Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Oh Sundin...

This is the real reason why Mats Sundin needed to go: he's capable of single handedly winning games. Two goals and an assist in tonight's 4-3 shootout win over Florida. Since when do the Leafs win shoot outs. It's like you can't trust these guys for anything anymore.

I decided yesterday that I am sick of NHL parity. Screw it. NHL parity, the three point game, that's what kept those players in Toronto. It's them waking up in the morning seeing themselves only six or however many points they are out of eighth, and it's them saying, hey we're not out of it yet! When for goodness sakes there are six teams in the way of that and only the most hopeless dreamer could confuse that for a legitimate chance.

If the standings put things in simple win percentages, you know, no happy bonus points for losing, and every morning the players woke up to confront the fact that they are essentially a team that has won just 28 games in 65 tries, if they had to confront the fact that they are a solidly .400 team, would they still be so stuck on these Leafs? Kubina would have waived his clause for sure. This team would look different today, is all I'm saying.

I know the league is not going to simplify the standings any time soon, because parity is good for them. Three point games means they can remind us that there are only three teams out of thirty that are "under" .500. It's good optics for them, but misleading for the fans and is clearly hampering Toronto's attempts at starting again.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Redecorating Deck Chairs On The Good Ship Maple Leaf

This is tough. This is coming home after hours of trick or treating and emptying your bag and finding nothing but apples and those nasty orange taffies that nobody ever eats. It's not like I expected much from today; Cliff Fletcher did a pretty good job conditioning Leaf fans over the weekend to expect less, rather than more. The big five all turned down the request to waive their no trade contracts and that left Fletch in an awkward place. I know that it's not the players job to to build the team and I know they worked hard and earned those special clauses and that they have every right to say up yours to management but it is still very, very frustrating from the fan's perspective, having to watch these guys stubbornly stand in the way of a meaningful rebuild, talking about the playoffs, when all any Leafs fan really wants is to draft Steven Stamkos.

But this just means that Fletch, known for his always imaginative trades, would have to get creative at the deadline.

The day started out with Wade Belak heading to Florida for a fifth round pick, which is ok, I guess. I mean, he doesn't play much, and he doesn't make much, but he's entertaining, and he's always good for a quote in the dressing room, and that's pretty hard to find in any hockey dressing room. I don't know who inherits the tough guy role for the Leafs now. So whatever, a pretty meaningless deal to start the controlled demolition. But Fletch, you gotta start somewhere!

But that was followed with a good three hours of nothing from Fletch, until we learn Hal Gill, perhaps one of Fergie's better contract signings, has been traded to Pittsburgh for a 2nd and a 5th. Gill had become one of the more dependable Leafs defenceman over the past couple of seasons. He was big and slow and he didn't win hockey games but he certainly never lost any for us, which is more than you can say for some of the other mooks playing on that blue line. I'll miss him at least.

Then finally Chad Kilger, also to Florida for a 3rd. This one not surprising; Kilger is a scruffy, hard working guy, the kind of guy Fergie was great at picking up, and the kind of guy who can adds a little extra grit to any team. We got him off waivers at the deadline, oh, it seems like forever ago, back when Toronto was a serious playoff team.

And that's it. Hardly the reno job Toronto needed. I'm hardly one to play armchair GM, but was there nobody who wanted Nik Antropov? The guy is never going to be more valuable and he's too old to factor into any long term build plan.

This is going to be a very long summer


Monday, February 25, 2008

Trade Deadline Dilemmas

Tomorrow is not going to be a pretty day. Mats Sundin is not going anywhere, and from everything we've heard neither will Pavel Kubina, Darcy Tucker, Tomas Kaberle, or Bryan McCabe. If those guys don't go, can we even call tomorrow a rebuilding day? Moving Alex's Steen and Ponikarovsky is hardly going to amount to anything significant, and aren't those the kind of young, cheap, semi-talented players we should be building around in the first place?

The Leafs could never build a Stanley Cup team successfully. I don't know why we were expecting them to get the rebuilding thing right. This is an organisation that has fucking up ingrained deep with in it. No disrespect to Cliff Fletcher, who I'm sure did his darnedest to try to convince someone, anyone, to jump ship, but if the Leafs can't move any of those contracts (McCabe is still a possibility, I hear, and in Kubina's case, his contract provides a window in his no-tradability this summer) it will be less a rebuilding process, and more say, a redecorating one. Let's try moving the couch over here. Hang up some new drapes. Bright, colourful flowers provide a great spark to any room. Really we should be knocking down walls and tearing up foundations.

But hey they have the contracts, they earned them, even if Fergie was maybe over eager with them. We should be impressed that Mats has chosen to stay loyal to Toronto. I think most people are just confused. Is this really such a great city, is what we're all wondering. What did we ever do to inspire such devotion? But that's just Toronto. If you don't love us enough, we get angry, but damn it, if you start loving us back, you better watch out. That's when we get really mad.

Just deal with it. He said he doesn't believe in the idea of rental players, you gotta be there October to June, and you have to respect that. I do. Do it right or don't do it at all. Of course, the Leafs have to resign him now. They really, really, top priority, get his name on a contract and make sure that when he retires he retires as a Maple Leaf. This forced trade fiasco probably has not helped anyone - will he even want to come back next year? Frig, he better. Or else what was the point? The Leafs end up the big losers with no prospects, no draft picks, no captain to hold them together and just a bunch of angry, frustrated fans.


Friday, February 22, 2008

Trade Deadline Doldrums

Only a few days before the trade deadline and if you are a Leafs fans, I think it's become pretty clear that we should be expecting less, rather than more to happen for our team on Tuesday. The standard line coming from Cliff Fletcher for the past week has been "Hey, we sure do have a lot of no-trade contracts, huh guys?" and Sundin has been sticking to his no where but T.O (and I've started believing him), not to mention the feeling among GMs league wide has been generally "boy we did a lot of stupid things last trade deadline, didn't we". I know, I know, when people stumble out of bed Sunday morning the line is always, "I swear to God I'll never drink again" and we know how that works out, but geez, what if the General Managers have learned their lesson this time? What if this is the year they decide that that draft pick might be more useful in their hands, and that maybe Brendan Witt is not worth a first round pick?

Speaking of picks, what the Leafs need to do is get a hold of Edmonton's first round pick, currently nestled safely under Brian Burke's watch in Anaheim, and theoretically available. That pick would represent two potential top five picks and that is what the Leafs need right now. I assume Mats Sundin would secure it, but once again I don't know which way to read him. The hopeful side says that Mats has just been jumping through the hoops with the media, saying what he has to, "I want to stay in Toronto", so that no one questions his commitment to this city (imagine what would have happened if Sundin had told us he wanted out? The Vince Carter treatment all over again). Under this fanwank dream scenario Sundin does what's best for the team when Fletch eventually approaches him with the offer.

A week ago I was pretty convinced that this was how it would play out. Maybe the Leafs offer a very quiet wink nudge deal for next year, you know nothing official because there are people who frown on that kind of shenanigans, but whatever it takes to get him out the door with his dignity intact. Now, I'm not so sure. The big five, the guys with the impenetrable no trade contracts, have put up a pretty unified front in resisting trade talk; it doesn't seem like anybody on this team feels inclined to jump ship, or even that there might be a reason to bail out. These guys are still talking about the playoffs in the dressing room.

But that's the only place anybody is talking about Toronto and the playoffs. I understand that the players still need something to play for. That's why Vesa Toskala is out there every night; that's why Paul Maurice pulled said in the final minute of yesterday's loss to Buffalo even though they were trailing by three. I respect that, these are men with some pride. Just listen to Maurice these days. He is a frustrated man. He is this close to losing it.

There is talk from some that Sundin is acting disloyal in his refusal (if it is indeed genuine refusal), and that's complete bullhorckle and fiddlewash. Maybe Sundin really would rather prefer to oversee the rebuilding in Toronto than a Stanley Cup in some other city. Maybe that's not such a bad thing. Who knows. Sundin doesn't deserve the backlash he's going to get if he's still here Tuesday afternoon.

Back too the deadline. This season has been weak weak weak when it comes to trades. Two meaningful trades spread out over four months? Will Tuesday make up for this? For the Leafs sake it had better so. If Fletch can get one guy to waive goodbye, it could start chain reaction. Assuming there are teams willing to take on big contracts attached to ok players the deals will happen. For all the hand wringing, this is the one day a year that GMs are allowed to do stupid things. Just hoping for once it's not Toronto's.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Darling You Gotta Let Me Know

So now that the Leafs are knocking off all the best teams in the league, what are we, we poor, suffering, handsome fans supposed to think here. If Toronto is not careful, they're going to wake up in eighth place one morning and then we're all in trouble because you know once that happens it's full throttle all the way to the playoffs baby, forget shedding salary and planning for happier tomorrow.

You'd think that a cozy afternoon game against Detroit (there is something inherently right about watching Toronto and Detroit play each other, something positive and reaffirming and wholesome I think) would be an auto loss, you know, but with these Leafs the moment you start expecting them to do one thing, the moment you think you have this team figured out and pegged down and ain't nothing going to change that, they start making you look stupid. It's nice that Darcy Tucker is scoring again (if I can be so modest, it's probably cause I called him out before the Montreal game), and Vesa Toskala means for once goaltending is not the problem. But why now?

You start walking down this path, you start listening to this harpy's song, and suddenly you find yourself thinking hey wait maybe this team can actually make the playoffs, or, hey maybe Mats Sundin and Kubina and Tucker and McCabe could actually do more good if they stayed in Toronto, which is just a roadmap to more heartbreak, but it is seductive and hard to look away from. Next week is big. If the Leafs keep winning, (games against Buffalo, Islanders, and Boston, ie, all theoretically winnable) expect someone high up in management to let it slip that the Leafs are gunning for the playoffs. Not that they will be buyers, but I can see them standing pat, maybe moving a veteran if that special deal comes along.

The point is, a winning week will be the worst thing for this team. It will leave them in this sticky, should we stay or should we go no-man's land area of the Eastern conference where the only things that ever happen are 12th overall draft picks and 9th place finishes. Fletch, please, scuttle this team before they have a chance to make trouble.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Yzerman Is All Right

They named Yzerman GM for Team Canada at the upcoming world championships and this is just good news for Toronto. When Team Canada wins (not really matter of if, you know) it's only going to cement Yzerman's already pretty solid status as ball busting executive material, and will put him on the fast track to the position he was born for, General Manager of the Detroit Red Wings. From how I understand it, Stevie Y and Mike Illitch are basically best buds for life, so the red carpet is just waiting or him to walk down. The point is, that makes Ken Holland, the Best GM in Hockey, expendable, and an easy peasy pickup for the Leafs. Ken Holland gets a new challenge, Detroit gets their favourite son, Toronto gets a dude who knows what he's doing, it is just win win win all the way home. If Ken Holland does become available, still a big ol' if, I don't see why the Leafs would even need a process anymore, just offer him all the money in the world and let the man get to work.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Losses are Good Times

Man am I the only the Leaf fan who heard the final score was 8-0 Panthers (Panthers!) and thought, "Ok, yes, this is a good thing." I had to read the final score in the paper because after one period and three goals I was busy finding other things to occupy my time, you know. But getting rocked by Florida is a good thing, big picture. All about that top three pick. All about that Steven Stamkos.

I mean, it's not good in anyway that every Leaf played like they were too busy dreaming up future tee times, because the all those scouts who have attached themselves to this team like vultures need something to take back with them. This is the perfect time for Darcy Tucker to start scoring, you know what I'm saying? Nobody is getting off this island if they keep playing like they did against Florida. If it were up to me the Leafs would lose the next twenty-eight games by one goal each, and everybody would try their best and some GM somewhere could look at Pavel Kubina and say, "Yes, this is a man I would pay $5 million dollars a year".

Lovin' that Robbie Earl though. Let's go Marlies