Monday, November 17, 2008

Enough with the fat boy jokes...

if you hate being funny, that is. Seriously though, what needs to stop is the handwringing over Cliff's decision to dump Wellwood over the summer.

Most people at least kind of understand, or at least have some sort of faith in Cliff. For the rest, here we go:

First off, Wellwood was waived. He wasn't traded, nor was he bought out. Nothing more than missing this fact will make me instantly deride anybody who wants to tell me losing Wellwood was a bad idea, but the misconception of how he left the team is rampant among Leaf fans. It's also the most important point of this discussion.

Wellwood was also waived by the Canucks.

That's right, they saw him, or rather they saw the size of him, and they did what any sensible team would do, they cut him from their line-up. Exactly the same way the Leafs did. If the Leafs made a dumb move, then so did the Canucks a few months later.

Except something magical happened for Kyle. While given the chance to pick him up freely, nobody in the league wanted him. No GM picked up the phone, despite the dire state of certain teams' centre position (Atlanta and Erik Christensen come to mind, as does Columbus).

Kyle was depressed. So depressed, in fact, that for four days, after being called out publicly for his fitness and health issues, after being cut from a second team in six months, that he did nothing. Not hit the ice, not hit the gym. Just nothing.

He also told his agent to call around, as the Manitoba Moose had too many veterans on their roster and so could not play him.

This is important. The Vancouver Canucks waived Kyle Wellwood with the knowledge that he could not play in the AHL, and so would have to flee to Europe to find ice time.

Of course, Kyle knew this too. And when Pavol Demitra became injured after those four days, prompting his recall, every team in the NHL once again passed up the chance to add him to their roster for half price. He knew this was his last chance to ever hit the ice in North America.

The Leafs were the dumb ones in this move? Every team in the league had the chance to add Wellwood to their squad, at league minimum, and passed. If the Leafs must be kicking themselves, I guess so should 28 other GMs.

The Leafs cut Wellwood because his foreseeable work ethic and worth weren't worthy of giving him ice time. They did so with the knowledge that if he cleared waivers he could theoretically be back on the team, after conditioning in the AHL. His worth to the Canucks at the start of the season was so low that they sent him down knowing full well the good odds that they would never be able to recall him.

So let's not talk about the Leafs making a mistake here. The Canucks not only took the same actions with Kyle, they did worse. It just so happened that the rest of the league had grown disinterested in his flabby self when they made the cut.

I'm happy Wellwood has found a new home, and he is back to his productive ways. He is a wizard with the puck, and he has a beautiful knack for finding the right spots on the ice. I don't personally believe that he will go on to find career success like many of the other waiver-wire players the Leafs have lost. Poor work ethic, the unwillingness to sacrifice his body and battle, these things don't last too long in the NHL regardless of talent. Alexandre Daigle was still putting up 50 or so points a season before he was shut out of the league.

Wellwood's resurgence has been a boon for the Canucks. But the expectation that if we had just kept Kyle on the roster he would have bounced back this strong simply isn't rooted in the real world. There was no way for this team to re-create the circumstances that lead to Wellwood's need to prove himself, they and every other team in the league know this.


blurr1974 said...

y aknow...i kind of forgot all that back story. we do tend to latch on to the "here's another 'former' leaf coming back to haunt us with his greatness" when in actuality, he's finally playing above potential.

As you've pointed out, he still has his drawbacks, and history suggests, this current run of enthusiasm will soon wane.

Scott Baker said...

Thanks blurr, and yeah, it's an easy thing to forget. The important thing to remember is that it wasn't just the Leafs that gave up on Welly, it was the entire league plus the team he's currently playing for. Circumstance gave him a chance he never deserved, and we'll see if he can turn himself around.

eyebleaf said...

The Leafs made a mistake.