This has been one of those weeks when it seems folks have been a little too eager to take speculation as fact.
For example, when it was clear Anaheim had, albeit temporarily, put winger Bobby Ryan on the trading block, I suggested the Leafs needed to seriously investigate the possibility of acquiring him even though he wasn't the centre they covet. I'm pretty convinced they did knowing the price would be very high and he wasn't exactly what they're looking for, which is a big centre.
Nowhere was it suggested that the Leafs should gut their inventory of young players to get Ryan, or even that he would be a must-buy. But some interpreted it that way.
Same with the availability of Randy Carlyle. I didn't advocate the dismissal of Ron Wilson. In fact, I never have, although I've frequently wondered about the shortcomings of Leaf teams under Wilson's guidance and how long he could retain his position if the team didn't win.
On the other hand, Carlyle and Brian Burke won a Cup together in Anaheim; it just makes sense that if circumstances presented themselves for the two men to work together again, they'd want to. But those circumstances, with the Leafs doing rather well, haven't presented themselves. That said, as long as Wilson doesn't have a contract beyond the end of this season, his future is going to be a debating point.
Last week it was chatter about Wayne Gretzky being approached to be part of a group vying to purchase MLSE. That's all the story said, but then it was blown into a suggestion that Gretzky was already part of a group or even more than that.
As it stands, none of Gretzky, Ryan or Carlyle are part of the Leafs or are expected to be in the immediate future. But it's all grist for the mill.
Now on to this week's mail bag:
Q: I don't see how Randy Carlyle would offer "a change of direction." He and Wilson are actually very similar as coaches, which is probably why Burke likes both of them.
A: I'm assuming that's a statement, not a question. So I guess I accept your statement, but disagree. Wilson has had good defensive teams in his career, but Carlyle is much more of a conservative type, in my opinion. He places a greater emphasis on muscle, while Wilson preaches an attack style that can leave a team exposed. He gave a long soliloquy at the Vancouver Olympics on how both the U.S. and Canada showed the right way to play the game, up tempo and moving forward. So while I guess you could argue that most NHL coaches are generally alike in terms of strategy and systems and differ mostly on the basis of personality, I see Carlyle and Wilson as very different.
Q: Why not bring Randy in as a special assistant to Ron Wilson for now. They can have 10 general managers but only one coach and three assistant coaches? Maybe they should just hire one coach per player ??!!??
A: I'm not sure whether you're being facetious on not. But bringing in Carlyle to look over Wilson's shoulder is neither sensible nor good hockey politics.
Q: Mr. Cox, another great article. I'm sure your inbox is being riddled with trade proposals for Ryan as we speak. I have more of a comment rather than a question but would appreciate your opinion. Would Ryan look good in a Leafs uniform? Of course he would, but so would Sidney Crosby or Steven Stamkos. But it doesn't mean we're going to get them.
Ryan of course is not at their elite level but he's an excellent player, who's asking price would be way too high for the Leafs. Do we have the players and pieces to make this type of trade? For the first time in a very long time we do have those pieces.
Which leads to my second point, for the first time in a long time we have those pieces, so why trade them! Any deal would start with Schenn or Kadri plus a significant piece in the Leaf roster already (Kulemin, Grabovski).
I would even argue that despite an offer of Schenn and Grabovski, a first-round pick would most likely have to be offered for Murray to consider a trade. In my opinion, Bob Murray is looking at how the Lupul and Gardiner trade worked out, and will literally demand an arm and a leg for Ryan from Burke and Co. Not worth it. Patience and letting the young core develop should be the Leafs' mantra. This is not a team on the cusp of winning a cup, and acquiring Ryan is that type of move.
Even though their a division rival, let the Bruins make a run and get him. If the asking price, as stated by Mr. MacLean, would be Krejci and Dougie Hamilton that's great news for the Leafs. Bruins lose a potential successor to Chara, and trade away a bona fide playoff performer who would've been the Conn Smythe winner if it wasn't for Thomas. Yeah Ryan would be a great addition, but those losses would hurt them more in the long-run than the addition of Ryan. Would appreciate your view. Cheers.
Dilraj S. Sandhu, Mississauga
A: Well, again I'm not exactly sure what the question is. I'm assuming you want me to agree or disagree with your thesis.
Basically, I disagree, but would stop short of advocating that the Leafs go full out to acquire Ryan (who's off the trade market now anyways). But we're talking a 24-year-old forward here who is under contract for another three years. I agree Anaheim would demand a stiff price, but that doesn't mean the Leafs or anyone else has to pay it. I think he's a good to very good player, not an excellent one, not a franchise-type player. So if there was a deal there in which the Leafs could acquire Ryan for one primary asset (Schenn) and one secondary asset (Jerry D'Amigo, Stuart Percy, Ben Scrivens or Jesse Blacker) I think you would look at it seriously. But that doesn't mean Anaheim would be satisfied.
Q: Should we be going after a top-line centre instead of a winger? We need a centre more now more than ever if we want to make a serious statement about a playoff run.
Russ Robinson, Toronto
A: Well, basically, the answer is yes. But it was Ryan who was (briefly) available and not a top centre. So you evaluate that opportunity, and in general, I would argue the Leafs are still in the position of trying to add as much talent as possible regardless of position, and then use their assets later to address positional imbalances. In my mind, this is a team that could still use another top six forward, particularly one with size. Ideally, that would be a centre, but ideal circumstances are rarely at hand.
Q: Hey Mr. Cox,
I attended the Marlies absolute thrashing of the IceCaps last Saturday night. Got some good natured abuse for the sweater I was wearing. Both local media and Toronto papers described Kadri as "the best player by far on the ice" and his five points in the two games seemed to prove that. However (and please let me qualify that I am not a hockey genius) it seemed to me and some other Marlies fans that he was a selfish puck hog that didn't pass to his linemates and made huge numbers of fancy plays that went nowhere. What's your impression of Kadri and is that why he's still on the farm?
Lastly, Jeff Finger played over 35 minutes and was solid. Just thought I'd throw that out to a good guy who can't be blamed for signing a big contract.
Dean Menchions, St. John's
A: Well, Kadri was given some AHL honours this week, so he must be doing something right. I've never really seen him as a selfish player, but rather one who's good with the puck and tries to make things happen offensively. At times, particularly when in the NHL, he gets in trouble playing too complicated a game when simple often works better. He's a talented young guy still in the development stage who can use more time in the minors honing his skill. It matters more what kind of NHL player he'll be at 25 than at 21.
Re: Finger, well, good to see he's earning his paycheque. But he's not in the Leafs' plans.
Q: Just a quick Ryan question. What's his speed like? I've heard it's not super great. And is he a good dressing room guy? And why do you think Mike Zigomanis never seemed to make it as an NHL regular? Is he just one of those guys who plateaued at the AHL level?
Jim Barber, Napanee
A: I think Ryan has been an electrifying one-on-one player. I don't think his speed is an issue. Whether he's a good dressing room guy, well, I have no idea, and only the players who have played with him would know.
On Zigomanis, he's had chances in many places, and perhaps the opportunity has just never fit his abilities. But it's not as though the Leafs are the only team who don't seem him as an NHL player. There's no crime in being a very good AHL player.
Q: Hey Damien,
With all this Bobby Ryan trade chatter, isn't it amazing that Toronto is even a player, considering that only three years ago, we really had just one "asset" (Kaberle) other than picks.
While I'm sure every team would crave top-3 talent like Ryan, wouldn't it make better sense for the Leafs to go after Chris Stewart from St. Louis?
More of a power forward that we need and probably available at a less costly price compared to Ryan (especially considering Stewart's struggles under Hitchcock so far). Same age, less cap-hit, Toronto-kid, and probably a better fit on the second line. Thoughts?
Jim Treadwell, Burlington
A: Well, we can draw up all the draft scenarios we want but they won't necessarily match the players that are actually available. Toronto might want Stewart, but St. Louis just got him and the Blues obviously see the same potential you do.
In terms of assets, while Brian Burke has been criticized for expending first round picks on Phil Kessel, he's done a rock solid job of gradually building up the team's depth chart. Interestingly, few (none?) of the players he jettisoned from Toronto have done a great deal elsewhere.
Q: Re acquiring Bobby Ryan
Burke and Wilson obviously have a bias for American-born players. Maybe it is their familiarity with them via their national team connections, but it should come as no surprise that they're chasing him.
The Leaf success is bitter sweet for me. Sure, Canada is well represented with Phaneuf, Lupul, the potential of Reimer and Schenn, but it's hard for me to cheer for this team in this city.
Sure, everyone likes a winner, but it's still our game.
Rob James, Toronto
A: I couldn't care less where a player is from, and based on their histories, I don't think you can make any case at all that Burke and Ron Wilson have a preference for U.S.-born players. Burke's Anaheim team was led by Scott Niedermayer, Chris Pronger, J.S. Giguere, Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, Canadians all. When Wilson was in San Jose, his best players were Joe Thornton, Patrick Marleau, Dan Boyle and young emerging talents like Ryan Clowe. Canadians all. Let's just drop this topic. It's silly.
Q: Hello Damien,
I have been reading your column at Toronto Star and your blog for a long time and been listening on your comments on the Fan590 for a long time. I respect your opinions on hockey matters and the Maple Leafs.
I just read your article on 'The Spin' whether the Leafs should trade for Bobby Ryan of Anaheim.
I wanted to ask you whether it would make more sense to try and get either Ryan Getzlaf or Corey Perry from Anaheim instead of Bobby Ryan. Would it be possible that any of these two players might be on the trade block by Anaheim? Would it be possible that Brian Burke could make a pitch for any of them? I would personally like to see Corey Perry playing for the Maple Leafs, although having Bobby Ryan is not a bad move either, provided that what goes to Anaheim is not an over payment for the player.
I thank you for taking the time to read my email and I am looking forward to your response.
Michael Maris, Toronto
A: Sure, Michael, the Leafs might prefer Getzlaf or Perry, but as of now they're not available. I mean, Perry just won the Hart Trophy, right? Perhaps they will be in the future, and in the case of Getzlaf in particular, you can be sure the Leafs would have enormous interest. Both Getzlaf and Perry are free agents after next season, and it could be that if Anaheim has trouble signing them, they could indeed become available for trade.