Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your Maple Leafs questions. Click here to submit a question.
So, do you think this year's designated Leaf saviour, Vesa Toskala, has figured out yet that stopping the puck in Toronto is going to be a little bit more difficult than in San Jose?
Yeah, I think he has.
Anyways, on to this week's mail bag, including programming issues that have left me utterly befuddled.
Q: Hello Damien. Love your insights, and really respect your thoughts. Can you explain to me if you ever see in the near or distant future MLSE allowing a General Manager to run the team as he sees fit? I don't necessarily blame JFJ for all the decisions, but how much of a hand do you think MLSE has in the day-to-day operations, and how much of an influence do they have on hockey related decisions? Do you ever foresee a day of "Bryan Colangelo" type of autonomy on the hockey side?
Micho Brujic, Mississauga
A: I think Pat Quinn was the last GM of the Leafs to have any real autonomy in the days when he pretty much reported directly to Steve Stavro, which ended when Stavro’s reign as Leaf czar ended. There are many owners in the league who are very involved, so that in itself isn’t necessarily the problem. The issue is how they are involved, and whether they give their GM enough autonomy and job security to operate effectively. I noticed the other day that the Tennessee Titans of the NFL, despite having been awful fairly recently, gave their longtime coach Jeff Fisher a new four-year deal. The Leaf board, on the other hand, seems intent on making sure JFJ runs every meaningful decision past them while at the same time making it clear he could be replaced at any time. Pretty tough for any hockey executive to do their job under those circumstances. But this stuff has been going on since Cliff Fletcher was in charge, and so its hard to believe any hockey exec would ever get the clearance to run the show alone. Which is why none want to come to Toronto.
Q: Hi Damien,
I have a few questions or points I'd like to make. Why has no one questioned JFJ for not signing Peca? he was willing to come for a lot less, and all we were told was he is a great influence in the dressing room, and on the ice, and we want him back. Also, do you not think a free agent like Bondra or Alyn McAuley would help? Where did all the money go? We really only signed Blake? Also, I do think another free agent forward was needed, and since we didn't get him I think we should move either a McCabe or Colaiacovo on the wing, thus opening up another defensive spot. They should be better than Ondrus, Devereaux, Battaglia or Newbury. Also, did Craig Button find a job with another organization? Mysterious departure wasn't it? The Leaf Carousel continues.
Angelo Romanin, Woodbridge
A: Okay, you’ve thrown a few things at me. First, I too questioned JFJ for not resigning Peca. I think a part of the answer was that the Leafs seriously question whether Peca will be able to recover sufficiently from last year’s serious injury. Re Bondra, I think he’s finished as an elite scorer, while McCauley’s injury problems may end his career, making him a risky signing. Moving defencemen up to forwards is often suggested but almost never pans out with meaningful results.
Finally, re Craig Button, there was clearly a disconnect between Ferguson and Button, perhaps even a trust issue in which Ferguson didn’t feel comfortable sharing organizational secrets with Button. At any rate, Button is a well-regarded hockey man who may even one day get a chance to be a GM again.
Q: This is a follow up question to the Q&A dated September 20 on NHL blackout policy. Even with the purchase of the NHL Centre Ice Package in the Ottawa region, Leafs games are subject to blackouts. So programming on cable, satellite or NHL Centre Ice package is totally useless if you wanted access to Leafs games. I'm just asking for access to Leafs games or the ability to watch them when desired, not that I will watch all the Leafs games. We are subjected to Sens and Habs games (at least almost their entire schedule is available) even though Ottawa is more than a third full of Leafs fans. By the way I've stopped purchasing hockey tickets in Ottawa, even for Leafs game because of the petty treatment Leafs are subjected to in this city. Any suggestions on getting access to Leafs game in Ottawa?
Ric T., Ottawa
A: I’m told Centre Ice should give you access to Leaf games. If that’s wrong, I’m really confused now.
Q: This is a follow up to a question you answered regarding regional blackouts. Even with the NHL Center Ice package how come when there are games involving Montreal (I live in Brockville, Ont.) I am only able to watch the RDS broadcast (which is in french) and not the alternate broadcast (from the other teams announcers which is in english)? It seems unfair, I pay for NHL Center Ice not Glace Centrale de NHL (thanks to Google translate) Why am I forced to watch games in french, it's not like the commercials mean anything to me either.
Will G., Brockville, Ont.
A: Oh my goodness. I wish I’d never dipped my toe in this pond. . .
Q: Hey Damien,
Just curious of your thoughts on the Leafs new jerseys? I hate them, they're plain, and boring. And just a slap in the face of tradition.
Montreal would never get rid of the red on the shoulders, or the stripes on the bottom. Also, why would the Leafs continue to hold onto that Harold Ballard Leaf logo? The one from last year's third jersey is MUCH nicer, as is that jersey. I'm hoping they'll get the message and fix these boring jerseys ASAP! Also, is the NHL back to home teams wearing white? The Leafs wore blue in Edmonton the other night, then again in Winnipeg, but the Canucks wore green at home. I'm confused. I prefer the whites at home to be honest.
Randy Bush, Toronto
A: Flat out, I think the Leafs new uniforms are boring, unimaginative and look like practice jerseys. You could only get more plain by stripping the numbers off the back. Just awful. From what I’ve seen, only a handful of NHL clubs – Ottawa, Calgary, to name two – look remotely sharp in their new duds.
With so much puck-moving talent on the blueline, do you think Ferguson will deal for another stay-at-home defenceman and some size up the middle? Would McCabe waive his no-trade clause to move to a top-contender?
Chris Rodgers, Ottawa
A: First, I’m not so sure I see all the puck-moving talent. I see Kaberle, and to some degree McCabe, but that hardly is an embarrassment of riches. But I do think this team is absolutely desperate for a reliable, stay-at-home type. Actually, I think drug-suspended Sean Hill would have been a good bet, but he signed with Minny.
Re McCabe waiving his no-trade, I think he would, yes. If this season goes sour, it should happen. I just don’t see him as the pillar of a great defence. Ever.
Q: Last season, the Leafs had Colaiacovo, Stajan, and Peca, all originally from the GTA. They didn't get any extra attention from fans or media. Raycroft is from Belleville, not too far down the 401. He got a lot of attention; unfortunately it was the wrong kind of attention. The fans loved Roberts and Nieuwendyk, both from the GTA, but it had more to do with their styles of play -- they could've been from Tibet for all the fans cared.
It seems like where the player is from isn't a big deal here. I don't see that being the case with the Canadiens fans. I'm inclined to believe a guy like Pisani gets an extra cheer from Oilers fans because he's an Edmonton boy. I would guess that if Sakic signed with the Canucks, the fans would go completely mental (moreso than if a player of similar talent and credentials signed there). Last summer, I was hoping Anson Carter would sign with Toronto (until I found out how much he wanted from the Canucks), and admittedly, half the reason is that he's a Scarborough kid. Am I the only Leafs fan who cares about such things?
Do you find the fans of other Canadian teams cheer on their hometown boys more than Leaf fans do, or am I just dreaming that up?
K. Lee, Toronto
A: It’s an interesting question, and down in Phoenix, the efforts of one Arizona-born player to crack the Coyotes roster has certainly created a stir.
Calgary is one team that has tried to build around some western Canadian kids, while Montreal is hard-pressed to ice a team with more than two or three French-Canadian born players anymore. Edmonton likes the locals, sure, but they booed Mike Comrie out of town. So it differs from place to place, situation to situation.
Basically, I don’t think Leaf fans in general care where the players are from; the most popular player on the roster now is Darcy Tucker, and he’s from Western Canada. The same went for Wendel Clark of Kelvington, Sask. in his day. Leaf fans, in general, seem more attracted to a type – gutsy, aggressive – than whether a player is local.
Q: I think Kyle Wellwood is a great person and very dedicated to being the best player he can be. Having said that he has always struck me as a guy with all the style but no finish. But perhaps with a winger who can score he could be effective. Problem is I'm not sure that person is out there. My question though is far more concerning. Do you feel with this latest setback that Wellwood will even play this year? I have a sinking feeling this injury is far more serious than the Leafs are letting on. What are your thoughts on this?
Robert Hardman, Madison, Sask.
A: I think there’s every reason to believe this is either a more serious injury than has been stated, or a chronic problem. It’s stunning that this wasn’t completely addressed and taken care of over the summer months. Perhaps that’s why you see the team taking such care with Colaiacovo’s knee injury now.
Click here to send Damien a question and he will answer a selection every Thursday in this space.