Thursday Mail Bag
Great to see Glenn Anderson getting into the Hall of Fame on Monday.
Just one question . . . what took so long? Why in the world did it take so long for the Hall to induct a player with 498 regular season goals who was regarded as possibly the best post-season scorer of his time?
But two months after the very sad death of longtime WHL executive Ed Chynoweth, he was immediately inducted as a builder?
The answers we’ll never know, although Anderson did face a mandatory three-year waiting period while Chynoweth did not. But one, Anderson, was clearly far more accomplished in the sport, wouldn’t you agree?
We’ll never know, of course, because of the secretive nature of the 17-member Hockey Hall of Fame selection committee, a group ostensibly charged with caring for the history of the sport but one that operates in total secrecy. Not much has changed, really, from the day Gil Stein tried to manufacture his own induction and almost got away with it.
Anderson, I can tell you, had his way into the Hall blocked by at least one member who held a personal grudge against the former Edmonton star for something that happened during his career. Chynoweth, on the other hand, was an extremely well liked fellow who has many friends in the sport, including the selection committee.
That’s how the Hall works. Still a buddy-buddy deal. It’s also why the institution continues to embarrass itself by not inducting women even though the U.S. Hockey Hall of Fame and the International Ice Hockey Hall of Fame have already done so.
There are no women on the selection committee and no one intimately involved in women’s hockey. Since only the committee can nominate induction candidates, no women even get to that stage.
So Cammi Granato is enshrined in the U.S. and IIHF halls of fame, but ignored by the Hockey Hall of Fame while junior hockey bureaucrats are allowed in as fast as possible.
Nice little secret club they’ve got going there.
Not on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: Hi Damien. Like a typical Leafs fan, I want to believe there is a way we can make the N.J. Devils and Martin Brodeur's misfortune into a positive opportunity.
Does Lou Lamorello really expect Kevin Weekes to fill Brodeur's skates for 50 games?
In his playtime this season, he had done quite well, but he is not really a name in net that inspires confidence. His only significant playoff minutes came for Carolina where he played second fiddle to Arturs Irbe.
His stats over the last few years have been rather weak.
The opportunist in me wonders if now is the time for Fletch to dangle Toskala as trade bait, and bring up Pogge to take over between the pipes as the #1.
Perhaps it's (way) too early to consider this. Statistically, the Leafs currently hold the coveted 8th and final playoff spot. Sure, there are three teams behind them by only 2 points with at least one game in hand (Washington, Tampa, Philly), but the players believe, and historically the ownership has believed, that the playoffs are a lock.
All sarcasm aside, my real concern would be if Pogge is ready, and if calling him up to the NHL now would only hurt his career. Is it too risky for the Leafs?
Arthur Bailey, Toronto
A: For starters, I think Jersey will go with Weekes for a while, and quite possibly until Brodeur gets back in late March. The Devils have traditionally played a team game built on strong defence, and my bet is that Weekes will do well enough to at the very least keep Jersey around .500 particularly when some of their injured players, Brian Rolston in particular, get back. Plus, this is a chance for all those people who figured anybody could put up Brodeur numbers behind that Jersey defence to be proven correct.
As far as Toskala goes, however, I do believe there’s a chance the Leafs may dangle him as trade bait during the season. While the team has played well in the early going, I continue to believe a post-season berth does not lie in the Leafs’ future, and even if they’re close in January or February they should still be looking at moves to enhance the long-term future of the club. Nobody seems to think Justin Pogge is ready, but I have to believe that at some point this season he’ll get his first NHL start, just to see what the kid can do.
Q: What’s the deal with Carlo C. and Ian White?
I know Coach Wilson is in the habit of benching guys that he feels aren't putting 100 per cent out but usually it's just a game or so before they straighten up.
Are those two in the doghouse, or are the victims of a numbers game on the blue line? You can't tell me that Carlo is worse than Stralman or somebody like that. Is a trade/move imminent?
Werner Ott, Thunder Bay, ON
A: Right now, Colaiacovo is certainly a victim of the numbers game, particularly the fact that the Leafs have no injuries on defence at the moment. They’ll get some, you can bet, and that’s when Colaiacovo has to be ready. I can’t quite figure out why Wilson and his staff aren’t so keen on No. 8, and haven’t really been able to get a straight answer out of anyone in the organization. He’s young and mobile with a big upside, exactly the kind of player the club should be promoting. That said, Wilson has a long term view, and perhaps he believes by making Colaiacovo a little hungry and a little mad, it’ll make him more useful over time.
Re White, Wilson clearly doesn’t believe he has the size or talent to play defence in the NHL, so he’s getting a crack up front. It’s no more complicated than that.
Not sure if anyone at all caught this other than my brother Jake and me, but in the game against the Lightning TSN did a close-up of Stajan sitting on the bench during the game. No big deal. But when you looked closely, you would have seen the number "24", and the name "Bryan McCabe" on his stick!
My question is: Can you pull some strings down in the locker room and get him an old "89" with "Mogilny" on it?
Thanks in advance.
Paxton Watson, Toronto
A: Like the humour, and it reminds me of an old hockey joke. A player gets his bell rung, and as the team doctor attends to him, the usual questions are asked. Finally, the doctor says, “Do you know your name?” The player, still foggy, says he doesn’t. “Well then, tell him he’s Wayne Gretzky,” interrupts the coach.
Anyways, I’m told Stajan was using old McCabe sticks because they’re a similar pattern to his own and a shipment with No. 14 on them had yet to arrive. As long as he doesn’t shoot the puck into his own net, the Leaf coaches probably won’t mind.
Q: Damien, I've been impressed with Ron Wilson, an admiration that unfortunately took a major setback.
I was appalled to hear him suggest that Luke Schenn's involvement with the world juniors this year would be comparable to a "teenage tournament", and therefore not as beneficial as playing for the Leafs this year.
My question for you, Damien, is what exactly is the problem with playing in this so-called "teenage tournament"? Is it leading Canada's team to a championship and becoming a national hero? Is it developing his offensive skills?
It seems to me that this "teenage tournament" would have been a win-win situation, while the current Leafs situation has the potential to go very, very badly. But then again, a few years in the minors could have horrible results. Just look at Dion Phaneuf....oh, wait.
Alex A., London, ON
A: Quite frankly, I didn’t get that “teenage tournament” reference either. Most scouts would tell you that the world juniors is a very useful evaluation tool, and certainly the benefits have been there for many, many young hockey players. Schenn is still 18, and even now as he plays solid defence for the Leafs it sure wouldn’t hurt to send him to the world juniors in December to advance his career. I agree that advancing his other skills, such as playing on the power play, would make a lot of sense. But Wilson and Cliff Fletcher have decided Schenn is an NHLer, no matter the cost to the organization, and in the NHL he will stay.
It would appear that the newfound speed and aggressive forecheck of the Leafs are still catching teams off guard early in the season. I think the real proof of how good this team is will be when they face teams for the second and third time this year and they are a "known" quantity. It will also indicate how good the coaching on this team really is. What do you think?
Jamie Hubbert, Ottawa
A: Certainly you’d have to imagine a lot more will be known about the actual quality of this Leaf team by the 40-game mark, and it is tradition in the GTA to get overly excited by short bursts of good play. So far, five wins in 14 games certainly seems a modest enough achievement that folks should hold back any suggestion that this is now a playoff team, but that’s just the way it goes in Toronto. Games against Boston tonight and Montreal on Saturday will provide further info on this team.
That said, I don’t think the Leafs are really surprising anybody these days. Other clubs scout too, and they know the Leafs have been getting lots of shots and scoring lots of goals. So the fact the Leafs have been able to do so consistently for about two weeks is a compliment to them. The league, however, will tighten up as the months pass, and better team defence is necessary if Wilson and Co. want to keep these good vibes going.
I am truly not sure if I already asked you this question? I drive race cars and have banged my noggin a few times? :) BTW, We held a parking spot for you, and even made a couple of burgers, but you didn't show up for the Indy 500. Next year, I may have to charge $$ you!
Has enough time gone by that you might elaborate (even if it's just a little) about what happened with Chad Kilger? It seemed to be this deal that all you "media types" knew about, but the rest of us average folk have been left in the dark? Bottom line: I am just a fan of the way the guy played, and wonder why he career seemed to come to an abrupt, and strange end? Thanks,
Craig Dori, Speedway, IN
A: My dad has always wanted to go to the Indy 500 – maybe this’ll be the year! All I know is rumours about Chad Kilger, and I’d rather not pass on those rumours. People familiar with the culture of hockey can probably guess. I do think it’s sad that Kilger has apparently packed it in. I thought he was a solid player and a nice young man. Hopefully he’ll get his personal life straightened out and we’ll see him again in the NHL.
Q: Greetings Damien!
Enjoy your insights. I have two questions. The first is in regards to the media and its relationship with the Leafs and the NHL in general. Ron Wilson doesn’t appear too interested in building any sort of positive relationship with the local media. Pat Quinn held them in utter disdain, as do myriad of high profile players and executives around the NHL (Daryl Sutter, Tie Domi and Todd Bertuzzi come to mind). A common refrain from these anti media types is that the media has an exaggerated and misplaced sense of their own importance in the business of hockey. Where do you weigh in on this? Do the media get too full of themselves? And how much of this anti-media rhetoric from the likes of Quinn, Sutter et al is genuine and how much is a tactic?
Stuart Lynam, East York
A: Very complicated question, Stuart. For starters, of the people you listed, I find Wilson and Sutter to have been good to deal with, and at certain times, Domi as well. Domi certainly wasn’t an “anti-media” type. He cultivated his image in the media more industriously than any player I can remember.
I think instead of viewing the media as one homogenous blob, it’s always worth remembering that certain people get along and certain people don’t. It’s often an individual thing. I didn’t get along with Quinn, but some did. Wilson, I believe, is interested in his relationship with the media, but isn’t inclined to play nice just to get along. For the most part, I’d say he’s been excellent so far in terms of his media work in the demanding Toronto market.
In terms of analyzing whether the media has an “exaggerated and misplaced sense of their own important,” well, I guess that answer would lie in the eye of the beholder. Moreover, those of us in the business aren’t all the same, and most of the good ones I know would never be so arrogant as to say they actually influence the sport or the business. I certainly don’t feel that way, but at the same time, I’m sure there are those who would accuse me of that. My own perception is that the media can sculpt the nature of the debate in the game, but at the end of the day the only truly influential people are the players and those with the power to be decision-makers in the sport. That said, some will always try to take an us-versus-the-world approach to their job, and demonizing the media is always an easy way out.
Certainly, here in Toronto I get emails all the time blaming the media for the state of the team, suggesting that if the media was more gentle, the team would be more successful. Well, as my good pal Gord Stellick often says, if you’re going to blame the media when things are going badly, you better be prepared to etch their names on the Cup when it all goes perfectly. You can’t just have it one way
Every Thursday, Damien Cox answers your questions in The Spin, only at thestar.com. Click here to submit a question. **Note: please follow the link above to send a question to Damien. Questions posted in the comments section may not make it to the mailbag. Thanks.**