Friday Mail Bag
Nope, no changes for the Maple Leafs. Well, Jay Rosehill's on his way from Ricoh to the ACC, but that's it.
Fact is, as much as some want Ron Wilson's head, there's no short-term fix that's going to alter the current dynamic of the NHL's youngest team proving to be both mistake-prone and lacking in confidence.
In fact, rather than screaming about Wilson or looking for a move, fans should be encouraging this team to sit tight and, above all, avoid anything that looks like or smells like a short-term fix.
Screaming about the Phil Kessel deal, folks, is pointless, unless you want to then advocate the firing of Brian Burke for this alleged offence. But then again, scream away. What else you gonna do?
But this much is true; Wilson may not be safe for the entire year, but he's not going anywhere soon. Moreover, the logical approach is quite probably to wait until next June when more candidates to replace Wilson are available, if he is to be replaced. The Leaf front office simply doesn't identify him as the problem. The problem was that when Burke landed in Toronto two years ago the cupboard was essentially bare. But people don't want to recognize that, or they don't want to understand that it's going to take a while to fix that problem.
As much as the Leaf front office may be feeling the heat, there's an understanding that while they have a team of developing young players - one of whom is Kessel, by the way - what they need are more good young players.
And there's no easy, short-term quick fix way to get more of those. The only way to win a few more games soon, well, how about a little offence from the back end?
Now on to this week's mail bag:
Q: Your Nov. 30th blog on Burke's plan is one of the best I've read in some time! Many great examples of the draft not being the 'only way'. I do believe in what Burke has done and is doing. The structure off ice is now solid and has showed results. As a result of Burke's signings and drafting the Leafs have had several prospects 'players of the week' in their respective leagues, Brad Ross, Greg McKegg(2x), Josh Nicholls and Jussi Rynnas to name a few.
My question is this, I am neither a hater or backer of Wilson but i have felt he has been out coached in several games and the Leafs at times seem to lack a game plan, would you make a coaching change at this point? I have been following the Marlies(they are on fire with 2 regulation losses in their last 14!) this year and I do like Dallas Eakins ALOT and think he would do very well but I am just not sure if Wilson has had an ample chance yet to prove himself?
John Fava, North Bay
A: Well, you can fire Wilson or not fire him, I just don't think it's going to make a demonstrable difference unless the goal is simply to deny Boston a higher first round pick. But you know, the early season success of the Marlies, and those prospects you mention, and the youth on the Leafs, should make people more optimistic. But it doesn't.
Q: We've heard a lot of Kessel-Seguin related questions, and it seems like those two will be tied in the minds of Leaf fans for years - but really, isn't Seguin-Kadri just as legitimate a comparison? It's one of those unusual circumstances that everyone knows that Burke could have traded Kaberle and the Kadri pick to get Kessel at the draft and wouldn't do it. So, really the Leafs could have had both Kessel and Seguin (or maybe even a shot at Hall if they didn't have Kaberle all of last season). I expect both Kessel and Sequin to have pretty good careers, but the wisdom of keeping Kadri and the apparently overvalued Kaberle when you could have added a 21-year-old sniper that you say you'd trade two prime first rounders for again today if you could . . . I just don't understand, and I don't see why it isn't discussed when reviewing the Kessel acquisition and its cost to the team.
John Bastedo, Oakville
A: I hear what you're saying, but you can't just imagine that if the Leafs had these different players and the Bruins these different players, then this would have been the result. And who's to say whether Seguin or Kadri will turn out to be the better player over the long haul? We'll see.
Q: How about an award for the most assists in one season? Maybe call it the Adam Oates award or something like that. We've got the Rocket for most goals, and last time I checked a goal and an assist were worth the same amount of points.
Terry Bridge, Listowel
A: Not a big fan of assists. More precisely, I'm not a fan of the two-assist system. Half the helpers that are credited in the NHL are for nothing. If anything, I'd rather see assists get less credit, not more.
Q: Would this trade have any chance of succeeding?
Parise, Rolston, Zubrus to Leafs
- $11.5M under contract this year, 8.462M next year and Parise an RFA looking for $6-7M
Grabovski, McCarthur, Caputi to Devils
- $4M if Caputi goes to minors
Basically, NJD solves cap issues immediately but give up on Parise LT signing. Toronto would be over the cap for 2010 but could deal Beauchemin for some picks. Would this appeal to the Devils or would they prefer to clear out all their depth a la Chicago to keep Parise.
Jamie Murray, Toronto
A: It would make wonderful sense for the Leafs, who get Parise, and none for the Devils, who get not much except cap relief. There's just no way the Devils are going to use Parise for cap relief. They've got too many other options. Plus, by the way, Rolston has a no-trade clause.
Q: Each year a handful of players take their team to salary arbitration in hopes of getting a pay raise, but this same privilege is also afforded to teams who want to cut down the cost of some of a player. Has there been any player in recent memory who's salary was decreased through arbitration? Also, I was curious about the case of Ilya Kovalchuk. If we make a brash assumption that he maintains his current pace all year and finishes with around 40 pts, would the Devils have the right to take him to arbitration? Obviously this probably wouldn't be a very good way to motivate a player who is already lacking in that department, but just wondering if its even a theoretical option for them. Many thanks!
Ara Kalousdian, Kingston
A: Okay, for starters, players have "lost" at arbitration, but not taken a pay cut, that I can recall. They've either been forced to accept a two-way contract or a smaller salary than they wanted. In terms of Kovalchuk, no, they can't take him to arbitration after this year. You can only take a player to arbitration after his contract has expired. Kovalchuk's has many years to go.
Q: I have a question about the Leaf`s centre postion. It`s twofold, do you think Tyler Bozak requires more seasoning in the the minors? I don`t see the Leafs having a consistent number one centre. Is Kyle Wellwood available? I think he could provide a creative influence on an anemic offence. If anything, it would improve their powerplay. What do you think?
Michael Gibson, Toronto
A: No, please no, to the Wellwood option. At any rate, he's gone to the KHL where he has four points in 19 games. Could Bozak use more time in the minors? Sure. So could other young Leafs - Kadri, Aulie, Gunnarson, Gustavsson, among others. But the nature of the NHL game these days means these guys have to play, and play now.
Q: Just got through watching one of the worst Leafs games of the seasons in last night's loss against Ottawa. People were talking about the lack of scoring, but I've found one of the biggest weaknesses of this squad is the inability to clear the defensive zone. My question is: why are they so susceptible to opposition forechecks when they're icing competitive defence pairings and fast forwards? It seems like whoever's on the ice in the defensive zone is always on their heels making pressured passes and constantly turning the puck over. Why?
Eric Ginestier, Toronto
A: Any number of reasons, including the fact this team lacks size on the wings, which helps you on plays along the wall, and lacks experience down the middle, critical because centre is the most important position defensively. Phaneuf is one of their more mobile blueliners, and he's missing, and Armstrong is a very good players on the boards, and he's missing. Finally, neither one of their goalies are very good at playing the puck, so that puts more pressure on the blueline corps.
Q: When will people start looking at mike komisarek's contract as the albatross it is? He was supposed to be a rough and steady defencemen when we signed him, but all i see is a guy who can cough up the puck.
And what happened to the plan of the leafs having the hard hitting d?
Richard Hisem, Duncan, B.C.
A: First of all, every team has a bad contract. In fact, most teams have a least two. With respect to Komisarek, yes, he hasn't lived up to the contract. But the club didn't give up players or draft picks to get him, and he's not strangling them on the cap, and he's among their four best defencemen. All that said, he has a limited no trade contract, and he's among the players who could be moved as this season goes on.
Q: Hey Damien, Whats with all the talk about Ovi having a terrible season. Compared to his previous seasons, yes you can't argue numbers, but relatively the only people in the league who ahead of him in points at the moment are Crosby and Stamkos who are both having marquee years. Maybe this is just the year of the goalie?
Rick Campanelli, Toronto
A: Well, most people identify Ovechkin as a goal scorer, and he hasn't lit it up in his usual style this season. But he has picked up a lot of assists, and if that means he's expanding his game and finding ways to use his teammates more effectively, that could be a good thing.