Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Sell, sell, sell

Let's say that between now and the trade deadline the Leafs trade Bryan McCabe, Ed Belfour, Ken Klee, Aki Berg, Jason Allison and Nik Antropov, and get only one or two roster players in return. Quite apart from the future benefit, I don't even think it would significantly hurt their chances at making the playoffs. Those chances are already in excruciating pain, remember, and trading Belfour for a few rolls of tape would instantly improve the Leafs' goaltending situation. You can't tell me that subbing in Johnny Pohl or Ben Ondrus or Mariusz Czerkawski for one or both of Allison and Antropov would make a world of difference up front, and on defense… well, it would be a struggle. Not much of a change there.

They would have an outside chance at the post-season, which is what they have now. Pat Quinn coached a less talented team than would survive that purge to within three wins of the 1999 Stanley Cup final. I'm sure it would be demoralizing for the guys who remained, but, well, tough. Maybe the aforementioned roster players or the younger replacements can light a fire under them.

The "anything can happen" argument works both ways, too. If the playoffs had started tonight you could reasonably expect the Flyers to dispatch Buffalo, but elsewhere the Habs would play a totally unproven Carolina team, the Sens would play the defending Stanley Cup champions, and the Czech National Rangers would take on Martin Brodeur and his Devils. It's mighty tough to pick a favourite out of those, especially if Toronto somehow managed to draw Ottawa in the first round. The Leafs have underachieved horribly for much of this season. If John Ferguson keeps this team together and they simultaneously get healthy and find their stride, they might pull off a round or two. Hell, they might go to the final. Stranger things have happened.

So what should Ferguson do?

He should tear the goddamn thing down, that's what. The playoffs are a crapshoot. GMs have to make a determination as to how their dice are weighted. As much as most teams have a real shot at the playoffs or at a decent playoff run, the Leafs' dice are weighted more against them than at any time in the Pat Quinn era. And yet, Ferguson tells the Star: "We're not ready to concede anything."

Sigh. No one's asking you to concede anything, buddy. They're only asking you to sell every pending unrestricted free agent you have to the highest bidder. 11th place teams should only stand pat or beef up at the deadline if they desperately need to get into the playoffs, which the Leafs clearly do not — one year of extra-early golf won't hurt this franchise, and they're in great position to get exactly that anyway. Liquidating what few valuable assets the Leafs do have, on the other hand, could give the team's future a considerable boost. As would a new coach, which had bloody well better be in MLSE's summer plans. This really is a no-brainer.

Mr Ferguson, tear down this team.

(Cross-posted to Tart Cider.)

(This isn't exactly the ideal theme for my first post on a blog that presupposes a "Battle" of Ontario, but hey. My team will be life and death to make the playoffs tomorrow morning, but at least it won't be the Ottawa Senators. Thanks to Jay for the invite.)


  1. I'm with you on everyone but McCabe. I don't understand this obsession in the Toronto media with dumping a guy who's proven himself to be a solid top two defenceman. There aren't many of those guys around. The fact that Brendan Witt is considered the big prize on defence coming up to the deadline shows how valuable a really good defenceman is. Where do you think Witt was on the Olympic team selection depth chart? McCabe is a good defenceman. The Leafs have four months to sign him. They should do it.

    Sure, he's not Scott Niedermayer and he's not Zdeno Chara. I don't want to spark a BoO flamewar, but Wade Redden will probably be the best available defenceman next summer, assuming the Sens can't fit him under the cap. How much better is Redden than McCabe? Not a heck of a lot. He's a bit better defensively, a bit worse offensively. Overall, I'd probably rather have Redden by a hair, but a lot of teams are going to be after him if he even does become available. Similarly any other good free agents. The Leafs have the inside track on McCabe (who, for one thing, seems to realize what a big part of his success Kaberle has been).

    As for the rest of this season, who's going to play those 30 minutes a night that McCabe eats up? The Leafs have two good defencemen and a pile of mediocre ones. Without McCabe, they have one good defenceman and a pile of mediocre ones.

  2. Back when the small market teams in Canada were struggling financially the Leaf orginization and Nation resisted any plan to help.
    In Ottawa,the players had to wait for their paycheques because of the cash flow problems Bryden had.
    We hung in there ,attendance increased as we showed our resolve to keep this team.The new CBA helped even the playing field so the smaller market teams could compete with the other teams that were financed by teachers unions and taxpayer funded media centers.
    So how ironic is it to see the one team that resisted fair competition become the victim of a salary cap.
    Yes Leaf Nation,we Sens fans are enjoying your slide,not because of the playoff history we have with you but because of your attempts to preserve your hockey monopoly in Ontario.Blow up the Leafs real good!

  3. Welcome Chris.

    I watched JFJ on TSN last night saying how the master plan hasn't changed.

    I guess he's got a 10 year plan and is encouraging people to keep those season tickets so you have the first chance to get playoff tickets for the 2010 run!

  4. Yes, yes, yes, and yes! Sell, sell, sell, sell, sell!

    Ideally, it would be nice to keep McCabe but not at any cost. At this point, I'd say there are no players who are 'untradable' in theory but likely a few who will not be considered (ie. Sundin, Telqvist).

    Change at this point would be welcome, both for the present and the future, last night's spirited win notwithstanding.

  5. Duff, getting done over by something you tried to prevent isn't 'ironic', it's 'obvious'. The Leafs try and buy success, of course they fought a cap.
    Ironic would be if a small market team that fought hard for the cap loses one of their top defencemen and a couple forwards because of it.

  6. Yes,Jameso,that would be ironic in a way and that is why those small market teams rely on scouting and good drafting.
    The cap will apply to the buyer as well so every team will change in the future.
    My point about the Leafs was that they fought the existence of another team in their so called region.