Thursday Mail Bag
Orange County may not be one of hockey's hotbeds or traditional homes. But let it be noted that it was here that the Stanley Cup was allowed to be properly celebrated again.
After years of watching the ice crowded with cameras, wires, families and friends to the extent the Cup was no longer even paraded around the ice in traditional fashion any longer, last night’s finale at the Honda Centre was a throwback experience.
|Sharing the Cup with fans.|
“What we wanted to do was give it back to the players,” explained John Shannon, the NHL’s senior vice-president of broadcasting. With only a handful of media personnel on the ice, the two teams lined up unobstructed for the traditional handshake, with all the Anaheim players, even those who didn’t play, participating in full uniform. After Scott Niedermayer received the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP, the Stanley Cup, gleaming brilliantly, was walked out on to the ice in dramatic fashion.
Then the players, handing it to one another one by one, skated it around the ice, just like the way it had always been done before things got out of hand in the mid-nineties.
It was so much fun Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne took two twirls with the trophy, with the air filled with orange, yellow and silver ticker tape that gradually enveloped the arena like a thick fog.
It really was a gorgeous scene.
All in all, while the final was a dud largely due to the inept performance of the Ottawa Senators, the NHL delivered a first-class event with this year’s Stanley Cup final, the product of a new league initiative.
The league deserves congratulations.
Now, on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: In regards to the first question you received in last week's mailbag, can you honestly say that the Leaf organization is better off today than it was in the Harold Ballard days? At least Ballard was upfront with his intentions. We all knew he was cheap and had no real interest in winning. The current regime also has no interest in winning, yet they want to fool "Leaf Nation" into thinking that they are committed to winning by throwing out a product each year that is just good enough to make (or miss) the playoffs. As long as the team is decent, MLSE can sell their condos and continue to attract the business crowd. I think things are no better now than they were in the Ballard days.
Matt F., Toronto
A: I can only imagine the frustration of Leaf fans these days. But believe me, the hockey organization is light years ahead of the Ballard years in every possible way. I think Ballard probably wanted to win but had no idea how to do it. The same applies to the current group, and in that lies the only similarity.
Q: Mr. Cox, it is my opinion that the Leafs were far too easy a team to play against most nights last season. I realize you aren't the biggest fan of 'smashmouth' hockey but what would you think of the Buds adding Sean Avery to their roster? I see him as a Tucker type who has taken awhile to mature but has shown as of late that he can put the puck in the net as well as bodies into the boards. Avery would bring some much needed grit and scoring to Toronto. I know the Leafs have shown some interest in the past and I believe Avery is a UFA this summer. Wellwood centering Tucker and Avery would make an interesting unit don't you think?
Joseph Meehan, Stittsville, Ont.
A: First of all, I love "smashmouth," hard-hitting hockey. Just not the goon stuff.
As far as Avery goes, he showed a new level of maturity this season with the Rangers, and if you could be guaranteed he would play that way in the future, any team would want him, including the Leafs.
Q: Damien, it has been stated ad nauseam that MLSE does not want another team in Southern Ontario, but does anybody have any hard numbers, besides of course MLSE, about the impact of another popular (read successful) team in Southern Ontario?
The Leafs would still sell out every game, but I am guessing they project they would take a hit on merchandising. And I am guessing biggest hit would be that cash cow Leafs TV.
But does anybody have an idea of what the true impact would be in dollars and cents?
Paul Batte, Markham
A: I’ve asked about that at the NHL level, and the answer has been no. I would doubt that’s the truth, however. Still, I have grave doubts that even a successful team in Hamilton or Waterloo would have any impact on the Leafs in any meaningful way. They are hockey’s version of baseball’s Cubs; people aren’t going to desert the Leafs in droves just because a new team moves in.
Q: Dear Damien,
With the recent report of Mats Sundin and the Leafs reaching an agreement, we are pleased that the captain/ face of the franchise is returning. That being said, it is becoming evident how much Sundin really "cares" about winning in Toronto, what with the glorious $500,000 or so his new contract will save per season. As you alluded to in a previous article, this "discount" will do nothing to genuinely improve the Leafs' cap room and makes Sundin's comments about winning appear trite and dishonest. How do you feel about this new contract? Also, the option on Sundin was for $4.5 million, though the cap hit was for $6 million, so why not sign him to a new contract of $4.5 million per season for two seasons or at worst $5 mil per season?
Jonathan Yeh and Kevin Ebata, Montreal
A: Well, the contract’s not done, for starters. The Leafs believe Sundin can still be a major contributor, and in a league where the top salary next year will be close to $10 million, anything under $6 million for a team’s best player is probably a relative bargain.
Should Leaf fans have hoped that Sundin would take less to give the team more cap space to work with? Having made more than $70 million as a Leaf, I think that would have been a reasonable expectation for fans and a smart investment by Sundin if he really wants to try and win a Cup in Toronto. That said, it’s his contract, and his choice.
Q: Hi Damien. Is it not odd that the Phoenix Coyotes house cleaning did not include the coach? How long a leash does Don Maloney (the new GM) give Gretzky, or is it the other way around?
Neil Craig, Toronto
A: Well, Maloney is the new GM, but Gretzky is also a part-owner. If it gets to the point that Maloney wants a new coach, I think you’ll see Gretzky back away from the team. But like the Leafs with JFJ, Gretzky has to have learned a great deal during his coaching apprenticeship. Why not give him a good chance to put it to good use with the team that has suffered through his learning curve as all teams do with inexperienced coaches?
Q: Hi Damien, I enjoy reading your column. I'm just wondering, with Andrei Markov's signing for $5.75 million per, whether Bryan McCabe and his contract might look more appealing to another team? Any chance on (him agreeing to & JFJ making) a deal? Thanks!
Jeremy Wideman, Uxbridge, Ont.
A: I don’t think McCabe, despite his contract, is anything close to untradeable. Many teams would love to get their hands on a veteran defenceman capable of playing 30 minutes a night and in every situation. If he played for a team in which he was the No. 3 or 4 defenceman – like Anaheim or Detroit - he’d be a gem.
Q: Can you explain how J.S. Giguere customizes his equipment so that he has no 5-hole even when he keeps his goalie stick off the ice? He's also effectively closed the gaps between his arms and his torso. Why don't other goalies adopt his methods? They wouldn't have to make kick saves ever again. Finally, who's bigger in net: the old Garth Snow, or the new J.S.?
George Desmet, Valencia
A: Giguere is the biggest I’ve ever seen. The NHL insists his equipment is legal, although it looks to me like he’s wearing two sets of it. As far as his technique, its nothing more complicated than the butterfly style. He just does it well and for a team that defends well in front of him.
Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your questions in The Spin, only at thestar.com.
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