Sunday, February 10, 2008
Had the annual night, or in this case day, out with my best friend yesterday. Four seats this year so two of our longtime pals made the trek down from Sudbury to catch the Leafs, followed up with dinner and many pints. Good times.
The Leafs beat the Wings so cue Tony From Woodbridge calling in and opining on how Fletcher needs to load up at the deadline so The Passion That Unites Us All can make their annual run to the Cup. They actually played a nice game, conservative and smart, and Toskela outplayed Hasek who was terrible on Sundin's equalizer and the overtime winner. Another thing to note is that after Cleary went down the Wings generated very little offensive pressure outside of their big line. On a night like this one can see the effect of the cap on this league. Only two years ago when the Oilers upset the Wings, Detroit had three pretty dangerous lines rolling plus a fourth line of Maltby, Cleary and Franzen iirc. Now I have seen little of the Wings this year and they seem to be in a little bit of a February downturn but this team can be beaten, I would say. If you have the guys who can shut down Zetterberg and Datsyuk then I think they may be had. I would think they'll be shopping over the next two weeks.
So, back to the Leafs, who are really the poster boys for what not to do in a league that has a salary cap. JFJ is considered to have gotten a bum rap here and there is no doubt that MLSE's treatment of him at the end was beyond disgraceful but this team is littered with his mistakes and, as a result, are likely going to finish up the road for at least the next couple of years much like the Oilers. Problem is they can't even point to a nice collection of kids like the Oilers can.
Now MLSE makes our concerns about EIG look teeny tiny in comparison. Larry Tanenbaum's fingerprints were all over the two year deal that thuggish pinhead Tahir Domi got and its likely that this was not the only case where ownership was involved however JFJ's penchant for handing out large longterm deals to players has handcuffed this team. Toronto fans point to Paul Holmgren's masterful job at turning around Philly but the fact is that Holmgren had a pretty decent collection of young talent that the Leafs cannot match - Gagne, Richards, Carter, Pitkanen, to name a few. He had Forsberg and Zhitnik who he could move. Here the Leafs have Sundin and you might say Hal Gill is a comp to Zhitnik contract wise, at least. And finally when it came to the summer Holmgren had a pile of cap room which he used to acquire Briere, Hartnell and Timmonen. The Leafs have absolutely none. He used Pitkanen to bring in Smith and Lupul, moved Zhitnik for Coburn and made a nice little move to get Biron and boom! Rebuild complete. Not to mention the haul for Forsberg and the number two pick in last year's draft. Pretty amazing to see what some guys having off years and a lot of injuries will bring you if you're smart about it.
The Toronto media is trumpeting that there is a lot of interest out there in a lot of the Leafs but the truth of the matter is that I would guess that the guys teams are looking at are the guys the Leafs do not want to move. Kids like Steen and Stajan and Anton Stralman as well as Tjulsty who played against the Datsyuk line and handled himself pretty well. Toskela. Kaberle. McCabe. Antropov. To shake things up they might have to move a guy like Kaberle who would likely bring a nice return but it hurts when you have to move a guy to make space because you're a bunch of dummies.
I think if they could move McCabe (Islanders) they would but the guys they really want to move aren't going anywhere. And this is where JFJ has fucked the Leafs. Its really a cautionary tale for Kevin Lowe and any GMs. There is only a finite amount of money to go around as Tyler Dellow points out and while the fallout from this so far has hit fading guys like Anson Carter, Tony Amonte, Jeff O'Neill, Jason Allison and so on, guys who made a pile of cash and who can retire rather then play for the minimum, the fact is that pretty soon there are going to be a lot of guys like, yes, Mike Johnson, a pretty decent player who barely found a job this season. The smart GM is going to be able to pick up some pretty good players for bargains pretty soon, guys like Dominic Moore who played a terrific game for the Leafs yesterday.
Now that would be the smart GM. The Leafs are stuck with Jason Blake and Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft and Pavel Kubina for starters plus they have big money tied up in McCabe and Kaberle and if they sign Sundin ... well, that's about it for them. Huge contracts with lengthy term and guys who are not even close to outperforming that money - its a combination that will kill you. The media can trumpet all they want how teams covet Tucker and Blake and McCabe but the Leafs are not moving the first two - their contracts and performance preclude it. Indeed the Leafs would have gotten a huge return if they had moved Tucker last spring and McCabe the spring before as both finished up career years but it did not happen and now its likely that they are stuck with all three of these guys for a while yet. At least McCabe is a decent player. Not worth what he's getting but he's decent.
So what does this have to do with the Oilers? Well Lowe has been on a terrible run for almost the last two years now and its likely that with Katz coming in the clock is ticking on our man Kevin. What I fear and what most Oiler fans should fear is that Lowe will be tempted to go for the sexy home run again this summer. I'm thinking it may really be a dull six months coming up and I would certainly prefer that to Lowe giving Michael Ryder 4 per or something goofy like that. The talk now is that the Oilers may move Pitkanen, with one of the main issues being that they have so much cash tied up in Souray. This Souray deal has the potential to hobble this franchise for a couple of years and its a perfect example of the stupid PR related deal (like the Tucker deal) that a good GM will always avoid. Some people squawk about the deals given to Moreau, Roloson, Pisani, Staios and Torres but these are really small potatoes - with the exception of the Roloson contract I think Lowe could move any of these if he wanted to. Staios is the highest at 2.7 but that's relatively small potatoes in the grand scheme of things. And in two years three of these contracts will be off the books.
I think it was Tyler who described the job of a GM to be a series of gambles and its true. Who you draft, who you trade for and trade away, who you sign, for how much and for how long - its a never ending series of bets that you are making. Some choices are easy - signing Lidstrom or Sakic to a neverending series of one or two year deals or drafting Mario Lemieux. Some look easy, for example Chicago drafting Patrick Kane, but how many people remember the questions a lot of people had about him, legitimate questions? Some are difficult - do you sign Ryan Smyth for five years for big money? Do you gamble on Dustin Penner?
You don't bet on Sheldon Souray - that, friends, is an easy one.
In gambling on Souray, Lowe has made a huge mistake, one that JFJ made over and over again - he paid big bucks for a one trick pony Dman and gave him the term to boot. Consider Norris trophy candidate Jan Hejda (thanks Heed). A lot of people look at the Oilers failure to sign this guy and say good riddance but considering that they might have had him, a solid top four guy on a team that needs a solid top four guy, and had him for cheap at that - well this is what I am talking about. Go through the list of players who signed to one or two year deals last summer who would have given more to this team then Souray. If you are a Leafs' fan and look at the production of Blake or Tucker and think that you could have had two years of Comrie or Guerin or a year of Petr Sykora. The Oilers could have had Hejda and Ryan Smyth for a little more then Souray. And they could made up the difference there by moving Torres. LW would have been Smyth, Penner, Moreau. Not too shabby. Too bad Lowe didn't have a Globe and Mail subscription (we'll chip in) seeing as David Shoalts gave the cap number for this season around Christmas of last year. Might have ponied up that extra 100 grand.
You HAVE to use your fucking noggin. You just do. We'll see if Lowe has learned anything this summer. He had better have or in a year and a half we'll be minus Pitkanen and Horcoff but we'll have eleven million wrapped up in Souray and Markus Naslund. Forever.
Posted by Black Dog at 8:21 PM