MLB playoffs and world series?
We know that Letterman or Leno would never be preempted for an NHL playoff game that goes into the 7th period. Yankees vs RedSox into the 17th inning – yes. Stars vs. Canucks…not so much.
Jim Boyd, Dumfries, Scotland
A: That's a great point, and it does often seem like the NHL puts itself up for sale when it comes to U.S. television interests. That said, overtime in the playoffs is cherished by the purists of the game, and I think the long, drawn out OT games are relatively rare and really are the exception. So I wouldn't expect anything to change soon.
Q: Shortly after John Ferguson Jr. signed on as the Maple Leafs general manager, he stated publicly that he had a "plan" in place. Since that time, I haven't heard anything more about that "plan", much less have I seen anything that even remotely resembles any type of a "plan"! I was hoping that maybe you could provide Leaf fans with some insight into what that plan may have been and if it still exists?
Jody Matheson, Hornby, Ont.
A: Well, the plan has been to build with draft picks and youth, and I think on this year's team with players like Stajan, Steen, White, Colaiacovo and Wellwood there was evidence of that.
Whether you agree with the plan, or whether you believe Ferguson is executing the plan effectively, that is what he set out to do. The difference with other teams is that the Leafs are also trying to remain competitive at the same time and carry expensive veterans, and that's where the overall objective may be compromised.
Q: Hi Damien,
What do you think the Leafs should do draft day? I know there is a school of thought that you take the best player available no matter what position, but I think the Leafs' most pressing need right now is for a scoring winger or a young defenceman along the lines of Volchenkov in Ottawa.
Mike Milner, Orillia, Ont.
A: Best player available. Period. You draft for assets, not need.
Click here to send Damien a question and he'll answer a selection in his mail bag every Thursday in this space.