Thursday, January 10, 2008

I Hear Ottawa Has a Good Team

There are only so many things I can blame on Mr. Ferguson. He was not the one who hired himself to be the Leafs General Manager. It is not his fault that the men he works for have left him out to dry with no contract extension and out of nowhere public criticism. It is not his fault that every move he makes must be vetted by a board of Governors that may be good at diversifying stock portfolios and making important tee times but lacks any serious hockey competence. It is also not his fault that none of his bosses really want their team to win, at least, not win in the traditional sense, on the ice, because the Leafs franchise has been winning financially for the past forever.

Here's the thing. The Leafs need to make certain moves right now, certain moves that are completely untenable and impossible from where we stand today. There are just too many forces pushing this team towards the status quo. The general manager needs to make the playoffs to save his job so any move that would be seen as giving up, that is specifically, trading Mats Sundin, are unlikely to happen under his watch. Mats Sundin, the man who could attract an entire farm team given the right GM, is too classy to ever ask out of this city, so we can't expect him to drive the trade, though I doubt he would hold to his no trade clause if someone asked nicely. And even if Fergie did want to trade Mats, not that he will because bold moves and John Ferguson are not on speaking terms now or ever and frankly trading Mats at this point is less a bold move and more just simply a competent one, anyway even if Fergie did get hit in the back of the head and decide that the future of this franchise is more important than continuing his career and did look to trade Sundin he would have to get the board of directors to say yes and the board of directors are not going to say yes to anything so outside the box and fresh and because even they understand that trading Sundin amounts to giving up on the season and that by giving up on the season they are giving up the potential for playoff gate receipts this year and if there is one thing that the Ontario Teacher's Pension Fund understands it is that playoff ticket sales are basically free money.

So our hypothetical Fergie will go before MLSE's board of directors, the bandages still around his head from the recent lobotomy, his hat clenched and wrenched between his hands and he will bow his head and mumble some ancient Latin words and one of the dark robed millionaires will motion for him to rise with a single, crooked finger. Fergie will look up, but he will not make eye contact with anyone, for this forbidden, and then he will mumble something inaudible. Another dark robed figure commands him to speak louder, "Louder" but it sounds like a hiss, a dry, rasping hiss. By now Fergie will be sweating and wiping his forehead with the back of his expensive suit but he will manage to gasp out, "iwannatradesundin" before recoiling back waiting for the punishment that is sure to follow.

A gasp goes around the chamber and the many dark robed figures will hiss loudly as they discuss this latest blasphemy when suddenly they are silenced by one voice and the semi circle in front of Ferguson parts and there will stand the representative of the Ontario Teacher's Pension Plan who will look like the Borg Queen and her, no, Its lips will curl into a nasty smile as It holds up the day's newspaper and It will throw it at him and he will pick the paper up and see that it is turned to the NHL standings and It will ask him how many points separate the Leafs from 8th place. "Well that's really not the point-" Ferguson will try but he is silenced by the Pension representative. "We count but five points between our Maples Leaves and the eighth spot, which we understand to be the final spot for which the Maples Leaves would be eligible for playoffs. Correct or Incorrect?" it will say and it will pierce Ferguson with its inhuman stare and Ferguson will try to argue but he will be silenced again. "Correct or Incorrect" will be the question once more and Ferguson will say, defeated, "Correct" and much nodding and congratulating will take place among the board members.

They will not consider that by sacrificing the playoffs this year, playoffs that if we can be ugly and unromantic here, are much, much farther away than what any standings say, that if we tank now then we can build something that will last another five, six who knows how many years into the future. If the Leafs go status quo, which increasingly and sadly they appear to be too willing to do, they will not make the playoffs this year and they will very likely not make them next year even with a new GM (or insallah, an entire new management structure). If we keep Sundin now, make a small or no addition at deadline and then miss the playoffs again by one point, what good does that do? Sundin gets to try the free agent market, or re-sign with us but the Leafs are still mediocre, they still get a 12th or 13th pick and then they get to go out and do the whole thing over again and try to set some kind of NHL record for most consecutive seasons of missing the playoffs by one point. We are going on three straight seasons without making the playoffs and no one with any power to do something about it seems to give a goddamn hug.


Endnote: The Star ran a thing today where they asked a bunch of ex- and one day GM's who and what they would ask for Sundin if they were trading them. Generally these hockey guys asked for one or two high draft picks and at least two solid prospects. Then there was Mike Millbury, who's been doing decently in his new third or fourth career as a tv guy, of all the guys Millbury was the only one who asked for just a first rounder and a single prospect. And suddenly every bad trade he ever made on Long Island comes flooding back and you remember oh yeah, there is a reason he is not a GM anymore.


walkinvisible said...

i implore you, once again, to visit MG at and read his (flames-centered) take on that very article.

i'd say mike milbury --while not asking for much--- had probably the most realistic of answers. sundin will not be worth much, i'm afraid. he's a 36 year old guy on the verge of free-agency.... worth a prospect and a draft pick, to be sure... buuuuutttt.....

the countdown is on. JFJ will be gone by this time next month, barring some outrageous 16 game win streak.

walkinvisible said...

how do you think JFJ feels right now (tonight) after hearing on live national television that MLSE interviewed scotty bowman to take over his job IN THE SUMMERTIME ??!?!?!?!?


it's gotta sting a bit (even if he knew before). now the effin' WORLD knows...