A few days ago the Columbus Dispatch reported that Sharks GM Doug Wilson had turned down an offer to trade Christian Ehrhoff for Jason Chimera.
Chimera is a 30 year-old energy guy with blazing speed, a defensively sound player that the Sharks are in need of. Christian Ehrhoff is a 27 year-old Anton Stralman, a puck-moving defenseman possessing decent skating and offensive ability along with occasional catastrophic lapses in his own end.
Of course Wilson turned this trade down. As the departed John Ferguson Jr. showed us time and time again, speedy checking grinders who can play defense can be found for nothing. Bates Battaglia, Ben Ondrus, Boyd Devereaux, Dominic Moore, all of those guys played decent roles for the team and were had for no assets given up in return.
Which brings me to what this has to do with the Leafs.
No team should ever have to give up draft picks, young assets, or developing players in order to add bottom six role players. Unless the player in question is very good at what he does, it's just never worth the return. The free agency pool and waiver wire are full of these guys.
So what the fuck, Cliff Fletcher?
Pierre McGuire, during his orgasm-laden rant over the Leafs drafting Luke Schenn in 2008, took the time to state that "the rebuild is on in Toronto." Except it wasn't. In fact, it didn't start until Brian Burke took the helm of the club partway through the season.
Why might I say that?
This past season was described as "disappointing" by Mayers, in his first year with his home club he hit his lowest point total since 2004. Brought in as a defensive influence to help Toronto's abysmal power play, his contributions added up to a league-worst special teams unit.
Now, people have spoken glowingly of his dressing room performance, and on that I have no basis for critique. But we gave up a 3rd round pick for a 33 year old that added neither the offensive touch in the checking role we wanted nor the improved play on the penalty kill that we needed. In fact, Ron Wilson went on to quote the call-ups of Devereaux and Ondrus as the reason for our improved PK rate in the latter stages of the season, two players who were already in the Leafs system when Mayers was acquired.
Seen here is Hollweg effectively ending the season of a promising 18 year-old. In full view of the Leafs' own top-flight rookie 18 year-old.
I was at that game. No matter what Wilson said after the fact, what Hollweg did was inexcusable, and it's ensuing penalty and demoralizing effect on the roster lost us a game we were in control of. Ryan, I hope you'll read this some day, because I've been to a few Leafs games in my time, some good efforts and some bad losses. That day was the only time I've ever felt embarrassed to be a Leafs fan in my own building. I hope you never play another game in the NHL.
We gave up a 5th round pick. He played 25 games. Enough said.
These moves seemed a little suspect at the time, and now that we know the results I can stand by the statement that no team should ever have to give up real assets in order to pick up players of this calibre.
Burke added character and grit in Brad May and didn't have to give up a single draft pick (although he could have). Thus far in his tenure Burke has never given in to the temptation to use draft picks and prospects in order to solve the teams' immediate problems.
Combined with the draft picks or prospects we lost adding Schenn, Grabovski, and getting rid of McCabe, Fletcher's interim era with the Leafs wasn't really the beginning of a rebuild. While some of the results of his moves are encouraging, the fact is that Fletcher was continuing in the tradition of burning up the future in order to solve the needs of the present.
We've gone a full season without giving up a draft choice for an ill-advised deal. Hopefully Burke's starting his own tradition.
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