|T O P I C R E V I E W
||Posted - 05/03/2008 : 10:41:25
By Randy Steinman
Whenever there is talk about how to improve the fortunes of the struggling Toronto Maple Leafs, contract buyouts are usually mentioned. The idea is to "buy out" the contracts of high paid players who are not producing. The salary cap money that is freed up would then be spent on free agents.
The fact is- free agents don't always pan out and the Maple Leafs have a few free agent signings on their roster that are evidence of this. 2008 is not a banner year for top-quality unrestricted free agents. Additionally there's no guarantee the Leafs will be the winning bidder for a top player- or players- in the free agent sweepstakes.
When MATS SUNDIN didn't waive his "no-trade" clause near the 2008 trade deadline a lot of Leafs faithful blamed him for depriving the club of a a few draft picks. While some may accuse him of mortgaging the club's future, one only needs to look at Toronto's recent history of selections to realize that the club is almost as futile
at the NHL Entry Draft as they are on the ice. One of their draft picks was a 40+ goal scorer this season. Too bad Brad Boyes is now with St.Louis and did his scoring for the Blues.
Whether he retires, goes somewhere else as a free agent or returns to Toronto, you can expect another productive year from the captain. Sundin has always been a sure thing. You cannot say the same about the draft picks he might have brought in trade.
Here's a look at some of the other Leafs whose names have come up in buy-out or trade talks and how they might be coached back to being more productive:
BRYAN McCABE is often mentioned as one of the "buy-out" boys or as trade bait. The "new NHL" has not been kind to the Leaf defenseman and neither were the fans at the Air Canada Center this season. Many of the maneuvres that made McCabe a top defenseman have been taken away from him. He is now more frequently penalized for his patented "can opener" move (insert stick between opponent's legs, twist stick) and his habit of pushing opponents in rapid-fire fashion. His offensive game has suffered as the opposition is now wise to his "one-timers" from the point.
McCabe has size, is mobile and has a flair for the offense. He just needs to be coached on how to play the game the way he used to and to use his strengths. He must try to avoid picking up stupid penalties using those previously mentioned old tricks of his. Whatever coach is brought in for the task should also bring in a good dose of self-confidence for McCabe. Whether McCabe acknowledges it or not, the ACC boo-birds have surely eroded his confidence.
DARCY TUCKER plays best with a burr up his butt. That burr wasn't around this season. You don't have that burr when your team is not going anywhere. Put a playoff-contending team around him and you should see the fiery Tucker of old.
Goalie ANDREW RAYCROFT won the Calder Trophy as rookie-of-the-year in 2003-04 with Boston. Despite setting a Leaf record for wins in a season in 2006-07, Raycroft is a constant target of the "boo-birds" in Toronto. He needs a goalie coach to bring him back to the fundamentals in hopes of duplicating the success he enjoyed as an NHL rookie. Throw in a councellor to bring his confidence back.
PAVEL KUBINA is often cited as one of Toronto's overpaid underachievers. However, Kubina seemed to turn things around and was arguably one of the club's top defensemen by year's end.
JASON BLAKE played all 82 games this season despite suffering from leukemia! Although the hard-working winger's effort was never lacking, his numbers certainly dipped. He went from 40 goals and 69 points in 2006-07 with the Islanders to 15 goals and 52 points this season with the Leafs. All this speedster needs is good health and linemates he can click with.
So, there you have it. No need for Leaf management to push the "Buy Out" button when a dose of coaching and a sprinkle of confidence should do the trick!
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|3 L A T E S T R E P L I E S (Newest First)
||Posted - 05/28/2008 : 06:48:03
Buyouts are definatley not the right option when it comes to Tucker, McCabe, Jason Blake or Pavel Kubina. In Tuckers case, would you rather have about a mil cap hit over 6 years, or Darcy Tucker in your lineup? Please, lets get real. Tucker played hurt almost all of last season and if he comes to training camp healthy and has a strong start to the season he could be legitimate trade bait. I wouldn't completley give up on any of those guys, they are good hockey players, the problem (in my opinion) was that the confidence of that group was almost completley shattered after a few stinkers on home ice, where the fans completley turned on them. It was Paul Maurices job to make sure they bounced back, but more often than not they were not able to. (Hence part of the reason he got fired).
I think that we are (for the most part) stuck with those core players basically until their contracts expire. The main problem (again, in my opinion) are our young players. Matt Stajan, Alex Steen, Kyle Wellwood, Jiri Tlusty. I dont beleive any of those guys are players I'd rely on to help my team win a stanley cup. The leafs need to draft better and develop their players better. They have to establish themselves as a Franchise that can help young, or under acheiving players realize their potential and then use them to augment more established players like Sundin, Blake, Tucker. (Or should I say, "Whoever our established players are at the time...cause I hope its not them"
All in All, I do beleive that trying to make something work with the line-up they have now is a futile effort, but its not completley out of the question. If the leaf brass can pull off a couple miracles and move a couple big contracts out of town, and get John Tavares in the next draft there will be hope in the NEAR future. If guys like McCabe, Tucker, Blake, Sundin etc are still around in a year or two, this is going to be an extremley painfull process. As much as I have been a fan of Mats Sundin, he represents past failures and the old guard. Until we have a new face of the franchise augmented by a solid core of young players and savvy veterens its going to be the same story.
||Posted - 05/03/2008 : 14:36:12
You wrote: "In my mind buying out isn't the solution." So we agree on the buyout thing.
When I talk about councelling or councellor I'm NOT talking about putting the player on the psychiatrist's couch. I'm suggesting an expert (coach)be brought in to help.
As far as McCabe, he never was dominanant defensively. My intentions were to bring his offensive game back.
You wrote: "Raycroft has no confidence. A goalie coach won't help. No counciller knows the pressure of being an NHL goalie, so that won't help."
See my definition of councillor again. I'm sure there a lot of ex-NHL goalies that could councel Raycroft who know the pressure of being an NHL goalie. How would spending a season as an AHL backup- as you propose- fire Raycroft up? Hardly a confidence booster! He'd only be an expensive minor league backup for the Leafs and the team would be well on their way to making him the next Jim Carey or Blaine Lacher.
Seems we basically agree. It's just the definitions that caused any disagreement.
Glad my piece stirred you up enough to post!
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||Posted - 05/03/2008 : 12:03:13
Somehow I don't think a dose of coaching and a sprinkle of condidence will do the trick here. Sundin is one of the most faithful Leaf players of the last decade. He plays hockey for Toronto and wants to stay here. But the fact is he's older now, and not the same player he was 2 or 3 years ago. He is still productive, but I think that if he really wants to help the team this year a pay cut is in order. 2 mil for 1 year. Sounds fair?
In my mind buying out isn't the solution. The money is still on your cap, and I would rather have an unproducing, solid player then a 4th line call up. No movemen clauses screw up organizations, and McCabe's is the mother of all resigning gone wrong. McCabe hasn't been able to play defense since his days in Long Island, and somehow I don't think proper coaching is going to do alot for his defensive game now.
Tucker made his living on the PP 2 years ago. His contract was definatly an overpayment of sorts for someone who bangs in rebounds. Tucks has lost his grit and ability to throw of people from their game. Being a playoff contender won't help Tucker play better, but if Tucker is put on more of an energy line you will see him produce.
Kubina was the Leafs best defenseman last year. Luckily he is able to be traded this year because of a loophole in his contract. After a solid season teams may want to take a chance on him, and because JFJ isn't GM, the Leafs have a shot at moving him for a shot at the future.
Raycroft has no confidence. A goalie coach won't help. No counciller knows the pressure of being an NHL goalie, so that won't help. Only 1 thing will, a change of scenery. Send him to the minors and have Clemmonson ride the bench behind Toskala. And keep Pogge as the starter. A season as an AHL backup may fire Raycroft up.
Lastly, Blake's season wasn't his fault entirely. Lukemia is dangerous, even Blake's condition. Apparently the pills he takes makes him very weak, so he wasn't as speedy or quick as last year. If you can get him players who can feed him the puck but keep the game at a slow pace you will see Blake's play improve. He still has the rocket shot!