Thursday Mail Bag
Drove past the ACC this morning. Soon, you’ll barely be able to see the arena, with the new condo skyscraper going up to the west of it.
The MLSE brass seems to be able to get that project moving very quickly.
Lots of talk about MLSE chasing an English Premiership team, maybe Leeds United.
No problem getting somebody to lead that effort.
The company’s also taking dead aim at landing the 2012 World Junior Championships, an ambitious undertaking in a city that seems to hate junior hockey.
They’ve got the appropriate management team in place for that project.
Surely they’ll be soon turning their corporate attention to getting a proper management team in place for their NHL team, don’t you think?
Or maybe it’s just not a priority.
Now on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: Hi Damien,
So the Leafs have an NHL caliber coach; again. Considering the fact that the San Jose Sharks roster would look like an all-star team compared to the current Leafs squad, do you really think his hiring will make much of a difference?
Peter van Hoof, Pickering
A: If they waste their time by bringing back all the vets and adding a few more, Wilson can probably make them a better defensive club, and thereby push them slightly closer to an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
If they do the right thing and dump the vets and don’t bother spending on free agents, then Wilson will have little impact on the win-loss record. But he’s a good teacher, so some young players should get better.
Q: Did you know that the Leafs have not won the Stanley cup since the Hockey Night in Canada theme song was written? Could this be our Babe Ruth? If they get rid of the HNIC theme song do you think there will be a chance we might win the Cup?
James Castella, Mississauga
A: Sure. Well, maybe not. . .did you have a year in mind?
Q: How about instead of paying Mats the big money we use some of it to make blockbuster offers for Corey Perry and Mike Green? There's no guarantee we could land them but it's worth a try in my books. Your opinion?
Steve Warren, Grand Bend
A: Make offers for those players and land them as restricted free agents and you’ll end up losing multiple first round picks as compensation. Bad strategy at this stage of the game, but probably one Cliffie and the boy would love.
Q: What do you think Mats Sundin wants to see from the Leafs that would convince him to re-sign? Do you think he is holding out to see if they keep the core of Tucker, McCabe, Kaberle and Kubina? Do you think he would let them take a step back in order to move forward, the way Brett Favre did with the Packers several years ago? Do you think the Leafs see more of a PR disaster to let Sundin walk (for nothing), even if it means having to suffer through another season of fighting for eigth place with McCabe and Tucker (and trying to convince us that "big changes" means Tim Stapleton), than getting rid of the Muskoka Five and almost guaranteeing from the start that that the season is a wash?
John Hunt, Harvard, Massachusetts
A: Lot of questions there. I would imagine Sundin, who is intensely loyal to the team, is looking for reasons to believe the club is at least capable of making the playoffs next season. Also, I imagine he wants guarantees of not only not being traded, but not being bothered about it next winter. If the Leafs give him reasons on both fronts, they’re going in the wrong direction.
I was intrigued by a comment made during a HNIC Hot Stove segment regarding Mats Sundin. The suggestion was that perhaps the Leafs could look at trading him before July 1st. I think it's imperative that Cliff have that conversation with Mats immediately.
I gave Mats the benefit of the doubt when he declined to be traded at the deadline based on his desire to not be a rental player. However that argument does not hold water at this point and if Mats wants to do what's best for the Leafs he should at least give the team and its fans the opportunity to try and get something for him.
C'mon Mats - how much more time do you need - your season ended two months ago! Mats could provide a list of teams he'd be willing to play for and his contract demands - this would give him a head start on free agency and it would help the Leafs.
Dan Lawson, Plano, TX
A: Sorry. That ship has sailed. The Leafs had years to get something for Sundin as an asset. And didn’t.
Q: If/when Mats does sign with another team, what do you see as the most valuable role he could fill? Is he more valuable as a top line centre providing leaderhsip and scoring (as with the Leafs), as a second line centre providing leadership (and skill) on a team of young stars, etc.? I guess what I am asking is what do other GMs see when they are debating wether Mats would be a valuable addition to their team?
Matt K., Toronto
A: I think they see a durable, team-oriented veteran who can play on anybody’s first line and first power play group. That’s a pretty valuable asset.
Q: Hi Damien,
So Boots is bankrupt and the pie looks SO GOOD all over Betman's face. How much longer do you think Gary Bettman can resist putting another team in Southern Ontario? The Players' association seems to be hinting at it (as they're salaries are now tied to league revenues), and Ballisille certainly is persistent. 2009-2010 season?
Bradley Meldrew, Toronto
A: No chance. They’ll be in Vegas before Canada.
Q: Damien, we all know to well of the dysfunctional fiasco that is known as MLSE. But could you explain how the Ontario Teachers Pension Fund managed to gain and control 58% of the shares that therefore makes them the controlling interests? How did this come about? Was there no one available at the time to take ownership control of the team?
It is a shame, regardless of their recent record sans Stanley Cups that a pro-team can be owned and controlled by a Teachers Pension Fund. Pro teams are intended to be owned and controlled preferably by a one owner rule or by private partnerships.
Ted Arichteff, Winnipeg
A: Pretty simple. Steve Stavro ran out of cash, and the pension fund jumped in and bought controlling interest in 2003. They hand over essentially all authority to Richard Peddie, and he drives the team into the ice.
Q: Got a really hypothetical question for you. If I'm not mistaken when a team wins the Stanley Cup the names of the people in the organization get engraved on it, including the owners. So my question is that if (in the miracle of miracles) the Leafs were ever to win the Cup, who's name(s) would get on the Cup as the owner? Would it be all the members of the board or the companies that own shares in MLSE? Wouldn't there be too many "owners" to fit on the Cup?
Vsem Yenovkian, Toronto
A: Probably all the members of the board of directors. And Tie Domi, of course, Larry Tanenbaum’s buddy.
Click here to send Damien a question and he'll answer a selection in his mail bag every Thursday in this space.