Bye-Bye Phil!

Phil Kessel

Good trade.  Maybe even a great trade.  Just over 24 hours ago Phil Kessel was traded from the Toronto Maple Leafs to the Pittsburgh Penguins.  Fantastic day, in my opinion.  I was going to write this blog yesterday – the day of – but thought I would let the trade sink in for a bit longer.  I also wanted to listen to some of the local radio shows to hear from the fans that call into these shows.  I find a lot of these fans both comical and frustrating. Throughout the last few years most of these fans have been calling for the Leafs to move Kessel and his contract at any cost.  The impatience of these fans was frustrating. The lack of insight these fans exhibited was comical. It is not easy to make a trade in the NHL anymore. Salary caps and no movement clauses play a huge role. The dollar amount of Kessel’s contract was a huge problem under the salary cap. Couple that with his bad reputation and he would not be an easily moved asset! Despite the difficulty in moving a commodity like Kessel, the Maple Leafs pulled it off! Maple Leafs fans should be happy! They had been demanding this for a couple of years now! However, I had a feeling that this trade would not sit well with the folks that call into these shows on a regular basis.  I was not disappointed.

 

Dejected Leafs Fans

Many of the calls I listened to hated the trade.  Many of the callers thought the Maple Leafs didn’t get enough in return.  ‘Trade Kessel right now!’ they yelled and screamed!  Then the trade actually happens and what the Leafs came out of it with is not good enough! Frustrating!  I have no idea what these fans expected to get in return!  Oh wait, yes I do….the Penguins next 10 1st round picks and Sidney Crosby.  Comical!! The Maple Leafs got a good return on this player, better than what I would have expected…how do these fans not see this?  The elements have been broken down many times all over the media. What team wants an over-priced player with a reputation for being out of shape and lazy on the ice? On top of this, it has been widely speculated that the Maple Leafs wanted Kessel on the next possible train out-of-town as soon as possible. Based on all this, how the hell were the Maple Leafs expected to get anything more than a bag of pucks in return?

 

Phil Kessel Lockerroom

Phil Kessel scores goals. That is why he has the huge contract, that is why the Leafs were actually able to trade him to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Maple Leafs were lucky to trade him at all. The fact they got what they got in return is damned amazing in my opinion. I like the trade, I think the Maple Leafs like the trade, I think the Penguins like the trade and I think a large portion of Leafs Nation likes the trade. Guess who I think doesn’t like the trade (other than the fans I have been talking about)? Phil Kessel. That’s right. I think Kessel is in a tough spot and he knows it. I heard a brief quote today from Kessel and he said all the right things, but I don’t think he is enjoying the possibility of failing on such a huge level. Over the years many people have speculated that Phil would be happiest when he isn’t the major attraction on a team. He doesn’t like the spotlight. He doesn’t like the pressure of being the #1 guy. He did not like the scrutiny he faced in the hockey-mad Toronto market. He was the big star in Toronto, the pressure didn’t suit him at all. The Penguins are a popular team in Pennsylvania and in the U.S., but they are not anywhere near the popularity of the Maple Leafs in Toronto. Most of the Penguins players are virtually invisible on the streets. That is the kind of place a lot of folks speculated Kessel would thrive in. I don’t think so. I believe he is under the most pressure he has faced.

 

Phil Kessel

In Toronto, if he didn’t play well or slumped folks would often point at the lack of talent around him being a major contributing factor to his ‘poor’ play.  In Pittsburgh, when Kessel slumps with all that talent around him, who will get the blame?  Kessel.  During games as a Maple Leafs player, Kessel was shown many times curling off to the bench, instead of back checking (which contributed to his horrendous +/- rating).  What is Kessel going to do when he peels off to the bench and gets passed by Sidney Crosby – the best player on the planet – on the back-check?

 

Sidney Crosby

The three major parties in the trade are the Maple Leafs, the Penguins and Phil Kessel. It would be nice if all three major parties come away from this trade happy, I think the possibility of Kessel’s career being hugely affected will be the most likely outcome. In the trade, the Penguins lose some young, unproven talent. The Penguins don’t even have to pay Kessel’s entire contract! The Maple Leafs will help them with that issue.

 

Crosby in Warm-ups

The Penguins expect to take a pure goal scorer and surround him with some of the best players in the game. Other than all-star games and World Championships, Kessel has never played with this kind of talent. Kessel scoring a ton of goals makes the Penguins a favourite in the East. What is the downside for the Penguins? Kessel going into a hole and never coming out. However, with the talent on that roster, the Penguins would be able to recover.

 

Sidney Crosby Ring

The Maple Leafs did quite well in the trade. They unloaded a huge contract, at least most of it anyway. They got rid of a lazy, out of shape player who refused to play defence. The Leafs also picked up some prospects and draft picks. These elements are crucial to a re-building team. Prospects are always a gamble – there is no way to know for sure if they will become good players – but that is the chance every team takes. In the salary cap era of the NHL, draft picks have become one of the most valuable commodities a team can have.

 

Shanahan, Leafs President

The Maple Leafs picked up two early draft picks. The 1st round draft pick is conditional on whether or not the Penguins make the playoffs over the next two years. If the Penguins don’t make the playoffs at all in the next two seasons, the Leafs don’t get a 1st round pick, it will become a 2nd round draft pick. I think the Penguins will make the playoffs, they are that good of a team. What is the downside for the Leafs? The goals Kessel scored will not be replaced, not by anyone on the current roster and maybe not on future rosters for the next few seasons. But if some of the prospects pan out, they should recover some of those goals, which should mean a more balanced, deeper offence.

 

Kessel.0

The Kessel trade was the major move the Maple Leafs made during the opening of NHL Free Agency. They signed 26-year-old Mark Arcobello, a small centreman with some offensive skills. A smart kid (Yale) who may just need a break finally. The Leafs also signed Matt Hunwick, a 30-year-old defenceman. Hunwick has bounced around the league and is on the small side. Hunwick skates well and handles the puck well. The Leafs also signed 32-year-old winger P.A. Parenteau. Parenteau is not a huge player, but another depth player. The Leafs re-signed Daniel Winnik and Richard Panik.

Daniel Winnik

Neither player is 1st line material, but are good 3rd and 4th line depth players. Based on last season, both were considered upgrades to previous depth players the Leafs had. None of these players will be superstars on the Maple Leafs roster. This is a re-building club and will need bodies on the bench. Signing elite free agents at this juncture in the re-building process is pointless. A waste of money, as one or two elite free agents will not be enough to make this team a Stanley Cup contender. The salary cap era has forced teams to re-build through the draft, instead of through free agency. Those days are gone. The sooner the crazy fans in Leafs Nation realize that the better. Be patient (and yes I realize 1967 is a long time), stop freaking out every day.

With Clarkson & Kessel gone, there is a light at the end of the tunnel for me. Getting rid of a few more players like Phaneuf, Lupul and Bozak would help my Leafs head a lot. The club is on the right track in my opinion, for the first time in years. And coincidently enough, my excitement level for this team is slowly growing again.

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Babs Era Begins!

It has been almost one whole week since the Maple Leafs tole the spotlight from the Argos with their announcement of Mike Babcock as the team’s 30th head coach. What a mess that day was…the sports media went crazy and a certain section of LeafsNation smoked a cigarette about 36 seconds after the announcement. For those of you who don’t know me or don’t follow me on social media (and hey, why the hell would you?), I have a bit of an issue with a certain group of LeafsNation. These are the folks that flood social media and the radio shows after a Leafs win with comments about the team’s chances of winning the Stanley Cup. These are the same folks that will call in after a Leafs loss and suggest a million things they would do to fix a sinking ship. This happens no matter what number of game the club is at in a season…could be game #1…game #32 or game #79. I jumped on the Maple Leafs chat about 20 minutes after the news was announced and there were comments about being ‘a Stanley Cup contender right now’ and ‘start putting Babcock’s statue up’ today!

Bab's Results

These folks make me want to put my head through a wall. I cannot imagine living my ‘fandom’ life on such dramatic ups and downs. The Leafs are a horrible team and very little has been done with the product on the ice, and as much as a good coach can make changes, the players are guys who have to execute night in and night out. Last season’s Leafs club was one of the worst in decades. Babcock should make changes…positive changes….but his changes will only go as far as the players execute.
Babs!

I like the hire, he is one of the best coaches in the game today (Quenneville is pretty damned good in Chicago). His gritty approach to coaching is what I believe is needed to survive in today’s NHL. Babcock is fully invested in a team during the NHL season, not to say previous coaches weren’t, but Babcock is definitely what many folks call a ‘grinder’. Some folks would definitely be unable to handle the daily stress associated with the constant pressure of the Toronto media, Babcock seems as though he would be able to handle it. All this is personal opinion of course, no way to know for sure until either he hoists a Stanley Cup in Toronto or gets chased out-of-town like the last few qualified candidates. Let’s be perfectly clear however, Babs will not hoist the Stanley Cup with the current roster….no way…no how.
Bab's Normal Look

Ontario-born, Saskatchewan raised…a graduate of McGill University in Montreal…Babcock has coached at just about every significant level of hockey in this country, CIS, CHL, AHL and IIHF. Babcock has won a gold medal as Team Canada’s coach at the 2010 Olympics and has won a World Championship with Team Canada in 2004. Add a Stanley Cup with the Red Wings in 2008 and Babcock is the only coach (so far) to have achieved the rare ‘Triple Gold Club’ in the hockey world (Olympic Gold, World Championship & Stanley Cup).
Mike-Babcock

There are only two glaring things left that I don’t see on Babcock’s resume…..a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach and a World Jr. title with Team Canada – both of these are still more than attainable as Babcock is only 52. And of course a Stanley Cup win in Toronto is also not on his resume at this point….cue the insanely rabid section of LeafsNation…….GO BABS GO!
Saviour!

Suh Should Be A Dolphin….I Think?

I have been on the fence about seeing Ndamukong Suh in a Dolphins uniform for a few days now.  Prior to that I was on the fence about the possibility of Suh being in a Raiders jersey this season!  Several weeks…maybe even a few months ago…RaiderNation began getting excited about the possibility of Suh playing for the Silver and Black this season.  I never really gave the idea much thought.  In recent years the Raiders haven’t caught many breaks when it comes to football.  It would be fantastic to see a superstar player like Suh terrorizing AFC West quarterbacks as a part of the Raiders organization.  It would be fantastic to see Suh in a Raiders uniform, helping to bring back some respectability to the club.  As I said I didn’t give it much thought at the time.  The rumours continued among RaiderNation on Twitter, Facebook and other forms like the Raider Nation Podcast.  As I listened and read more I began to believe there might just be a chance Suh could end up on the west coast next season playing for Jack Del Rio.  That began to make me nervous.  First of all the guy is a bit of head case….he takes some stupid penalties that end up hurting the team in the end.  Maybe he would mature and not do some of the really dumb things….maybe he should keep that stuff in his playbook because he would be a real throwback to what being a Raiders play was all about.  The more I thought about the situation the less concerned I became about his play/antics on the field.  More and more I began to worry about how much money Suh was going to get from the Raiders.  As I write this, his is apparently still negotiating contract terms with the Miami Dolphins, and league experts/insiders are saying he will end up being the highest paid defensive player in the history of the league.  Which means a few million dollars over more than a couple of years.  It means a lot cash.  A lot.  The biggest problem clubs in the NFL run into when dealing with superstar contracts is how much is too much?  Having too much money tied up in one superstar limits how much money a club can use to surround that superstar with players good enough to help win a Super Bowl.  It doesn’t always happen…in fact it rarely happens in the NFL.  It rarely happens that one player on either side of the ball can guarantee a Super Bowl win.  Teams eventually have to find players to fit under the salary cap…this is why players like Peyton Manning and Tom Brady seem to be forever re-structuring their own contracts so that the club can spread some of that money around for other players.  The more I thought about Suh in a Raiders jersey the more I became worried about how his contract might handcuff the organization.  When word leaked out that the Dolphins were the front-runners for Suh, I was actually a bit relieved.  The Raiders need a lot of players at a lot of positions.  Players that are better than the ones they have trotted out onto the field over the last decade.  That costs money.  Ndamukong Suh on the Raiders means a lot of money doesn’t go to helping a team that is weak all over.  The Detroit Lions have Matthew Stafford and Calvin Johnson – both better at their position than anyone the Raiders have had in years.  Johnson is arguably the best wide receiver in the game today and the Lions still didn’t do much with Suh in their line-up.  The Lions couldn’t afford to pay Suh what his market worth is so they had to let him go.  The Raiders need to be signing a lot of players in order to solidify their team before they run out and grab a superstar like Ndamukong Suh.

Raider Nation

Raider Nation

We are less than 24 hours removed from the NFL Free Agency period opening up yesterday and the Dolphins have yet to announce the Suh signing as official yet.  It appears they will have to clear out some money by releasing players in order to fit Suh’s new contract under the salary cap.  The Raiders had a ton of space this off-season under the cap, second only to the Jaguars.  Meaning they went into the off-season with a lot of cash to spend on players.  Having the money to spend doesn’t mean thing if it is spent unwisely.  The Raiders need to be better for a long time in my opinion.  Suh would make their defence better this season, and for at least some of his remaining contract.  But that would probably be it.  That isn’t good enough.

In the end, I would love to see Ndamukong Suh on the playing field in the silver and black wreaking havoc on opposing quarterbacks….but not at the cost it would take to bring him in.

Raiders Fans

Some Words To Live By…

Originally posted on my Blogspot site, which is no longer active…posted originally on March 13th, 2012

Tennis should only be played on grass or clay.

‘Chocolate’ is the only kind of milk.

Sports is reality TV.

When all else fails – steak medium rare please.

Wings – big, dry and the spicier the better.

Garlic can never be underused – add more garlic!

Microsoft not Apple.

My Canada includes Quebec, but not the U.S.A.

Burgers are king, not franchises.

I believe in the sky, mountains, oceans, prairies, the sun, the moon and the planets.

Mother Earth is everyone’s mother.

I believe in large portions.

I believe in mini-skirts and the push-up bra.

Curling is better than bowling.

Star Wars is better than Star Trek.

I believe in the wrist shot, the clean-up hitter, the 3-point shot, the sack dance and the 400-yard drive.

Newman is evil.

The Coyote should never catch the Roadrunner.

And no, I don’t ‘hate that rabbit’.

The walnut is underrated.

I believe in little green men and George Noory.

George Lucas did screw up Star Wars.

Real grass over turf.

Coke over Pepsi.

Snickers over Mars.

McDonalds over Burger King.

I think Bailey Quarters was hotter than Jennifer Marlow.

I didn’t care if Joannie loved Chachi.

Popcorn should always come with extra butter.

Gretzky should have been called for high sticking.

Hull’s goal was good.

I am fine with the last Soprano’s episode.

David Lee Roth is Van Halen.

Elvis, Morrison and Bruce Lee are dead.

Ice cream is the perfect dessert.

Doc Martins are a running shoe.

It’s Wendel, not Wendy.

I don’t care who framed Roger Rabbit.

Jersey’s shouldn’t be tucked in…ever.

I believe in sandals, bare feet, shorts & t-shirts.

Ketchup & salt are overrated.

Pizza is breakfast, lunch and dinner.

BBQ in the winter.

Cats need their claws.