Thursday, February 23, 2012

Never Go Shopping While Truculent

Brian Burke has done some really great things to turn the Toronto Maple Leafs organization around since the John Ferguson Jr. days. Somehow he continually convinces Anaheim and Calgary to trade with him when they always come out on the losing end of the deal.  However, while Burke has come out as the undisputed winner in several key trades (the Phaneuf, Lupul, and Kaberle deals come to mind), those successes have been undermined by some costly over payments on some severely underperforming UFAs.  The signing of Komisarek, Armstrong, Connolly, Lebda and Orr were met with some scepticism at the time, and the production from these players has not lived up to even the limited expectations they were given.

Mike Komisarek was signed as a feature of Burke truculence revolution after an “All-Star” season in 2009 to a 5 year $22.5 million contract. Three seasons later, he remains the 17th highest paid defensemen in the league, and yet he's been a healthy scratch 6 of the 10 games since his return from injury.  Expectations on Komisarek were, at best, to be a shut-down, impact defensemen and, at worst, a top 4 physical presence. Instead he’s a $4.5million healthy scratch/injury replacement who, when he plays, is less effective than Jeff Finger was. Yeah, I went there.

Colby Armstrong has contributed nothing other than increasing Ron Wilson's tweet count. He’s universally regarded as a good guy and a good teammate, but he’s paid $3million a year to play hockey well, not be everyone’s BFF.  Recently, he’s come back from injury only to take up a seat next to Komisarek in the press box. How many people predicted Darryl Boyce and Joey Crabb playing ahead of him?  Armstrong is said to be upset by this decision, but what does he expect?  He has a 3 year $9million contract, and has produced only 8 goals so far in his career as a Leaf, and none this season.

Another key figure of Burke’s 2009 truculent fetish is Colton Orr. Burke pulled out all the theatrics in a “tie optional” press conference/rant when he sent Orr down to the Marlies, as if it was the league's fault and not Burke’s own for Orr suddenly being made obsolete. Orr’s $1million per year contract isn’t crippling, and he certainly provided some great entertainment value (cough, Carkner, cough). But nobody can argue that a million dollar 4th-line Marlie is money well spent.  

When Brett Lebda was traded last year, Leafs Nation practically had a parade to see him out of town. Our friends over at PPP had “No More Brett Lebda” as their banner for months after. I get it. Lebda was a liability when on the ice and it wasn’t until Matt Lashoff was called up that the Leafs had a respectable bottom pairing. Give Burke credit for committing grand larceny in acquiring an asset like Cody Franson and the overpaid but useful Matt Lombardi for a liability. Lebda’s 2 year $2.9million contract was bought out by cash-strapped Nashville halfway through the deal. A minor UFA signing by Burke, but again, results were wildly different from expectations.

Finally, Tim Connolly. He was picked up in the 2011 offseason to be a first line centre to play with Phil Kessel. Fair enough. His 2 year $9.5 million signing was a bit surprising only due to his injury prone past. But at $4.75/yr, it could be argued that if Connolly was able to replicate his post-lockout 0.82 point per game percentage and contribute to a rejuvenated top-six, he’d be worth the money. Unfortunately, no such thing has happened. Connolly, when healthy, hasn't lived up to anyone's expectations, and is probably the league’s most expensive 3rd line centre.  Some may say he hasn't been healthy scratched because they're worried he might end his career tripping on his way into the press box. Conjecture aside, rack this one up in the “disappointing so far” category.

Imagine what the Leafs would look like if two or three of these signings had worked out as hoped. Leaf fans have mostly ignored these UFA misses because with the cap rising all the way to $64million, difficult decisions haven’t had to be made. But with key players like Grabovski, Kulemin and Franson due for raises this coming offseason, endless cap-space won’t always be such a luxury. With Toronto losing 6 of 7 while key UFA signings rotate in and out of the press box, Burke’s shortcomings have become more obvious. As the Leafs cling to 8th place in the East, fans certainly hope Burke’s got another lop-sided deadline deal up his sleeve.

**Update: after a Thursday loss to San Jose, the Leafs now cling to 9th place. Once again, Komisarek and Armstrong were scratched.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

TIm Thomas

Social media is public domain.  Once something is said on Facebook, Twitter, etc., it is now public domain and cannot be taken back.  You can delete it, but it's been seen by people, and if you're a public figure, it has probably been re-posted by others.  Parents are continually warning their children to be careful what you put on the Internet because it could come back to haunt you.

So it surprises me that Tim Thomas has apparently never received this message.  Or if he has, he hasn't adhered to it.  His snub of the President was explained by him on his Facebook page, and then recently he made a political comments in support of the Catholic Church.  Now, Thomas has been making political commentary for a while on his Facebook page and no one has taken notice, but it was the White House snub that brought all of this into the limelight.

Thomas is refusing to answer interview questions in regards to his most recent political comments. Watching his interview on Thursday in which he eventually storms off due to a reasonable and expected line of questioning made him look arrogant and unprofessional.  First of all, no members of the media condemned what he wrote, they're merely asking for clarification.  Rather than explain his comments that he posted in a public forum, Thomas states that it's his "personal life and has nothing to do with hockey or the Boston Bruins".  If anyone posts political commentary on their social media pages, they generally get questions for why they believe this, or attacked by those who disagree.  So why Tim Thomas is surprised by the fact he is being questioned about his comments is beyond me.

As for his White House snub, this is unacceptable.  It is fine Thomas disagrees with the government and the way they are in his words "out of control", but he doesn't represent Tim Thomas at the White House.  He is  a representative of the Boston Bruins organization.  I realize that the Bruins could have, and probably should have, made him go, but I don't believe that Thomas should have turned a routine White House visit into a controversy.  It's fine for athletes to have their political beliefs, but his behaviour has been very hypocritical.  Thomas plays in a building that is named after a financial institution, and the current economic situation was created by financial institutions being "out of control" and mismanaging their organizations.  But Thomas doesn't have a problem playing in this building, or earning a 5 million dollar salary while do so. 

It makes me wonder, if the Boston Bruins were scheduled to visit sick children in a hospital, and that hospital was performing stem cell research on a separate floor, and Thomas was against stem cell research, would he boycott visiting?  I highly doubt it.  Like it or not Thomas' political views are amplified by his public status as a member of a professional sports team.  And by that same token, he cannot expect to make political statement as a high profile member of a professional sports team without garnering media attention. 

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Daily Quickie

When I read this article , my first thought was well if THE Damian Cox doesn’t like the Winter Classic and doesn’t want to cover it, then the NHL has no choice but to do away with it.  Forget the revenues and viewers it brings in.  Forget the fun that the fans get watching a game outside with thousands of others.  Damian Cox sees through your shallow attempt to say you’re going back to the game being played out on the pond, NHL, so just stop it now.  

You know, Cox probably doesn’t like the All-Star game either, because of ballot stuffing, no hitting, and no points being awarded.  Only children like it, and since when do adults pander to what children want?  We’re the grown ups!  

The Big House will have over 100,000 plus people at it to watch the Leafs/Red Wings game, with thousands more who will have wanted to get tickets to it.  It will draw record numbers of viewers due to two Original Six teams playing.  But Damien Cox doesn’t want to cover it or like it, so scrap it.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Daily Quickie

Starting a new segment called the Daily Quickie where I will make a quick thought or note on what's in the news in the NHL. 

I read an article today from the Ottawa Citizen .  Wayne Scanlan talks about the atmosphere in Scotiabank Place on Saturday night during the Senators Leafs game.  As usual, whenever Alfredsson touched the puck, or his face was shown on the scoreboard, he was greeted with a chorus of boos.  This was seemingly shocking after the wonderful reception he received during the All-Star game the week before in Ottawa.

This happens in every Sens-Leafs game.  The Toronto fans outnumber the Sens fans by a long shot, and they take over the arena.  It’s not a fun atmosphere for Sens fans, but this is the nature of the rivalry. There is also a huge Leafs fan base here, and it’s also next to impossible to get Leafs tickets in Toronto.

What bothers me about this article is not what Scanlan is saying. Rather it’s the Season Ticket holders who are complaining about the overwhelming number of Leaf fans at the game, and that this is making them reconsider renewing their tickets.  This to me is a ridiculous reason for not renewing your tickets.  There are 6 games a year where the opposing team’s fans outnumber Sens fans, Leafs and Habs games.  You’re telling me that due to 6 games out of 41 you are not going to renew your tickets?  Are the other 35 games not worth it? 

Also, a lot of these Leafs and Habs fans are getting their tickets FROM Season Ticket holders who sell their tickets on Kijii, because they don’t want to go to the game, can’t make it, or just know they’ll make money off the tickets.  If you don’t want Leafs fans to overrun the arena, use your tickets and convince other season ticket holders to use theirs.  This way people who enjoy the game are Sens fans and they can enjoy the experience more.