I guess some people just can’t help being—or at least sounding—arrogant.
It‘s no surprise that Rick Dudley has left the Leafs to join the Habs. Everyone knew this was happening weeks ago. And it’s even less of a surprise that he has continued to pump the tires of the Leaf prospects (prospects that, let’s face it, for the most part, he had nothing to do with…). I mean, that’s what you generally do when you are accepting a nice salary with not that much to really do in an organization with as much money to throw around as the Leafs. You say the standard nice things about how good all the young guys in the organization will be some day.
And as fans, we tend to accept it at face value, because Dudley is a “respected” hockey guy, a personnel guy with a track record of sorts (including a track record of moving from job to job, but that’s a story for another day…). And we’re desperate to believe that the system is indeed stocked with solid young prospects.
Hey, I’ve long liked Dudley as a GM. I think he did good things at a number of different markets, including Atlanta. And as for the Leaf prospects, I believe we do have some legitimate ones, as evidenced in part by the success of the Marlies this spring. (Making it to the Calder Cup finals isn't too bad, eh...)
But I take some of his grand comments about the Leafs and our prospects with a bit of a grain of salt. He had already said weeks ago Colborne would be a second-line guy next season. Now he backing off a bit and saying “if” he improves his conditioning and if he improves his skating, he will be a solid number-two center, etc. We'll see.
Again, what is he supposed to say? Trash the organization and our prospects on the way out the door? Heck, he was just happy to be released to sign with the Habs. He was just biding time in Toronto. It’s a promotion, though I doubt he’ll stay long in Hab-land, either.
In any event, allow me to nit-pick a point he made in his interview with the Globe’s David Shoalts this week, quoted below. He is talking about (and here was his last effort at playing the role of Burke protector as part of the ongoing Leaf spin-control campaign) why the LA Kings were basically not your “typical” 8th place seed. (Burke, of course, had famously said at the deadline this season that there was no point making trades so the Leafs would edge into the playoffs, only to get eliminated in four straight…)
Here is the Dudley quote:
“All you can say is the Kings played well below their capacity [in the regular season], which the average person doesn't understand,” he said. “I can guarantee you when the Vancouver Canucks drew the Kings [in the first playoff round] they weren't happy.”
Burke felt compelled to protect himself from fan criticism when he spoke to Damien Cox at the Star a couple of days ago:
“If people want to look at the Kings and try to turn what I said back on me, that’s just an ignorant comment,” he said from New York on Thursday. “I’m not going to retreat from my comment. If people want to take it out of context, fine.”
Look, I don’t blame Burke for resisting the urge to “just” get into the playoffs. If we had made it this season, we probably would have been hammered. “Making it” would likely have delayed the end of our season by a week at best—and maybe created unrealistic optimism going forward, as we experienced a year ago (and we’d have lost some assets in any trade to bring in veterans, too…).
To be clear, my criticism of Burke over the years has primarily been about his unnecessary barrage of public comments, including things like “I could have traded for four-first round draft picks” at the deadline this past season.
Well, if he could have dumped Armstrong, Franson, Komisarek, Connolly, MacArthur or whomever in separate deals for a number of first-rounders—when the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs anyway—then by all means move those guys and build up the young asset base even further. Those kind of trades a lot of us could have supported.
But back to Dudley’s point. How arrogant to say, “the average fan” just doesn’t get it.
You mean, Rick, we don't get that the Kings did not play well through a big chunk of the season? Or that they were under-achieving enough that they fired the coach? That they traded for Mike Richards? And that they have an elite goalie, or have played really well as a team, or got hot at the right time, or embraced the “message” from their old-school coach- and caught a lot of nice breaks along the way? We don’t get that the Leafs would not have been the same kind of 8th place team? Really? We’re that dumb?
No, we get it, Rick. The problem isn’t that we can’t discern the difference; it’s just that after listening to a lot of brave talk since Burke assumed control, (and we can check the quotes: we were supposed to be a playoff team in 20010-’11, and this season again…) a lot of fans simply wanted to see the Leafs make the playoffs this past season in the really mediocre Eastern Conference. No one was expecting a Stanley Cup.
We don’t pretend that we could have been the Kings. But some (not all, I well realize, as many fans are big-time Burke supporters who like his public bravado) feel that, after going on four years on the job, we could maybe have a playoff team by now under Burke- while still building a championship team for the future.
Of course, we assumed that, as part of the Burke “plan”, the “build” strategy, we weren’t going to just jump to being a Cup winner right away. We knew it would take time. We just figured we might get a playoff round in first, before we had the actual parade.
Yes, many Leaf fans just wanted a playoff appearance in the spring. No one expected a “run” to the finals. No one thought we would do what the Kings have done.
Oh well. Long story short, I’m just not a fan of arrogance—so to be told that we don't get it, well, good luck Rick. I guess we’ll miss you, though we barely knew you—and don’t much know what you did here other than get paid really well for a year while waiting for your next job.