Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Canada Day In Hockey

[Note: Everything I've said here...and here...and here...still applies. As I posted on Facebook, to all Canadians, a happy Canada Day, and to all those not so lucky, maybe in the next life...]

For a hockey fan, the draft (last week) and free agent day (today) are the equivalent of Christmas and New Year's, respectively. On draft day, you unwrap shiny new talent that hopefully makes your team better; on free agent day, your GM makes some resolutions public and (hopefully) gives your team an even more tangible sense of renewal.


Thirty GMs wanted John Tavares. Only one team--the Leafs--made a point of announcing, weeks ahead, they wanted John Tavares. The Islanders had no intention of dealing the first overall pick, much less to Toronto. Burke's strategy was thus immediately questionable.
Another plan, also trumpeted with some fanfare, was to trade up two or three spots and acquire the services of one Brayden Schenn, brother of Luke "The Human Eraser" Schenn. Burke made no secret of how much he coveted the younger Schenn, and so, quite predictably, other general managers asked for the moon and stars in return for that pick. Burke balked--rightly so. But he has only himself to blame: had he kept a little quieter about his intentions, he probably would have had no trouble advancing the two or three spots necessary.
Burke, stuck in the seven hole, approached Ottawa, who was scheduled to draft immediately after Toronto, and inquired as to whom the Sens were targeting. Informed they were high on Nazem Kadri, Burke said "we're taking him" and proceeded to do this that. This little spike of Ottawa-Toronto rivalry was the only bright spot on an otherwise dismal draft night for Brian Burke.
Oh, nothing against Kadri, who has the potential to be a pretty decent impact player. (The Toronto Star, again predictably, went absolutely nuts over Kadri. Not because the boy can play, but because he's Muslim, don't you know. Multiculturalism will always trump talent--or indeed, anything else--within the boardrooms of the Star.)
But whatever Burke may have said to Duthie on the draft floor, Kadri was at best Plan C for the Leafs, and that C doesn't mean "captain".

After a bit of handwringing on Leafs forums that the team didn't get the first overall pick, or the fourth, things settled down as we all awaited what Burke would do on free agent day.

The team named after Canada's national emblem has, historically, been very active on Canada Day. Trouble is, the free agents the Leafs have historically signed have almost always been on the downslope of their careers, and have brought the team absolutely nowhere.

Well, I'm here to tell you that today we can start planning the Cup parade. For Burke has boldly reached out to nab that preeminent talent named Colton Orr.

As Howard Berger rightly notes, Bobby Orr, even at 62, has more of a hockey skillset than Colton. But the one thing Colton does is fight, and by God he does that one thing well.
We can beat around the fistic bush again if you like: for the record, I'm in Don Cherry's corner (and Burke's) in believing that fighting does have a place in the game. As such, and until they outlaw it, I feel each team needs shall we say it...presence. The Leafs especially: last year was painful to watch. The fighting was divided between Hollweg (at first) and Mayers, both of whom were basically punching bags. There's no point having a fight if you can't win the damned thing, and so most of the Leafs (Luke Schenn, I love that guy) folded like a cheap tent when the going got rough. Orr will change that, which is a good thing in my books. And $1M per over four years is cheap for the new fan favourite.

Next move: Kubina and Tim Stapleton to Atlanta for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.

Definitely a theme going here. Exelby is tough as nails, and dirty as, well, dirty nails. Scores all of a point every ten games, and got, wow, two whole goals last year. But mean. Real mean. Only to be expected when you name your male child after a friggin' gemstone. One thing I'll say right now: the Leafs better improve their penalty kill next season, because so far they've added a good 200 PIMs, not to mention sacrificing a bunch of scoring off their back end. Stuart, incidentally, is very much incidental. Put it this way: Atlanta got all the skill in this deal.

Oh! Mike Komisarek is a Leaf! Okay, he's actually one of the people I'd hoped Burke would target, and he got him at $4.5M/year--a bargain, considering other teams were offering $6M+. Komisarek is also pretty tough, but his best assets are his defensive awareness and shot blocking capability.

Not a bad first day's work for a man determined to put his bloody stamp on a team. But it's only a first day. Consider: the Leafs now have no fewer than nine legitimate NHL defensemen. Only six are strictly necessary, and I have to wonder where the surplus guys are going to go. In fact, I have to wonder who the "surplus" guys even are.

More, obviously, to come. I'd sure like to see a little skill, now...

1 comment:

Rocketstar said...

Happy Canada day!