Thursday Mail Bag
Usually, the meeting between two teams after a big trade is a much-anticipated collision. Somehow, tonight’s game between the Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning doesn’t shape up that way.
It was only last week, of course, that the Bolts peddled goalie Olaf Kolzig, defenceman Jamie Heward, minor-leaguer Andy Rogers and a fourth round pick to the Leafs for minor leaguer Richard Petiot. This, of course, was a cash-for-draft-pick deal, although some have tried to say that Heward may soon play and therefore it adds up to more that a well-camouflaged purchase of a fourth round selection.
Wrong. In fact, when the Lightning tried to involve Anton Stralman the deal, it was almost called off. This was never going to be a straight hockey deal.
Instead, it was one between a wealthy team (the Leafs) and a team bleeding red ink (the Lightning). The salary cap era, it seems, has not completely leveled the playing field.
Now on to this week’s mail bag:
Just curious as to what you think of the Guy Carbonneau firing. As a Habs fan, I'm still split on it. The timing of it however, is rather interesting to say the least. On a side note, I think the expectations of, and with such a young team, has a lot to do with their season thus far.
A: To me, the Canadiens lost their mojo a bit this season. Last year, they had offensive power and a certain swagger. This year, well, there seemed to be more uncertainty than anything else about who the Habs wanted to be. I wasn’t surprised Carbonneau was fired or that Gainey took over, particularly given the controversy emanating from the Montreal dressing room over the social choices of some members of the team. I think Gainey knows that the only way to understand what’s going on inside his team is to go behind the bench and find out.
Q: Hi Damien,
Greetings from the land of the Coyotes and sunshine.
After reading the comments of one George Laraque of the Habs and his thoughts on the idea of fighting in the game, he calls the latest ideas as "stupid" He says he is at the end of his career and is sticking up for others. I know he has been in the league for quite a while and only because of the skill (?) he has. My question is what kind of a salary has a person like him been able to accumulate over the length of his sojourn in the NHL? Enough to make statements like this?
Curtis Sleeman, Mesa, Arizona
A: Over the past 13 years, Laraque has made about $9 million in NHL salaries, including a high of $1.275 million in the 2003-04 season while with the Edmonton Oilers.
Given these times of economic constraint, it’s interesting that NHL teams still insist on paying millions of dollars to players who usually skate between 5-10 minutes per night.
Q: My question concerns the link between trade deadline and general managers meeting and how it affected this years deadline.
In the three seasons after the lockout the NHL held GMs meetings a week to ten days before the trade deadline and we saw 25 trades with many top line players traded. This year the NHL decided to have the GMs meetings after the trade deadline and for all intent and purposes the deadline was a slow and uneventful day. With Olli Jokinen the only real top line player traded while Bouwmeester, Gaborik, and Kaberle stayed put.
Do you think that not having the GMs meetings before the deadline had an affect on the trade market?
Joseph Ierfino, Gormley
A: Perhaps, but issues like the North American economy and concerns over the future direction of the NHL salary cap had more to do with it. I don’t think that in this day and age GMs have to meet face-to-face to make a deal. That said, there has been enough new blood come into the GM ranks in recent years – Scott Howson, Brian Lawton, Mike Gillis, Steve Tambellini, Ray Shero – that perhaps that the relationships between those GMs and other veteran types have yet to be formed.
I think this may change again next year. Detroit GM Ken Holland, for one, thinks the GM meetings should sandwich the trade deadline, with two days of talks before and two days after. All this said, without trades on their minds, the GMs were able to focus totally on issues at hand regarding the game (fighting, head shots, etc.) during their meetings this week and most commented it made for better discussions.
Q: Hi Damien,
Historically as a life-long leaf fan, I have not liked your point of view very often but have lately began sharing your opinion in recent articles. I have a few questions and you can choose which ones you would like to addess:
1. It seems you are not so critical of Leaf management since Burke has taken charge, is this you respect for Burke or you satisfaction that regardless of who is President, that they have full control of hockey operations now?
2. Why do you think Jiri Tlusty is still in the minors after tearing it up down there offensively? To develop more defensively, to give the Marlies a fair shot in the playoffs, etc? Also, where do you see him next year and beyond as far as potential.
Joe Akey, Shenzhen, China
A: Burke is a very experienced man with a recent Stanley Cup ring and a plan. He is in charge, ownership is out of the way (for now) and there is a strong recognition within the organization that some short-term pain is necessary to build a winner. I guess I understand why you might say I’m less critical of management now, but at different times I over the past 20 years I’ve have had positive and negatives things to say about all the management teams, whether it was Floyd Smith, Cliff Fletcher, Ken Dryden, Pat Quinn or John Ferguson running the show.
On Tlusty, he’s in the minors where he’s supposed to be, learning his craft. That’s where he should have been all along. Now, as he’s emerging as a dominant AHL player, his next step will be to crack the Leaf lineup in an offensive role next fall.
Q: Hi Damien,
I work with a hardcore Habs fan that could hardly wait until trade deadline day to see what Montreal was going to do. He was picking and choosing which Leafs were going to be wearing the Rouge, Blanc et Bleu by the end of the day.
When it was all said and done, the Habs ended up not doing anything and a couple of the players he thought Montreal would have been interested in, either didn't move or went elsewhere. Is it a case where Gainey really didn't want to do anything, or was it a Burke expecting too rich of a price for what he was offering, plus not wanting to help conference and lifetime rival Montreal make a playoff run?
A: I think Burke would have traded with any team. The prices were low all around, and even the Buffalo
offer for Dominic Moore came in the final 90 minutes before the deadline. As far as what Montreal
did, or didn’t do, Gainey made his player moves well before the deadline (Mathieu Schneider, Glen Metropolit) and then replaced Carbonneau as coach. When you add it all up, the Habs did as much as anyone else.
Do you know if Burke has done anything to improve the scouting department of the Leafs? Fine and dandy having all these lovely mid round picks but who do they have out at the junior rinks these days, the same cast of characters that unearthed three Belleville Bulls all those years ago? That is something that is not readily reported on, unless it's an executive being let go like Al Coates. How do the Leafs currently compare scouting talent wise with the best teams?
Ian Eggleston, Queensville
A: It’s hard to compare team-to-team, and it depends on whether we’re talking amateur scouting or pro scouting. In both areas, the Leafs have constantly shuffled personnel over the past 15 years, with different scouts coming in and leaving with each new administration. I think the current amateur team led by Dave Morrison is going to get a chance to prove what it can do. On the other hand, I wouldn’t be surprised to see most or all of the current pro scouting group replaced. It’s been a weak point of the Leafs for a long time, and the acquisition of veteran pros like Jamal Mayers, Ryan Hollweg, Jeff Finger and Lee Stempniak certainly did not betray a pro scouting department that is particularly sharp.
Q: With the availability of prospects through trade declining, will we be seeing better and younger players available as UFAs? Will more and more Antropov-type players be available due to financial considerations? I mean, this is a 28-year-old who has scored more than 25 goals and he's being let go. In the pre-lockout NHL, no one was free until after 31, so the free agency situation has already changed dramatically. What can we look forward to?
Gabe Byatt, Fort Simpson
A: It depends. For a while, teams were locking those types of players up to long-term deals. Now, with clubs shying away from long term contractual commitments, that may change. This summer it seems likely that Jay Bouwmeester and both Sedin twins, among others, will be UFAs. In general, teams are having to make tougher decisions on players, and they’re having to make them earlier.
Q: Hi Damien,
My feelings towards fighting are just about the same as yours. I do have a question about the new approach to 'staged' fighting. As these fights are obviously coincidental, no team is shorthanded. The goons are off for an extra 10 min but don't usually play more than 4 min in a game anyway. Is this really a deterrant to the goons or the teams?
A: Great question. If Derek Boogard gets five and 10 for a first period fight, is it really going to bother the Minnesota Wild much? That said, I wonder if part of this is banking on the embarrassment factor. Just as players don’t like to be called for diving, I doubt enforcers will want to be identified as having “staged” a fight. Maybe they’ll just find another way around it.
Q: Hey Damien,
Any chance that the Leafs sign Dominic Moore this summer? Or does he get the money he wants elsewhere? I really like his game and his character, but I applaud the leafs for not over-paying. Also - did the Leafs get fleeced on Nik Antropov? Surely a consistent 20-goal man is worth more than a 2nd rounder alone. Cheers!
Ben Birchard, Toronto
A: There’s a chance the Leafs could re-sign Moore, but they won’t be offering the two-year, $3.4 million contract they were offering before the trade deadline. They were willing to overpay then (at least in their estimation), but it won’t be the same in July. Fleeced on Antropov? The price was the price. If people won’t pay more, that’s what the market will bear. Having had Antropov around for a decade and believing he had become a player who didn’t mind winning or losing, the Leafs simply wanted to move on.
Q: Hey Damien,
Just a quick question; whatever happened to Ryan Hollweg? Why not give him some playing time instead of signing Hamilton. Seems like a waste of money to me.
Joel C., Toronto
A: I agree. Hollweg was a waste of money. He’s where he belongs now, in the AHL with the Marlies. He blew his chance to be taken seriously when he hit St. Louis rookie Alex Pietrangelo from behind on opening night and got suspended. This one one of Cliff Fletcher’s more pointless moves, spending a fifth round pick to acquire Hollweg from the Rangers. Surely Ben Ondrus could have done the job and the pick could have been saved. Trading for supposed toughness rarely works out. As far as Hamilton, the Leafs needed a body and he had 27 goals in 128 games split over the past two seasons between Carolina
and Chicago. Besides, whether we’re talking budget or cap space, wasting or not wasting money is the least of the Leafs’ problems.
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.**