No surprise that a wild week in the Leaf kingdom last week produced lots of questions and suggestions for the new regime.
Something tells me this isn’t going to stop, either. With less than four weeks to go to the trade deadline, names and possibilities are going to be popping up every day. Should be fun.
Now on to this week’s mailbag:
Q: Hey Damien,
With all the names swirling around as the permanent GM for the Leafs would that potentially cause problems at the trade deadline? For instance say the Leafs trade Sundin to the Ducks for the oilers first rounder and come the off season, Brian Burke happens to take the leafs post (though he is denying it) wouldnt that look a bit suspect? Are there any rules regarding this?
George B., Kitchener
A: There are no rules regarding the movement of managers. While I agree there’s room for suspicion, no deal for a new Leaf executive would be in place prior to Feb. 26th, so there should be no real reason for a conflict of interest scenario.
Q: Hi Damien. All of this talk about Cliff Fletcher potentially dumping salaries has got me wondering which salaries on the Leafs are actually dump-able? I don't think in the salary-cap era they could find a destination for Blake, Gill, Kubina, Tucker, Raycroft or McCabe. Not even for a 2010 seventh-rounder. I think Cliff will be in tough trying to free up cap space for next year.
Zachary Farrar, Toronto
A: I think any contract is dumpable. Just need a buyer. People go way overboard saying this player or that player is untradeable, but my thinking is, if you can trade Alexei Yashin, you can trade anybody. Don’t forget, other teams have needs and they also have contracts they don’t like. Everybody has something they’d like to move.
Q: Do you think that Ferguson's troubles began with Pat Quinn? He basically decided on Ferguson because he had veto rights over his replacement. He did not draft well. He traded the future for guys like Owen Nolan. He had a loosie goosie approach to coaching, basically throw a puck out there and let the veterans play. Ferguson saw the ship going down and reacted by trying to replace Belfour. He felt the pressure of the Leaf Nation and offered way too much money to McCabe, Kubina, Blake, & Tucker. Do you not think that he was a lame duck from the beginning?
Sean Murphy, Courtice
A: You can certainly make a case that Ferguson was a lame duck from the start. Certainly, taking a raw rookie, giving him the GM job and sticking him with a veteran head coach who used to be the GM and wanted somebody else to be his successor was not intelligent management planning. That said, Ferguson had time to put his own coach in place, and had time to orient the roster in a different way. We can all place the blame somewhere, but the bottom line is that the Leafs didn’t get better. They got worse.
How has everyone in the Toronto print media chosen to ingore Peddie's turn as the Wizard of Oz? Did none of the scribes notice that Peddie looked like he had lost the plot as he mouthed the words that Cliff Fletcher was speaking. Kirk, Peddie and the Wicked Witch of the East can march all of the usual suspects down the road paved with gold (Bay Street) and will find the President/GM job an impossible sell. Who would want to work for the organization where no one is really in charge per say? An organization where things have taken a Hitchcockian turn?
Here is the bottom line: The Teachers and their pension plan will continue to milk this cash cow dry until it is dry. Period. There is no cowboy riding in wearing a white hat, because no one who could turn this thing around is dumb enough to take the job. If the building is half full and the TV revenues start to crash then, and only then, will the Teacher's make a relevent move, perhaps sell even. I never thought I would say this, but I miss Harold, at least he was entertaining.
Michael Fritzlar, Toronto
A: Geez, you don’t find a pension plan entertaining? You have high standards. But seriously, I don’t think anyone has ignored Peddie’s goofy lip-synching at the Fletcher press conference. It’s been well documented everywhere.
The Teachers, meanwhile, are doing what they are supposed to do, which is maximize their investment. This story isn’t going to change. The only issue that might change is whether the pension plan, and the board, might afford an incoming executive more leeway and authority than was afforded JFJ.
Q: Teachers pension is all about money and profit. Jim Balsille is all about wanting a NHL team but owns a much larger company. Is there not a deal there to be made? The teachers have said they will not sell until they have something to invest their money. Balislle allows them to invest in a percentage of the RIM and takes ownership of the Leafs. Fire Peddie, and book the stanley cup parade. (I will be at the corner of Yonge and Front for the parade).
Brian M., Barrie
A: Balsillie looks like a panacea. But let’s face it, there’s no guarantees there, either. There is no magic pill here, folks. The only thing for sure is that I’m not smart enough to broker a deal between the pension plan and Balsillie.
Q: Hey Damien This one is real quick, in regards to general managers in the NHL, in general terms aside from making trades and signing players and coaches to outrageous contracts, what do they actually do on a full time basis? Scouting? Attend games and look distressed in their little boxes?
Grant Virgin, Fredericton
A: They have Blackberrys to keep warm and expense accounts to use. Seriously, most of these fellows are very hardworking, with large organizations to run. Many have responsibilities beyond the hockey team, or are part of larger corporate entities that require them to be in endless meetings. It used to be a nine-month a year job, but is now a year-round deal with good pay but lousy job security.
Q: I was looking at top NHL salaries for this year, by the way it is good to see McCabe earn his 4th highest defenceman salary every game, and I noticed that goalies are paid signifanctly less. Why is that? Whenever Hart or Conn Smythe nominations are made goalies are often involved. If they are deemed most valuable by trophy, why are they not paid as most valuable?
Mats Serviss, Belleville
A: This has been the case for a long time. In fact, goalies used to get paid a lot less in relation to their skating colleagues. I guess part of the answer may be that the number of goalies who have actually been dominant figures for 10 years or more is very small. They seem to have a period of three to four years in which they are very effective. So perhaps teams aren’t willing to make long-term, lucrative commitments to goaltenders they know will have to be replaced. But I agree it is weird, given that it’s the most important position in the sport.
Q: Hi Damien:
In all honesty, is there a softer team in the NHL than the Leafs? Every other team seems to employ their heavyweight on a more regular basis but more importantly they also carry 2nd and 3rd line guys with some grit and a willingness to get involved phsically if necessary (Ryan Malone, Scott Hartnetll, Matt Bradley, Brian Sutherby type player).
The Stajans, Steens, Tlustys of the world don't bring that jam. Am I wrong in thinking that opposing teams must lick their chops at the prospect of pushing the Leafs around?
Terry Williams, Elora
A: There’s no question that the Leafs aren’t a particularly feared or physical team. The players they have that were once seen as agitators – Tucker, Blake – just don’t play that way anymore. I don’t think the answer lies in enforcers. I think it lies in the types of grinders you mentioned. But this is a team that has for several months employed a first round pick (Tlusty) known to be a finesse player on its fourth line. The Leafs seem to seek out only offensive players and then spread them throughout the line. The concept of role players seems to escape them.
Am I off my rocker? I have heard a lot of complaints about Hal Gill lately. Sure he’s no superstar, but from what I can tell the Leafs play 5 defencemen that have a primary focus on offence, and offer no physical game, and only 1 defenceman (Gill) that has a primary focus on playing in his own zone, adding a little bit of a physical game and protecting the net. One of my biggest complaints about the Leafs defence is that (aside from Gill) none of them play defence. I would enjoy seeing a Bob Rouse type D on this team again and Gill is the closest we have to that. The only time Toskla has someone protecting the net is when Gill is on ice - I personally would like more Hal Gills on this team. Am I off my rocker?
Matt Hart, Toronto
A: I don’t know about wanting more Gills. But I agree this blueline is predominantly made up of puck-movers, not body-movers. Gill is what he is – a decent defender who is most usefully when assigned to check big-body offensive players. But even then, watch him lose Tkachuk driving to the net on Tuesday for one of the Blues goals. For $2 million in today’s NHL, however, that’s what you get.
Q: Hi Damien,
I picked Jason Blake in my hockey pool this year, so I have been following him rather closely. What I see is a guy that is probably the fastest skater on the team, getting more shots than anybody and quite a bit of ice time, especially on power plays and with top linemen.
Why doesn't he score more often?
Tony Bibbings, Bermuda
A: Well, he finally spelled out what everybody who watches this team already knew. He shoots too often from far out, eschewing opportunities to create chances for linemates. You’re just not going to score very often from 30 feet with a wrist shot in today’s NHL.
Q: Hey Damien,
Just out of curiosity, have the Leafs or anyone else ever considered using Chad Kilger on the point on the power play? The man has a world-record breaking shot, and certainly isn't as big of a defensive liability of others forwards who have taken on the job.
Nick K., Ottawa
A: Haven’t heard that one. I’m not even sure Chad would endorse the idea, giving that playmaking isn’t his best skill. He gets his shot off best moving down the wing, and even then doesn’t score that often. On the power play, it’s not just about having a big shot from the point. It’s about positioning yourself to get it off, and about working with teammates. But the Leaf powerplay has been terrible for a while now, and why they’ve gone back to positioning Kyle Wellwood with his back to the left post is absolutely beyond me.
Click here to send Damien a question and he'll answer a selection in his mail bag every Thursday in this space.