Thursday Mail Bag
It’s not exactly do or die time for Justin Pogge.
But its time for the kid to make a statement.
|TONY BOCK/TORONTO STAR|
|It's Pogge's time to make a statement that he's an NHLer.|
We’ve seen him come up to the NHL on multiple occasions, do okay at times, but generally not do a whole lot to convince anyone he’s the answer in the near future for the Maple Leafs in goal.
Now, with Martin Gerber having acted like a complete idiot over a goal that, in my opinion, was correctly counted as legal, Pogge gets another shot.
So Gerber’s suspended, Vesa Toskala is out for the year and Curtis Joseph apparently is only trusted to play once in a blue moon.
How much opportunity does Pogge need? Here’s a chance to grab the bull by the horns and make the Leafs believe he can be something significant next year and beyond.
Right now, it’s doubtful he’ll even be the NHL backup to Toskala right now. But he can change that over the next week.
It’s up to him now, and time to stop holding his hand and start demanding results.
Now on to this week’s mail bag:
Q: Hi Damien, this question may have come up before so I apologize for the duplication. Don Cherry really seems to have it in for Ron Wilson. Do you know why or how this little feud originated? Did they butt heads some time in the past?
Michael Manno, Toronto
A: I don’t know what created this mini-feud, although I do think
Wilson has done well to pretty much ignore all the barbs thrown his way by Cherry this season. They certainly aren’t of the same mind when it comes to the way the game should be played or coached, with Wilson one of the more innovative, cutting edge coaches around. Cherry doesn’t seem to like Wilson’s attitude or manner, and I can tell you this – he’s not the only one in hockey that feels that way. The Leaf coach tends to rub people the wrong way.
Q: If an NHL team is worried about a falling cap number and committing dollars to a free agrent which squeezes room for other players, why not sign contracts where the salary is a percentage of the cap number and not a flat amount. It probably makes sense to assign all players a percentage of the cap and you don't have to worry about being squeezed. (Provided the GM isn't Max Bialystock and his assistant isn't Leo Bloom.)
James Piper, Kitchener
A: Yes, if it were only so that we knew those who have run the Leafs for the past 40 years were simply channeling The Producers. It would all make so much more sense.
Basically, what you’re suggesting is an interesting idea, but not legal under the current collective bargaining agreement. Each player must have defined salary and number for cap purposes. The only way in which a percentage of the cap can be used is to generate the maximum salary allowable, which can be no more than 20 per cent of the maximum cap figure for any individual.
Q: Damien, very much enjoy the questions and your answers in your blog. My question refers to the loss of Dominic Moore who I thought was the best Leaf player most nights this season. Is there any reason why a new contract could not have been structured to pay him, for example, 2.5 million next year, 1.5 million the year after, and 1 million the third year? MLSE has lots of money and cap space for next year. The last two years address the possible lower cap and salary additions during the following two seasons while allowing the Leafs to keep a very talented player and still give him close to what he was asking. He gets much of his money up front don't see a problem that way.
Would this type of contract violate any NHL rules or be an issue for the players association or do you see any other reasons why it would not have been a solution to the stalemate? Is there a maximum decrease per year that might come into play?
It is hard for me to believe that a proven effective younger NHL player is not much more valuable than a second round draft choice who probably isn't a Leaf for three or four years if ever.
Don Jones, Vineland
A: There is certainly nothing illegal under current CBA rules about the type of contract you suggested.
Moore, however, was looking for more than the approximately $1.7 million average salary that your figures would have produced. He was somewhere around $2.3 million average, which was more than the Leafs were willing to pay.
Interestingly, Moore has one goal and two assists in eight games with the Sabres while averaging around 13-16 minutes of ice time and without getting the power play opportunities he was getting before. The Leafs believed his offensive numbers were artificially inflated by the fact he was playing much higher in the lineup than he would have on a better team.
As far as the draft pick, if you’re going to see a second round pick as basically worthless, then this kind of deal wouldn’t appeal to you. In my mind, having a good collection of draft picks every year just increases your chances of finding better players. If you constantly have few picks, the draft isn’t going to pay dividends. At the end of the day, I think there’s a chance the Leafs could end up with the pick AND Moore. They have an interest in signing him as a free agent this summer.
Q: Hey Damien,
Obviously you are anti-fighting and I am admittedly pro-fighting. My reasoning is it cuts down on stick work, allows players to police themselves, and can change the momentum of a game. I understand that you disagree with those reasons and respect that. My question is have you never seen a fight that has had an impact on a game?
Also, I am curious to what got you into covering sports. Did you cheer for the Leafs or play hockey as a kid? I am curious why you got into reporting. Thank you.
Blake Hannesson, New Fairfield, CT
A: For the most part, Blake, I don’t buy those reasons that you cite for fighting, so I guess we’ll just disagree. The fact that there is basically no fighting in the playoffs, the Olympics, the World Cup etc., but there is no corresponding increase in stick work, etc., suggests to me that the “policeman” logic is just a way to try and legitimize something.
Have I seen fights that impact games? Can’t think of one, although I’m not saying it never happens. I’m saying it might be one per cent of all fights, at best. It always makes me chuckle that both Tampa Bay and Calgary claimed that the big Jarome Iginla-Vinny Lecavalier scrap in the 2004 Stanley Cup final was a key turning point for their team. Does that mean Calgary was wrong because Tampa won the series?
As far as my personal history, I got into covering sports in 1989 after five years at the Star covering news. I had my eye on political reporting, but given an opportunity in sports, I jumped at it and have never looked back. I’ve played hockey all my life, if that helps.
Q: Hi Damien,
I hope you can explain this to me because I'm absolutely dumb-founded. Why do the Leafs insist on putting players in their 30s on the ice with the game on the line? Why aren't we living and dying with the kids/prospects? (March 24) Kubina scored from Blake on a power play with two minutes left in the game. Same story in Ottawa a month ago, and Florida a couple weeks ago. If you're pushing for a goal why not a first power-play unit of White, Stralman, Kulemin, Grabo, Mitchell (nobody over 24, all could be around by the time the leafs are good again).
If the kids learn to get it done, great! We've got a solid foundation to build on. If they don't, great! That's three more losses, and as of (March 25), three draft slots higher. In other words we improve the young core one way (by giving them experience) or another (by getting a better draft choice to add to the existing group) by giving them the opportunity to lead this team. I'm not saying tank, but I'm saying live or die with the kids. Why is Wilson so determined to squeeze every useless point out of this roster at the expense of the future?
Bradley Meldrew, Toronto
A: I don’t want a coach who isn’t trying to win every game. Period. The kids are getting lots of playing time and lots of opportunities in a variety of situations. They get as much out of being part of a winning effort as anyone, and the idea is with any team to mesh experience and youth. If the young players weren’t playing as much as they are then I think you’d have an argument. But six players have scored their first NHL goal with the Leafs this season, an indication that youth is being served.
Q: If we wanted to make fighting in the NHL safer, we could have it so that to initiate a fight, a player throws his glove down at the feet of his intended target; then if the other player wishes to fight, he can ring a bell located at the penalty box. This will stop the game, and cause a portable boxing ring (padded floor) to roll out onto the ice, complete with ropes and a ref. The players would have to don special helmets and gloves; then the ref would ring the bell again to start the fight. The fight would end when someone gets knocked to the ground; then all of it would be put away, the fighters would each get 10-minute misconducts, and the game would continue.
Robert B., Oshawa
A: Will there be ring girls?
Q: Hi Damien,
The Alex Ovechkin/Don Cherry soap opera is quite entertaining. I have a suspicion what your opinion is on the matter and have read what some NHL players think but what about other journalists? Is Cherry seen as out of touch by younger journalists?
While watching Coaches Corner this evening I found it rather ironic that he thought the Oilers team huddle/dance/jump celebration at the end of a winning game was a great celebration yet Ovechkin is over the top.
Todd Carlson, Burk's Falls
A: I can’t really speak for journalists in general or younger journalists in particular. This is one topic where I am actually in agreement to a large extent with Cherry, which may put us both in the minority. I think there’s fine line between being excited and passionate and being disrespectful to your opponent. To me, its what a player does during play that matters, not how he celebrates. People go to games to watch Ovechkin score, not to play-act after goals.
Q: Doesn't Don Cherry's negative comments about Ovechkin's post-goal celebrations seem quite hypocritical? What if someone criticized Cherry for wearing attention-getting, flamboyant clothing? Cherry would say that's his schtick and part of his persona, he'd say it's what his fans want to see and that it contributes to the ratings for Coach's Corner. The same is true for Ovechkin's entertaining antics. I like Don Cherry and don't want him to change, but he should be embarrassed about his glib hypocritical opinion about Ovie.
Geoff Clarke, Toronto
A: I think Cherry is paid to be flamboyant, outspoken and outrageous. I don’t think being consistent or fair is on his job description. And I find it amazing that he is able to generate so much attention by simply saying things about a top player like Ovechkin. You can never say people don’t care what Grapes has to say.
Q: Hi Damien,
I know I'm not the only one left wondering what has happened to cause the Habs' meltdown this season; we've heard about the porous defence, the utter collapse of Carey Price, and under-performing stars like Kovalev, but I can't make out the confluence of factors which caused this downfall. Do you think the Habs' situation right now is at all comparable to Ottawa 's collapse last season? In Ottawa's case, the downfall is often attributed to the loss of secondary, albeit key players who played specific roles, and I wonder if Montreal is now missing Souray and Streit more than they thought they were going to. Also, I'm not overly familiar with the Habs' depth in upcoming talent, but if they miss the playoffs this season, should Gainey (if he still has the job) consider blowing this team up?
A: There certainly do seem to be parallels between the two situations. I wonder about goaltending being at the root of the problem in both cities, and I wonder about the dynamic of a lot of young players getting very rich at the same time and how that affects a team. More than anything, both situations seem to show how getting a team to excel may, in many cases, be more of a snapshot than a well-established picture, that getting a group of players to all buy into the same plan and same level of commitment may be, for most teams, fleeting.
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.**