Thursday, January 17, 2008

Blow up the Leafs for the good of the Leafs.

OK I give! Uncle already! I have tried my best to not wade in on the Leaf situation but it seems “what to do with the Leafs” is now a national obsession so I might as well throw my 2 cents worth in for what its worth.

Earlier in the season we were in Atlanta for a game and I had dinner with an NHL manager before the game in the media dinning room at the rink. I asked what he would do if he was magically named the Toronto GM. He thought for a moment and then said the first job would be to have a meeting with the MLSE board and the board of teacher’s pension fund before ever agreeing to take the job.

His point was that you can’t take that job and hope you will be allowed to do what is needed. You have to know you will have that power before you take the job and have that autonomy in writing in your contract.

His plan was to move about 19 or 20 million dollars worth of current salary to the Marlies. Literally eat the salaries, a complete write off. Take the one-time financial hit to try and start fresh. His point was that Andrew Raycroft, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Hal Gill and Pavel Kubina are all currently un-tradeable because they cant play anywhere close to the value of their contracts and that’s why no team has been willing or will be willing to make deals for them. So move the mistake contracts out and start fresh.

It blew me away! It was such a huge chunk of cash with some big name players who would basically be buried in the minors just to get their salaries off the salary cap. Lou Lamoriello in New Jersey has done the same thing with the likes of Alexander Mogilny, but not to this degree.

The other thing that hit me like a ton of bricks was how the fans and media in Toronto would react to such a radical and financially monstrous move. As this thing has percolated now for a few months I believe he is probably right and I believe the fans and media in Toronto would not revolt, but rather, see it as a necessary step towards trying to rebuild this crippled franchise.

Each day there is more and more talk about when (not if) John Ferguson and or Paul Maurice will be fired. The Fans in Toronto want their pound of flesh for what has gone on, but I don’t know if either or both of those moves would have any affect. It does not change the fact that the new GM and or coach would have the same players to work with.

For whomever is in charge at the trade deadline it appears the only move that could bring the Leafs what they want and need is the trade of Mats Sundin. Based on the selling price for big time rental players at last years deadline, the Leafs could get a player and a few top draft picks to give them some kind of future. If Mats wants to return to Toronto next season he could do it and the Leafs I am sure would love to have him back at half the price. If he loves Toronto as much as he says he does, I am sure he would play for that to finish out his career.

Finally I must say I feel very bad for John Ferguson Jr. Yes he has made some very bad deals and signed some contracts which are real head scratchers, but the current treatment he is receiving from the Leafs is very shabby. If he is to be fired, then fire him and move on. Asking Phoenix for permission to talk to Cliff Fletcher about being the interim GM is the same as asking someone to marry you and then asking your (not yet divorced) wife if she wants to cater the event.

One final, final thought on the Leafs and the situation. I know there are many Leaf haters in Ottawa, but I am not one of them. I don't like or dislike the Leafs. They are just another team in the NHL to me. But there is no question that when Toronto is in this kind of disarray it hurts all of us in hockey. Toronto and the Rangers are in the 2 biggest hockey media markets in the world and when people pay less attention to them, they pay less or no attention to hockey at all. If the Leafs are in the dumper, national TV ratings fall for HNIC, Sportsnet and TSN. We in the business know that if the Leafs and Rangers are not in the playoffs, fewer national newspapers and magazines assign reporters to cover the NHL. If you are one of those Leaf haters, I respect your right to be a fan or your team and also hate others, but there is no denying that the hockey world is better off if the Leafs and Rangers are strong contending teams.

See you at the rink.