Thursday Mail Bag
Poor Carlo. Man, if the guy could ever stay healthy for a long stretch there’s a chance he would be regarded as one of the best first round picks the Maple Leafs have made in a long time.
Think about it. Colaiacovo was 17th overall in 2001. After he was taken, you might be able to point to Fedor Tyutin, Derek Roy, Mike Cammalleri or Jason Pominville as better players taken later in the first two rounds.
Meanwhile, before the Leafs took Colaiacovo, players like Alexander Svitov, Stanislav Chistov, hard-luck goalie Dan Blackburn and Igor Knyazev were taken.
So Colaiacovo was a good, shrewd pick at No. 17. If he hadn’t been injured so often, there’s enough evidence on the table to believe he would have been one of the best 10 players taken, maybe better.
But he has been hurt over and over, and was injured again Tuesday on Long Island. Now if you’re the Maple Leafs, do you again go into next season betting on Colaiacovo being healthy, or is it time to look to other answers and accept whatever he might be able to contribute as gravy?
Tough call. Now on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: Hi Damien,
As a Habs fan who's subscribed to RDS and been able to see a ton of games this year, I've really grown to appreciate Roman Hamrlik. This guy has to be one of the best defensive defencemen in the game. He plays physically, he blocks shots, he moves the puck well, he's tough to beat one on one, and he always seems to make good decisions. Which got me wondering, if you were picking candidates for "best defensive defenceman" in the NHL, who would be on your list?
Geoff Read, Thunder Bay
A: Wow. Well, there are different types of good defenders. Nicklas Lidstrom, for example, is usually cited for his offence, but he’s a finesse defender who plays against the other team’s best every night. Same for Scott Niedermayer.
Among those regarded as stay-at-home types, New Jersey’s Colin White is underrated. Ottawa’s tandem of Chris Phillips and Anton Volchenkov would be up there. Ditto for Robyn Regehr in Calgary. There are lots more.
And mark my words, soon Braydon Coburn of Philly will be seen as one of the best.
Q: Hi Damien, I understand why Fletcher can't publicly say "we're out of it this year, so the emphasis now is going to be on evaluating the young talent in our system, maybe showcasing Raycroft for a possible summer time move and if that means we're going to lose a few more than we would have by leaning on the vets then so what? Heck, we'll even get a better draft pick." BUT WHY IN THE WORLD IS HE NOT TELLING MAURICE THAT'S THE DEAL? Is MLSE just joking about a rebuild here?
Bradley Meldrew, Toronto
A: I just think there’s a disconnect between management’s goals and the goals of the coaching staff right now, a staff trying to save its jobs. I mean, was Phoenix tanking by playing Mikael Tellqvist instead of Ilya Bryzgalov in Edmonton Tuesday night? Of course not. The Leafs should be using all of the players on their roster, playing the kids, urging them all to play as hard as possible and letting the cards fall where they may. Shutting down Raycroft for the season benefits no one. But they're choosing to pursue a different course and we'll see if it benefits them in the end.
Q: Hi Damien, You're one of the toughest Leafs' commentators in Toronto. Why hasn't MLSE thrown you out of the ACC yet, whereas they've torn down all the Bill Waters posters?
Raymond Young, Toronto
A: Well, league rules prevent them from throwing me out on my ear, for starters. But I’m not one of those people who believes I’m so influential that somehow shutting me down would help the Leaf operation in any way, shape or form. Watters’ situation is somewhat different in that he works for the radio station that is the team’s rights-holder, but all the team has done by drawing attention to him is attract more listeners for AM640. In general, all of us in the media over-value our influence. It’s the fans, through their actions, who speak the loudest.
Q: Hey Damien,
Given what happened last year with the Leafs knocking the Canadiens out of playoff contention, only to see their own hopes knocked off by the Islanders, what do you think are the chances that the last few games with Philly will end up helping either Buffalo or Washington make it into the playoffs?
Nick K., Ottawa
A: Well, based on what Buffalo did against Tampa Bay on Wednesday night, the Sabres look intent on staying in it until the bitter end. Not so sure about Washington, which will also make it very difficult, in my mind, for Alex Ovechkin to win the Hart.
Q: Is anything ever going to be done about the constant stream of hits from behind in the NHL? Watching last week's Leafs/Flyers game, I'm convinced McCabe's hit on Umberger was in part a retaliation for earlier hits on two of his teammates. Might it be time to adopt a rule from minor hockey, where a hit from behind penalty is an automatic minor or major penalty and a game misconduct? I fear that if Bettman and the league don't move soon on this issue, somebody's career is going to be over (or worse) before something is done.
Clark Aitken, Scarborough
A: Well, Clay, your concern is the concern of many. I would say too often that a two-minute penalty is awarded for a very dangerous hit. Like many things, the NHL could get rid of hits from behind if it wanted by making every one a game misconduct and automatic suspension. The fact it doesn’t must mean it wants those types of hits as part of the game.
Q: Hi Damien,
Tonight with the game tied at 3s, Paul Maurice pulled the goalie to go for the win. A move that was necessary given their getting-struck-by-lightning chances of making the playoffs. My question is: If they had scored the game-winner while their net was empty, who would be credited with the win? I believe empty net goals don't count against the goalie who has been pulled so it wouldn't be fair to give it to Toskala. As a fan of quirky stats, I'd vote for the 6th skater who came out. That said, I'm guessing it might go to no one.
Thanks, and keep on fighting the good fight (against fighting).
Andrew Munsch, Guelph
A: Great question. My belief is that Martin Biron of the Flyers would have been credited with the win, and Toskala the loss. But let me dig a bit on that one.
Q: While watching Saturday's edition of the Leafs' "Charge of the Dumb Brigade" I heard that Brad Boyes now has 34 goals. I wondered who was responsible for the fact that, once the Leafs sorted out their dispute with Owen Nolan (over money, no less, something that MLSE has out the wazoo) the team did not at least trade him for something. The net result of this is that Nolan is performing well in Calgary, Boyes is a rising star and the Leafs have nothing. Any thoughts?
Paul Vaillancourt, Ottawa
A: I’ve never dumped on the Leafs for the Nolan deal because I argued at the time it was a good deal for a team with a chance to go deep into the post-season. It obviously backfired on them, and while others are free to say it was a dumb trade by Pat Quinn, I can’t in all good conscience since it made sense to me at the time. Sometimes you have to give up something significant to go for a championship. Once upon a time the Dallas Stars wanted to go for it all and picked up Joe Nieuwendyk. They gave up a kid named Jarome Iginla in the bargain, but in ’99 got their Stanley Cup. Good deal? I’d say for both, but if the Stars had never managed to get that Cup, it would have been looked at as awfully wasteful.
Q: Damien, I have a question for next mail bag. I understand the NHL has a dispute with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation centered on compensation for players. But I was also lead to believe that it didn't hinder individual teams for pursuing individual deals with Russian players/teams. If that is the case, why wouldn't MLSE draft Nikita Filatov and cut a deal with his Russian pay masters? Second question: Would any money involved fall under the cap? I think Toronto with its very healthy finances should be looking for creative ways to get better without jeopradizing cap space and if paying a premium for a Russian prospect will do that . . . then what are they waiting for?
Mark Whitney, Toronto
A: First of all, nobody really knows what the rules are right now. The Leafs have had to work out a deal with Nikolai Kulemin and his Russian team, but still can’t be 100 per cent sure he’ll be here next year. But how much do you want to pay knowing that you’ll be setting a standard for other teams to live with? Transfer payments would not come under the cap. I guess the answer is if you believe Filatov is a franchise-type player, far better than the others available, then you go for it and take your chances. But I also think Russian players, in general, seem to be falling out of favour with NHL teams for a variety of reasons, and the situation with the transfer agreement and a possible new league in Russia offering larger contracts won’t improve matters.
Click here to submit a question for the mail bag.