Mats is waiting for a shirt to be printed with his contract demands on it
So Cliff Fletcher gave Mats until today to come up with his decision. Stay in Toronto, sign in Montreal and give the team some assets, or go to free agency knowing that the Leafs would be moving forward without tagging space for him in their cap should he decide to return later on this summer.
Mats has the right to decide his future, and he's earned his right to take his time without being strong-armed by any hockey club. Mats' decision making isn't in question, what the Leafs will do now with this knowledge is.
Hopefully, and sadly, this means that they'll go out and sign some guys to flesh out our roster without Sundin. There's some decent names out there, Radim Vrbata, Michael Ryder, Jason Williams, Brooks Orpik, Ron Hainsey, Niklas Hagman, Antii Miettinen.
Fletcher's in the market for regulars on D, as Schenn won't be ready, Stralman really should be in the AHL, and he's banking on Carlo's injury problems. Combine that with the hopes of trading McCabe or Kubina next year and we've got at least one D slot open. He's also looking at a top 6 impact forward (not like we haven't been looking for one for years) and apparently some guys to round out our bottom 6.
Now, I really think we should be getting our young guys some experience, but loading up our lines full of them probably isn't a great idea. I wouldn't mind Glen Metropolit if he wasn't so old, but please Cliff, no more than a couple FA's for the bottom lines. The "liability on skates" versions under Maurice weren't great, but we're not trying to pull a Detroit and sign Tie Domi out of retirement.
That leaves backup goaltending. Ty Conklin's available and good, but may be looking for a better pay-day or more ice time with the performance he gave last season. Alex Auld is available, and did well with Boston, but he may (will) struggle unless Wilson gets the Leafs defensive act together shortly. Curtis Joseph is a name that's been shuffled around and why not? We've got Cliffer in here, let's bring back Roberts (though it looks like he'll be signed by Tampa) too! Seriously though, if we sign him I hope it's so he retires in his first game and we get him a front office job.
Whatever happens Tuesday, I know I won't be leaving the house.
I'd like to preface this by saying that I don't think McCabe is moving. He's been asked too many times and stated unequivocally that he's staying too many times to back down now. He seems like a dumb, proud guy and I think the media's putting his back to the wall with this decision.
I'd also like to point out that the Leafs can't actually make McCabe not show up for training camp, as he can be suspended for not, and he's under contract. The only way to get him off our roster without buying him out is to scratch him every game, taking up a player spot and generally creating a sticky PR mess between us, him and the NHLPA. The NHL also keeps watch on teams not icing the best roster they can in order to place a check on tanking (I guess we'll have to be subtle), so if we wanted to keep him as a healthy scratch all year then we'd have to prove that we aren't any worse off replacing him with Staffan Kronwall. A tall order, to be sure.
Oh, and there was this little article printed by David Shoalts (a pillar of integrity in a shitty town for sports journalism) wherein Fletcher calls not playing McCabe "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard" and that "Fletcher said he does not plan to prevent McCabe from playing. To do so would violate the collective agreement".
Hopefully that settles what we're doing with McCabe then.
Alright, it's been a while. First off, let me congratulate Fletch on landing us Schenn. Great pick, we've got enough centers in the system and as much as I liked Boedker Schenn has more quality. Kudos.
Also, I'd like to blast Damien Cox for being a bigoted idiot. In this article he blasts the Leafs for not going with "skill" for their top 5 pick like the 5 other teams in the top 6 picked. In this article, he suggests that the Leafs take Schenn along with the 10th pick Tyler Myers (dream on Damien) for their "twin towers defense of the future" not four days before the aforementioned blasting of the Leafs. How does this make sense? It's simple, the Leafs are always wrong, and because Cox doesn't know anything he didn't know that Schenn was ranked in the consensus top 6 (and thus beyond the 7th pick).
As for the buyouts, well, we'll start with the easy one.
Goodbye Andrew. All the best, maybe one day when your confidence is regained you'll stop dropping into the butterfly when an opposing player crosses the blue line and learn to come out from your net. I honestly did believe you'd be a good goaltender someday, and I still do. But thank God we've got Vesa.
Now for the contested buyouts. When he came in Fletcher stated that the team would have a new look and we'd have 5-6 new guys next season. I'm not sure what others thought he meant, but generally revamping a team and rebuilding involves getting rid of old guys and underperformers.
Tucker was getting old, getting injury prone, and most of all he was an old stalwart from a time long past. It's not that I don't think he can't continue to play at a high level in the future, I think he'll make a team very happy come July 1st. Sad thing for Tucker is that he'll probably be broken down or retired by the time the Leafs would have a practical use for his services. That said, I fully believe buying him out had little to do with his relative playing ability into the future. Buying out Tucker was a locker room move, getting rid of him changes the comfort level of the room and helps to wean out the 'blame the refs', 'blame injuries', 'don't perform until the last 1/4 of the season' mentality that seemed to be creeping into our room. Blaming man-games lost to injury is such a Ferguson/Maurice-ism.
Wellwood is a bit of a tender issue, he had such promise for Leafs fans everywhere and was probably one of the most skilled forwards on the team not named Sundin. Reports also pegged him as lazy, a bit of a creep, and of poor conditioning. Rumour even has it that MLSE threatened to fine him unless he brought his workouts up to standard. There's good odds that if half of those rumours are true then Wellwoods hernia, second hernia, and touch-up surgery were all actually, legitimately his fault. If that's the case then waiting for him to one day become healthy is a fool's errand, if he can't commit to bettering himself then the injuries will keep coming. Not only that, but as a professional athlete, if he's not willing to do his job by staying in shape and performing to expectations then he deserves to be demoted or removed from the roster, it's good business sense that you don't reward people who violate their contracts by offering them a new one.
The Leafs dropped a good amount of skill in a few days, and not for more skill. Part of Fletcher's job isn't just to manage the team in terms of talent, but also to turn around a locker room that was getting too comfortable with losing out and believing that they didn't deserve it, that next year would be their year through no understandable reasoning. I'll stick by Cliff for dropping Tucker and Welly because he's more privy to the attitudes and private lives of his players than we are, and because I knew that moves such as this had to happen.
It just doesn't mean that I have to feel good about it.
Alrighty, draft aside it's now time to start looking ahead to the future for the good ol' blue and white. Here goes, in no particular order:
Robbie Earl:This kid has wheels and a nose for the offensive zone. One assist in nine games doesn't look too great on his score sheet, but he created chances every game he was in. He absolutely looked great at the NHL level (though tired after a few games and eventually injured). If he can get over his injury and work hard on his conditioning this summer there's no reason he shouldn't break camp as a third line/energy guy. He was a scoring star in college... don't expect that to transfer over.
Jeremy Williams: Definitely the worst Williams of the Justin/Jason/Jeremy trio (no relation). This kid is a bit of an enigma for Leafs fans. He's got a great, rising shot and a knack for finding scoring position on the ice, something lacking in our forward core. He's also small, defensively terrible and can't really knock around the boards. That spells liability in the big leagues. If his performance is any indication he needs top flight minutes to produce (second and third goals were set up by Mats Sundin, Sebastien Caron had something to do with his first). He'll likely never gain the size or two way ability he'll need to stick with the big club, and Maurice putting him on checking lines was wasteful and harmful to us last season.
John Mitchell: This guy looks like he could be pretty decent someday. Good size, decent shot and passing, decent vision. There's a chance he could make 4th line center next season, though he'll need to work at it. If anything he'll warrant a cup of coffee with the big club at some point.
Staffan Kronwall: Already been called up several times and has been unspectacular but steady. If he could just throw his body around more he'd be valuable as he makes decent passes and has the size he needs, but he seems to shy away from contact and needs work on his timing. He threw some good ones in the playoffs this season, but mentally he probably doesn't have it in him to carry his game up to a higher level. Good to know that we aren't entirely screwed if we need an AHL call-up though.
Alex Foster: Kind of sucks, but he got a call-up at the end of the season. Another 3rd/4th energy guy, he's a little small and needs some work along the boards. Has some offensive skill but nothing to write home about, and probably won't translate it to the NHL level.
Kris Newbury: Should stay the hell in the AHL, where he belongs. He's a scorer/penalty killer by trade, as much as he grinds he's got little place on a checking line with the big club. Still, depending on who we move a slot may be open for him, and he's been a regular filler for the Leafs when they've needed help. Hopefully they'll center him with some Marlies.
Brent Aubin: Once scored 50 goals and over 100 points in the QMJHL! *rolleyes* Another energy guy, he might be worth a cup of coffee and hey, maybe he'll surprise us.
Justin Pogge: Needs to start a full season with the Marlies, and is plagued by consistency issues like a lot of young goalies. If he gets called up (he probably will) he'll either do amazing or get shelled, either way there's no way he should make back-up next year, if only for his own development.
So there we are, a bunch of maybe bottom sixers and a goalie who's not quite ready. Quite a crew, though I'm looking forward to at least a couple playing with the Leafs next season.
There's been a lot of shit flying as to Mats Sundin's future with the team. To recap, I'm going to go ahead and say a few things:
1. Mats Sundin is the all-time scoring leader of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
2. He endured years of going nowhere and early playoff exits, crappy teams, and crappy management, 14 years to be precise.
3. He's arguably the greatest Leaf and Captain of all time.
He should retire a Leaf, that much is true. That can also be done, however, after he's moved on. He deserves a cup, that is also true, and he sure as hell ain't getting it here.
Now, eschewing all that trade deadline nonsense, what's best for both parties here? If Sundin stays we keep our long serving captain and have a mentor for our young guys in the future to come. If he goes, well, I just hope he tells us soon so we can trade his rights to somebody.
Either way I wish him luck and the best, he gave us his best years and while I'll be glad to have him back I'm interested in what the franchise will look like without him.
A "new era" with the hiring of Ron Wilson as head coach of the Maple Leafs. But what does this mean for our poor, oft misunderstood club?
Hopefully not a winning record, please God. We need to stockpile decent prospects (Tlusty doesn't really count) and we're not quite there yet. I'm not advocating that we hire a bad coach by any means, as keeping Maurice or hiring some idiot like Barry Melrose would probably do more harm than good to young guys that we'll be looking to grow into real players in time. All I'm asking is that Wilson have the presence of mind to get our young guys playing time, regardless of the mistakes that they make as a part of growing into their roles.
He doesn't seem to think that the Leafs have a shot at the real season for another couple years, unlike a lot of retarded fans out there. I quote:
"If we can be knocking on the door in two years, that will be a tremendous accomplishment," he said. "And then we just have to knock the door down."
This is not a guarantee that we'll achieve playoff success in two years, it's a statement that if we are in two years it will be a freakin' miracle and we should all be proud of ourselves.
Why is this a good thing? Well, for one this is not a coach looking to win to save his job. We all saw what happened with Maurice, refusing to play Raycroft, refusing to play Pogge when he was up, putting Williams and Tlusty on the 3rd and 4th lines. That's not how you deal with a team whose playoff hopes are slim for now and into the future.
I'm still skeptical about this hiring, getting a coach before a GM, Wilson being kind of an asshole, etc. But it seems like a step in the proper direction for a team, and it seems like Wilson was briefed by MLSE in a realistic fashion. They didn't want him to make any promises or short term goals, he went up and he stated the reality that the franchise is in, and so for now we should feel a little bit of satisfaction.