Thursday Mail Bag
Ah, the fun never stops, does it?
The Maple Leafs, it would appear, have now turned their search for executive aid to the beaches of Cancun where Cliff Fletcher has to be enjoying the sun and wondering, “Man, how stupid are these guys?”
Ten years ago the Leafs didn’t want him around. Now he’s the smartest guy in their Rolodex. Funniest inclusion in the alleged pursuit of Fletcher in that he would also bring along David Poile as the new Leafs GM.
Just wondering, but isn’t this the same Poile who turned down the Leaf GM job after Fletcher left, largely because he wanted nothing to do with the crazy Toronto hockey market?
Thought so. Meanwhile, Scotty Bowman must look at all his Stanley Cup rings and wonder what it is about the jewelry that turns Richard Peddie off so much. Now on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: I had the unfortunate experience of being at the Anaheim-Toronto game on the 9th. I don't get very many chances of seeing my team live these days, so it was a complete disappointment to see how listless they were against the Stanley Cup champs. No heart. No soul. I sat next to Joe Bowen's family and even his son had his head buried in his little hands. These are hopeless times in Leafs Nation.
Kam Mohager, Beverly Hills
A: Look on the bright side. The Leafs still own their first round draft pick. Of course, if someone now offers them the 2008 equivalent of Tom Kurvers. . .
With the Leafs in a downward spiral and MLSE's refusal to do anything about it, Where are all the loyal Leaf fans in Toronto? Why hasn't anyone picketed the MLSE office yet? It has been done to other sport franchises, why hasn't anyone organized any for the Leafs yet? I might just have to fly up from Honduras and do it myself the Leafs stink so bad.
Aaron Etches, West End, Roatan Honduras
A: See, the problem with picketing is that there would be a lot of congestion with the scalpers doing heavy business outside the ACC. In other words, while some picketed, others wouldn’t be able to wait to overpay for Leaf tickets. Moreover, the real decision-makers, the board of MLSE, wouldn’t be found anywhere near the building. They're in other office towers around the city, snickering to themselves about what suckers Toronto hockey fans are.
Q: Hi Damien,
What's happened to Darcy Tucker? I'm embarrassed to wear his jersey around Calgary despite him being a born and bred Albertan. His point production has fallen off so dramatically to the point that Hal Gill has twice as many points as him. Is it because he signed a hefty 5-year deal with the team? Do you think players start taking it easy mentally and physically after they sign a long-term deal? It seems the same goes for Jason Blake & Bryan McCabe.
John Mullrooney, Calgary
A: Boy, Paul Maurice would sure like an answer to this question. I think Tucker got away from what made him successful and decided he was a goal-scorer, not a scrappy, dogged, snarling winger willing to pay a heavy physical price. That was undoubtedly influenced by the injuries he’s incurred in recent years which have made it more difficult for him to bang and crash every night. He went from being crazed Sideshow Bob to Mr. Finesse, with no stops in between. And yes, I do think the contract had something to do with it. Different dollars often make players believe they have to be something different.
Enjoy your column and brutal assessment of the Leafs. I'm a Torontonian who winters in Arizona and still watches the torture called Leafs games on satellite. I was wondering if JFJ has had trouble luring good free agents or players with no trade clauses to Toronto.
You hear the comments about how Leaf players find it difficult to play in "this market" and wonder if they don't complain to the other players about it. (Personally it sickens me to hear these highly paid winers complain about playing a game for a living where they can be set for life after a 5 year career).
I'm not a JFJ supporter, but it may be harder than we realize to rebuild this team because of the poor reputation that our ownership group has amongst the players and potential GM's out there. What do you hear?
Arnie Porter, Phoenix
A: At this moment, I would doubt Toronto would be a destination of choice for a lot of NHLers, but that has to do more with the fact, I would think, that it’s a lousy hockey team with no chance of taking a run at a Cup for five years. Given the players, however, that have signed as free agents in Toronto over the past decade, I don’t really think there’s much evidence to support the notion that players are disinclined in general to play in Toronto. From Curtis Joseph to Ed Belfour to Gary Roberts to Shayne Corson to Alexander Mogilny to Pavel Kubina to Hal Gill to Jason Blake, plus others than haven’t been mentioned, the Leafs have generally been able to compete in the free agent market.
Q: Hi Damien, love reading your blog.
Given JFJ's difficult position on the hot seat with MLSE (they made him a lame duck with no contract extension and the "8th seed or bust" mentality provoked some terrible off-season moves), is there anything that he could do to salvage the season? Conversely, is there any way he could convince MLSE that it is time to rebuild the broken Leafs?
Jim S., Toronto
A: I think he could convince the board its time to rebuild the Leafs. I just think he’d have a hard time convincing the board he’s the one to do it. The curious problem for Ferguson now is that winning more games, which usually makes people happy, is likely to be counter-productive for the team in that it will take them further away from a top draft pick this June. And Ferguson knows that. Losing and losing big is the beginning of the answer for the Leafs, but that sure won’t help JFJ.
Q: If the Leafs do the smart thing and trade for some draft picks for Sundin, I would like to see them try to attach Raycroft to the deal. I was remembering how the Red Sox had to take Lowell in order to get Beckett which hasn’t worked out to be the albatross people were expecting.
Raycroft is a better back-up than Clemmensen but since this season is done and once they promote Pogge they are going to have to get rid of a goaltender anyway why not get rid of him now.
I’m sure there is some flaw in my thinking. What is it?
Rory Macdonald, British Virgin Islands
A: No flaw. And not a bad idea. That’s how teams get rid of bad contracts. That said, if you attach Raycroft to a Sundin deal, that reduces what you’ll receive in terms of prospects and picks in return. Maybe its better to keep Raycroft, who at $2 million isn’t a cap killer, and take more in return for Sundin.
Q: With all of the talk of the possibility/probability of Sundin being traded, I was wondering who you thought would be the likely candidate for the captaincy of the Leafs? Of course that's assuming that the incoming player(s)involved in the trade aren't ready (worthy) to wear the C.
Pat Eales, Oakville
A: Great question, Pat. I don’t really see a player on the roster capable of carrying the “C.” That said, I would also say that Matt Stajan has been a stand-up guy throughout this entire swoon and seems to be a player, while limited, who can stand the heat in Toronto. Perhaps one day he might grow into captain material.
What the hell is wrong with Bob Clarke? I guess since people overlooked the fact that he was a dirty player when he played he feels compelled to do the same for others? I find it absolutely ludicrous that he can publicly defend cheap shots and dirty hits with a straight face without someone holding him to account for it!
Ryan Mitchell, London
A: I think Clarke loves to stir the pot, and loves to see people become outraged when he does so. I wouldn’t take everything he says so seriously.
Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your questions in The Spin, only at thestar.com.
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