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What the Nonis extension likely means about Leiweke’s influence on the hockey department with the Leafs…


I’m not shocked that Dave Nonis has been handed the keys to the Leaf GM chair for five more years.  Though he has been on the job for only a few months, I guess it was somehow enough to convince ownership that he is the right guy for the job. (I wish the organization has shown as much faith in Reimer for his three years on the job as they have with Nonis and his six months...) I’m not sure I fully agree, but it is what it is.

GM’s generally have awfully long shelf lives.  They almost always outlast their coaches—usually several of them, before ownership realizes the guy they should have moved along was in fact the General Manager.

I’m neither a big supporter of or a constant critic of Nonis.  That the then “new” MLSE ownership group fired his predecessor and hired him without even considering anyone else struck me at the time as a bit odd.  I realize the timeline was short, given the lockout-affected season was about to start.  But I’ve always believed the Leafs should be willing and able to hire the very best hockey people they can; I’m not sure Nonis is in that league. I believe the organization did exactly that when they hired Cliff Fletcher (and Pat Burns as coach) the first time around, and also when they hired Pat Quinn and later Brian Burke.  But Nonis?

I guess you can make a case that he did all right in his time as GM in Vancouver (I’ve read many “defenses” of his work there), but truth be told, I’ve always hard a difficult time shaking my perception of him as Brian Burke’s guy.  While he is hardly a carbon copy of Burke (he has at least taken the Leafs in a slightly different direction than Burke had been taking the club) my sentiment is not altogether inaccurate, given that Nonis followed Burke to jobs in three different markets as an assistant.

That Nonis was fired in Vancouver doesn’t trouble me one way or the other.  Good hockey people get fired all the time. I’m more concerned that, while Nonis has certainly put his own “stamp” on the current Leaf roster over the past few weeks, he likely had to convince the new boss, Tim Leiweke, that he was the right guy to lead the franchise going forward.

My point is this:  Leiweke made clear a couple of weeks or so ago that he fired the previous Toronto Raptors GM because they saw the world differently.  So does Nonis now really have his own vision for the Leafs, or is his vision really Leiweke’s?  And let me say clearly, if it is Leiweke’s, that’s not a good thing.

I do not see Leiweke as a hockey guy.  Nothing he has said so far convinces me of his hockey acumen.  And he certainly doesn’t ‘get’ this market, for all his talk and bluster about a new legacy, championships and parade routes.  His comment about “inheriting” Reimer still stings (did he even know who Reimer is?), so I can only imagine how the young netminder himself feels.

(After seeing/reading what Leiweke said in his broad-based ‘apology’ earlier this week about the comments he made last week about “the past”, does anyone really believe the guy has a feel for our history or the Leaf fan base?) 

Here’s a question: what did Leiweke really have to do with the Kings winning a championship in LA? As good as the Kings were in the spring of 2012, they were an low-scoring, dull and under-achieving team until they caught fire in the playoffs and Jonathan Quick became, well, Jonathan Quick. That happens in sports sometimes—an OK team wins a championship because it peaks at the right time.  But it doesn’t mean the executives in Leiweke’s role with those “winning” franchises were the reason for the ultimate success of the team.

The LA success “formula”, the supposed “model” they used to build a winner, is no credit to Leiweke.  Winning the Cup once nowadays is no proof that you have found the road to consistent success.  Heck, teams like Tampa Bay and Carolina have won championships, for goodness sake, and I’d hardly say either of those franchises had a successful formula or model for success.  They happened to play hard, get lucky and  received great goaltending at the right time. 

So LA winning a Cup, while certainly a lot better than what the Leafs have been able to do lo these 45 or so years, doesn’t make Leiweke (who was no doubt involved but primarily behind the scenes) a knowledgeable hockey guy.

Now, if he truly understood he was not a hockey guy, but just another high-flying, cliché-speaking business executive who has somehow become a ‘somebody’ in the sports industry, I’d be OK with that.  If he sticks to building the businesses at MLSE, like Richard Peddie was supposed to do, that would be fine.  (Whenever Peddie actually began to think he understood the teams he ran, he made a mess of things.  Money, that he had no problem making…)

But I have this sense that, based on his supposed success running the LA sports empire he was part of (Kings, Lakers, Galaxy), he now thinks he knows how to build a successful hockey franchise, and I think he has, well, no clue.  I’m pretty sure the Lakers won in LA because of remarkably talented players—and Phil Jackson, the coach—not Tim Leiweke.  The Galaxy won (in part) because David Beckham wanted to play in Hollywood, not simply because of because of Tim Leiweke’s astute soccer sense and ability to attract superstars to any market he is part of. (Do we think Beckham would have signed with Leiweke if the latter ran a soccer team in, say, Cleveland? LA was the draw.)

On the hockey side, long story short, Kings GM Dean Lombardi master-minded the Kings success, not Leiweke.

So if Nonis is truly left alone to run the shop, I guess we’ll see what he can do. I’m still not convinced Nonis was/is the best guy available to run the most important franchise in hockey, but here we are. He’s here now and I’m happy to give him the time he needs to try and get us to that elusive next level.  But I’ll be deeply concerned if I continue to hear Leiweke talk and if I get the sense that Nonis is being unduly influenced by the latest MLSE hire—another guy who thinks he has all the answers.

I know many Leafs fans already like Leiweke’s ‘go big’ philosophy; that is, they love that he puts himself out there and wants to shake things up (he did so this week in the MLSE executive suite) and go for the Cup. That kind of talk can be very alluring.

Right now, however, it isn’t for me. I’ve heard bluster in this market before.

I’m guessing, based on what VLM followers have had to say here recently, that many of you are fine with the Nonis extension.  (We knew it was coming.)  If so, are you also good with Leiweke’s apparent role?

Let me know…

51 comments:

  1. Do you think FINALLY Dave Nonis is smiling? I cannot remember a picture where he doesn't look depressed.
    But more to the point of your piece, I am as uncertain about Nonis as I am about the Leafs this coming year.
    Maybe he is great - maybe the team will do really well.
    But I have no feel for either and at the moment expect to have to wait until the all star break to know.
    What does surprise me is that after such a short time with Nonis that Leiweke would be so certain that Nonis is "the guy" that he would give him a 2-yr extension.
    I just hope it isn't because Nonis gave some good advice on the parade route...

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    1. Well, there's a lot that goes into planning a parade, Steve!

      I sense you're not alone in your uncertainty about Nonis- and the coming season. Some fans really like what he has done this sumer, others not so much. I see that we are potentially better, but that always seems to be the feeling in the summertime...thanks for visiting, Steve.

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  2. I liked Burke and liked the Kessel deal but I endured four years of ribbing from my Hab/Sen/Bruin buddies on what a bad deal Burke made. Now with Seguin gone it is starting to look better and I have even teased by Bruin buddy and told him Gardiner made Seguin look so bad they had no choice but to trade him. Burke also picked Rielly and added Lupul, Gardiner, Franson and may have made a great deal on the Colborne/Biggs/Liles for Kaberle and the Phaneuf trade might still get better if Ashton makes the Leafs. But Burke also made the Komisarek/Connolly/Armstrong/Lebda/Monster mistakes along with overplaying Grabovski and Liles. So he was good but not perfect. I have a feeling it is pretty hard to find the perfect GM. My thoughts are Nonis has the same Burke plan to rebuild with young players so hopefully it will work out. I have waited so long now I am quite happy to wait a few more years and win the Cup rather than watch it all go down the drain from an impatient manager that wants results now. Before Burke was fired there were a lot of people worried that Burke knew he had to win and make the playoffs or he was done which meant he would trade future assets for a little personal job security. I don't know if that is true because Burke had pretty high ideals but just the same with Nonis set for five more years and already saying he wants to take the time to develop prospects and not willing to throw away the future that is no longer a worry. Nonis will make some mistakes but the sense I have is he will not make the stupid moves that Ferguson made where every prospect and every pick was traded away for over the hill veterans or goalies like Toskala and Raycroft with the only purpose being to save Ferguson's job. After Ferguson Fletcher returned to make deals like Stempniak and signing Finger. Quinn made some nice deals along with the Nolan and Wesley deals which again were for over the hill vets. It could very well be that Nonis is in fact the best man for the job but even if he isn't he still isn't as likely to make the same boneheaded deals some of his predecessors did. So in summary I am pretty happy with Leiweke's move and I also remember reading several months ago where Leiweke said he wanted to provide all the support he possibly can to improve the team but would not be involved in actual hockey decisions as there were actual hockey people in the organization that knew a lot more than he did. I think Leiweke really wants to have good people working for him that he feels confident can do a good job. Maybe I am overly positive but I think Nonis is patient and knows exactly what he is doing. When LA won the Cup Luc Robitaille said main reason for the Kings win was management being patient when everyone else was demanding immediate results.

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    1. If Leiweke stays out of hockey operations (though there are ways to interfere without actually trying to make hockey-related decisions) I would feel more confident, Alton. Thanks for taking the time to post.

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  3. Very well written, Michael. As much as I would like to disagree with something you said and present my own more optimistic version of the future, I'm at a bit of a loss. The best I can offer is that although I was a legitimate fan of Brian Burke, the main reason for my excitement was that it seemed we finally had someone calling the shots who possessed both a) a vision, and b) the latitude to pursue his own course of action. I think the lack of sustained focus has been one of the primary reasons for the Leafs failure over the years. Even if Leiweke is clueless, a consistent effort toward moving in the wrong direction may still be better than following a rudderless ship.

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    1. Thanks Oliver. I don't want to sound (though I already have, I'm sure) as though Leiweke does not have something to offer the organization. I just think he has come in and really missed the mark in an over-the-top and unnecessary manner the first several times he has spoken through the media. I'm sure he doesn't really care on the one hand, but he has shown a remarkable lack of awareness of this market and hits history, so I think it's far to return some commentary his way.

      That said, if the guy can deliver on his supposed vision, I'll be prepared to give him credit. Right now, it's just a lot of big talk and as best I can tell from this week's executive shuffle, re-arranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. Thanks for chiming in, Oliver.

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  4. Hi Michael,

    We'll have to wait and see how Nonis's (and Leiweke's) guidance continues to affect the Leafs' on-ice product. Nonis still had three years left on his contract, didn't he? I suppose the 5-year package is a seal of approval for his work (perhaps including that with Burke) so far.

    As for Leiweke, his public blustering about changing the status quo are reminiscent of Burke's claims to ameliorate the "Blue and White disease" (this is the same tired tune that has been played by many new executives in the past). At least Burke is a bonafide hockey guy, and made some positive changes. Leiweke, on the other hand, does not have much hockey pedigree as you say, and he certainly does not hold my views of Leafs hockey and tradition.

    I wonder how Carlyle feels about Leiweke's actions so far. I loved reading about the respectful changes Carlyle made to the Leafs' locker room last year. I can't remember if he had the Leafs crest removed from the floor so that no one could walk on it or simply made the area a no foot-traffic zone. He also brought in a huge piece of granite or some other rock from around his own home area in Ontario emblazoned with the Maple Leafs logo for prominent display. This is a guy I would not expect to take pictures down, but rather point them out to new players as models to emulate.

    My favorite jersey over the last many years has invariably been the third jersey--the 'throwback,' which has changed a few times but the sentiment remains the same; I love the one chosen for the Winter Classic in Detroit too. My all-time favourite players haven't laced up in the NHL for a while (no offense to the current players, but how can they match up before we've seen them play their whole career). And I'm not interested in modeling the Leafs after the Kings, Hurricanes, or Lightning, despite their enviable one-off successes so far. The Leafs are a team of history, traditions, and dynasties. Management should be aiming to win on Toronto's terms--as the legendary Leafs with a history older than the NHL and an unmatched fan base in hockey. We want perennial contending teams made up of heart-and-soul, blue-collar guys we love to cheer for because of the way they prove themselves on the ice and represent the Leafs off the ice--guys like James Reimer.

    Although they may be just past their primes, Clakson and Bolland are great additions. Nice to see Ranger added on D too (I had wondered about that possibility a little while back in a post here). Nonis will have to pull a rabbit out of the hat to sign all of Kadri, Franson, and Fraser, however.

    To quickly answer your previous post, so far I like the roster for next year (as long as it includes the three players mentioned above). However, part of me hates the idea of Leiweke taking credit for any future Leafs success. Nonis certainly played a valuable role in last year's success (as Burke's right-hand man), and he has made some moves to foster young talent and brought in some impressive new players too. Carlyle, warts and all, coached an overachieving team to a near upset of the subsequent Eastern champs and former nemesis Bruins. Kessel, Phaneuf, and the rest of the team played their hearts out, and I think they have a taste now and will be able to do what it takes to continue as playoff team. So, no, we don't need LA royalty to come into town and start boxing up Toronto history in order to keep on a winning trajectory.

    Cheers!
    Matt

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  5. I was nodding along with pretty much every word you wrote today, Matty D.- like you, I see Carlyle's imperfections, but believe he is a solid hockey guy who was very instrumental in Anaheim's success some years ago, and in the Leafs mini-turnaround this past season. I think he can lead the club to success.

    I want to feel the same way about Nonis; I'm just not there yet. As for Leiweke, it will not be an easy transition for me to adjust to his methods. I may never really like the guy, though I suppose that doesn't matter. I do think he has an inflated sense of what he knows and what he brings to the table, because the Kings won one Stanley Cup.

    I like your notion of the Leafs winning their way, with the types of players most Leaf fans respect and appreciate. We don't have to do it the way other teams do, though of course we need to draft well, develop our players better than we have in the past, and not kill the confidence of every talented young player who comes to town.

    As I mentioned to someone in the comments section of another post, if we move character guys like Reimer out, I won't be thrilled.

    A very well thought-out post. Thanks Matt.

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  6. I was reading about Leiweke before he became involved in the Leafs and saw people writing some good things, so I doubt all of his influence is bad.

    I think there are too many pregame ceremonies, so in that one small area I can agree with him. Keep it to 5 times a year and not every Saturday....drop the puck already!

    I don't have a problem with the extension. It removes any doubt about the authority of Nonis to act as G.M. and manage players. Unless Nonis does something bad, we won't hear the phrase "lame duck" from the media for years, which is a good thing.

    I do have one thought about Reimer and Bernier. Reimer tends to get injured. I really liked Scrivens as a backup and liked that the duo really got along but I don't know if I would want Scrivens playing 60 games in the face of another Reimer injury. We could ruin yet another bright prospect. Maybe Bernier is better suited to extended play if Reimer gets injured? Leiweke would have a good handle on Bernier from being with the L.A. organization.

    Ultimately that trade will probably do much to define how I feel about Leiweke. If Bernier flounders and Frattin and Scrivens excel then I will hate Lieweke because this is the trade where he probably had the greatest influence. I can just hear Leiweke whispering to Nonis, "Trust me, this will work out."

    Other the other hand, if Reimer gets injured (as he often does) and Bernier saves the season then I will have to say that maybe old man Leiweke was smarter than we thought. Carlyle has called Frattin inconsistent so there is no guarantee that Frattin will become a star in L.A.

    Maybe it will be good trade for the Leafs?

    Perhaps the Leafs still succeed in the coming year, but they do it in way that is different from what I was expecting in June. The new goaltending duo could work out and Ranger might be the missing piece to really solidify the defense. Kadri could have a good year. Lupul might stay healthy. Maybe we win even though we don't have the same type of speed and scoring?

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    1. The ceremonies I can certainly do without. (I'd do them much differently, anyway, as I have mentioned here before.)

      As for Leiweke, I'm sure he has some good instincts and all that. He just did not demonstrate those in many of his early interviews in charge.

      The Bernier deal may look great in three years, but I'll be from Missouri until then. I see Reimer being moved because he was "the guy we inherited".

      Thanks DP!

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  7. Wonderful article Michael. Very well said.

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    1. Thank you Marco (Hope_Smoke). Much appreciated.

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  8. I have this unsettling feeling of deja vu.

    In 1969 the Leafs hired an excellent GM in Jim Gregory. He went on to assemble a mix of excellent veterans (Dave Keon, Ron Ellis, Paul Henderson, Norm Ullman...) and prospects (Darryl Sittler, Errol Thompson, Rick Kehoe, Ian Turnbull, Lanny McDonald...) but his efforts were undone by the shenanigans of one Harold Ballard. I am thoroughly convinced that Gregory, if left alone, could have brought more than one Stanley Cup to Toronto.

    In the 90's and early 2000's both Cliff Fletcher and Pat Quinn were very good GM's but Richard Peddie proved to be the fly in the ointment.

    Both Ballard (They'll fill the seats no matter how well the team plays) and Peddie seemed to be more concerned with net worth rather than the product on the ice.

    Now comes Leiweke and his proclamation that he wants to double the value of the MLSE franchise. I have news for Mr. Leiweke. We Leaf fans don't give a damn about that; what we care about is the quality of the product that you put on the ice.

    It is very confusing to me why Leiweke would choose to give Nonis a new five year contract. Nonis had two and one half years left on the contract given to him after the Burke firing, plenty of time to prove his mettle...curious that Leiweke would feel the need to extend that although it opens the door for some interesting speculations.

    I have not come to any conclusions about Nonis. The body of evidence is not complete enough to come to any definite judgement. I disliked his trade for Bernier. I feel he gave up too much for a marginal upgrade at best. I also feel he has created a controversy where one need not exist. I still feel that that was really Leiweke's trade. I like Nonis's acquisitions of Southern Ontario boys (Bolland, Clarkson and Ranger) who grew up as Leaf fans and who really want to be here. I am hoping that he will be able to turn the remaining cap space into signings of Kadri, Franson and Fraser. He has the rest of the off season to be creative and make this happen. His performance on this matter will go a long way toward my opinion of his suitability for the job.

    If Nonis proves to be the right man for the GM position I can only hope that Leiweke will fade into the woodwork and let him do his job. Too much to hope for, I fear.

    On another note, Michael, let me say that I have the utmost respect for the excellent job that you do in producing thought provoking articles as often as you do. I know it must be difficult juggling a homelife and job while also producing the best hockey blog on the internet. I think I speak for all your regulars in expressing appreciation for your stellar efforts.

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    1. While some younger Leaf fans may not be much concerned (and I understand; it's a "today" world...) about the bit of history you cite, I lived through those eras as well, and know exactly what you are talking about.

      Ballard interfered, and it cost the franchise dearly at various points in the 1970s when Gregory was (several times) trying to build an elite squad. By the '80s, we were largely a mess- some wonderful individual talents operating within a deeply dysfunctional organization.

      Peddie managed to insert himself where he was not wanted or needed in a more recent, successful era.

      So there is a reason why folks like you and I, having seen this movie before (not this one, exactly, but a cousin of this movie...), also have a bit of a sinking feeling when the new guy blows into town telling us how smart he is and how behind the times we are.

      Like you, I think Nonis has done some good things. I'm glad Ranger is here (let's see if we feel that way in six months, when he is playing against NHL competition again every night). I do think that if we set aside who we gave up and the money considerations, the addition of Bolland and Clarkson should provide character lifts at least for the next couple of years. Bernier could turn out great, or we could end up with yet another over-hyped goalie and a good character guy (Reimer) out the door.

      The further Leiweke is away from any decision-making, the better it will be, in my mind.

      To your kind words: thank you very much, Pete. Those who contribute and post here make VLM enjoyable for me, and I hope a worthwhile stop for those who drop by.

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  9. I don't think I'm overly concerned with the extension given Nonis. If history is any indication, even a guaranteed contract does not guarantee job security for a coach or GM, especially for a team with money to burn. Should the Leafs decide at some point Nonis isn't the guy, they will simply eat his salary.

    It does speak volumes about their impression of Nonis today though. Many varied opinions about his roster moves thus far have been aired, some pretty brutal (looking at you, Pension Plan Puppets), some positive. But for now, he has the confidence and faith of his own organization.

    You of course have said your piece on Leiweke, and I echo your concerns. My hope is that he leaves the hockey decisions to hockey people, and focuses on marketing. I'm thinking along the lines of John McDonough in Chicago. He worked for years with the Cubs and made them a ton of cash despite a less than successful on-field product. Then a Blackhawks team, recognizing the public relations disaster their late owner had been, hired him on. Of course they have won two cups in short order. So do we hold McDonough to blame for the Cubs, or credit him for the Hawks? I'd say neither. He doesn't interfere with on-field issues.

    I believe that signing Beckham in LA was 90% public relations, just as McNall trading for Gretzky was (or his signing of Rocket Ismail to the Argos). I bring this up because I am crossing my fingers that he doesn't attempt a PR stunt like this with the Leafs. My main point being, he doesn't interfere with Nonis' plan. Maybe he knows a thing or two about hockey. Then so do you, and so do I, and somehow we aren't being paid to make decisions for the Leafs.

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    1. I think your point on McDonough in Chicago is on the money, Pete.

      Yes, I don't have the completely sour opinion of Nonis (or Carlyle) that some seem to hold. I try to understand those positions but do not share them. I think Carlyle is a proven hockey guy- heck, he was a solid player for years, and by all accounts has worked hard at becoming a manager and coach through the minor-leagues, etc.

      Nonis has his own background in the game, and while he lacks pizzaz, given who he succeeded, that's a good thing, to me.

      The organization believes in him now, and as you say, if things go off the rails, they'll fire him anyway. But let's give him a chance, and I sense most Leaf fans win. I was just acknowledging my, let's call it uncertainty, about the need for an extension at this point, and how he was hired here in the first place.

      Let Leiweke do his business stuff, and let Nonis run the team his way. Then he can be fairly judged over time.

      By the way, if you can figure out how you and I can paid paid to make decisions for the Leafs, let me know! Thanks Pete.

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  10. There's something to be said about personalities and how they interact with others. From my perspective, Leiweke is no different from the two fired Burke and Colangelo. Type A personalities to a T. As such, it is very difficult to get along with other apha dogs. I see the attraction to Nonis. No disrespect to Nonis but he appears to be one that is almost dull but yet calculating and professional, robotic-like. A man not particularly interested nor comfortable being at the front but is happily working diligently behind the curtains. Someone that get satisfactions from results achieved - that guy that sits back and have that smirk on his face knowing what was accomplished. It is no surprise that he is the type that are valued by the likes of Leiweke and Burke. Someone that doesn't need his ego to be stroked. At the end of the day the extension did not surprise me.

    As for Leiweke's ability running the LA teams. Say what you will about it, he has had the success. Whether that can translate to MLS or not await to be seen. Like it or not Leiweke is the type that will not tolerate any failure and will do anything to win irrelevant of any tradition, sensitivity to others or loyalty. My thinking is this is a good thing if all we care about is winning.

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    1. An excellent post, as always, Lukas. I think you touched on an aspect of the Leiweke/Nonis relationships which rings true, as likely was the case (as you cite) with Burke/Nonis.

      As for Lewieke, yes, he has had success. How much the success of the clubs he was associated with can be attributed to him (the Lakers, zero; the Kings, very little, if any; maybe the Galaxy?), well you know my view.

      I will add this: I guess I'm an unusual fan in that winning is not the only thing I care about. Of course we want the Leafs to win, but I would like them to do it with players I'm proud of on and off the ice, who represent an organization that reflects the best of the Maple Leaf legacy. On that last point, Leiweke has missed the mark. Thanks Lukas.

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    2. I hear you and like you, I believe there has to be a satisfaction from a championship other than simply winning it. The accomplishment earned through hard work, overcoming adversity, diligence with honour and fairness. A reflection of life - what truly worthy of any value, must be earned, and earning it will not be easy.

      At the end of the day, this is a business guy who is employed by a corporation. As boastful as the various remarks and in many ways disrespectful to many, I get what he is trying to do and say. Obviously, he has some learning to do but I think he will get it. Successful people constantly will evaluate and when mistakes are made will diverse from it.

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    3. Fair comment, Lukas- and accurate. Thanks.

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  11. Maybe it's just me, but I'm sick of Wickie already. He's misjudged the sentiment of Leafs Nation already with his position on nostalgia. The pre-game ceremonies deserved to be shelved in my opinion, but a team's arena should be a Hall of Fame for past and present accomplishments. Touring the hallways at Maple Leaf Gardens was often more enjoyable than the games. I noticed today that yet again Wickie is in the newspapers with an interview in The Star. Enough already, let the games begin and shunt this publicity hound to the background. Focus on the crappy basketball and soccer franchises within MLSE and butt out of hockey operations.

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    1. I'd be only too happy, Dave, to see Leiweke focus on the disasters that are TFC and the Raptors. Those organizations have been run into the ground (Peddie, Anselmi...) virtually from Day One, despite fantastic fan support. We don't need the latest self-proclaimed magician blowing into town telling us how we're going to win now because he's here. Lots of great hockey men (real hockey people) were here long before this guy and they had a passion for the Leafs and did everything they could to win a championship. This guy didn't invent passion or a desire to win.

      As Al Davis said years ago, just do it...

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  12. I completely agree with your assessment Michael. I find it really concerning that 2 of Nonis' relatively few moves have been to sign Tim Leiweke's son in law, Troy Brodie, and to get Leiweke's "guy", Bernier in a trade. Given that Nonis' moves this summer have taken the team from a place where the Leafs had plenty of cap space to work with, to struggling to find money to pay Kadri and Franson, I would have thought it would make sense to at least wait a season to see how things played out before giving Nonis an extension.

    It makes me think that Nonis got the extension not for anything that he's done (because what has he actually done that we know the results of yet), but because he'll do what ever Leiweke wants him to do.

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  13. Hi Michael
    Looks like fun ahead....Lots of opportunity for we amateur psychologists and GMs.

    Leafs have always had the resources to pay people not to work, so 5 year decision is not really relevant? Extension decision seems premature, but we cannot see in Lewicke's mind.

    For some reason, I get the feeling he may have a quick trigger finger and is an "action" person, even when not required. I cannot help but think of Jerry Jones, Owner, of the Dallas Cowboys who actually is a "football man", but despite best intentions and lots of money is unable to get back to the glory days.

    In the meantime, Lewicke might be best to follow the old proverb "Engage brain before starting mouth". To quote him "He has built his own ditch".

    If he achieves his lofty goals, most Leaf fans will rejoice.







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    1. Great point on Jerry Jones, Ralph (RLMcC). He is actually a football guy (that gets lost in the shuffle) but his reputation as a money guy and his interventionist ways as an owner harm his reputation in football circles. There is a strong feeling he should let 'real' football people make personnel decisions. He obviously feels he is qualified.

      Like most people who slip on their own sword, Leiweke can of course "rebound" in terms of public perception. But I don't know if he has the humility for that.

      But yes, if he helps the team 'win", people will be happy! Thanks Ralph.

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  14. Let's really hope, mapleleafmjt, that your last sentence is not prophetic. I want to believe Nonis will have full autonomy, but Leiweke presents as a meddler.

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  15. I wholeheartedly agree with your comment in reply to Lukas:

    "I guess I'm an unusual fan in that winning is not the only thing I care about. Of course we want the Leafs to win, but I would like them to do it with players I'm proud of on and off the ice, who represent an organization that reflects the best of the Maple Leaf legacy."

    I can remember one incident where I was ashamed to be a Leaf fan and lost all respect for Punch Imlach in the process. The season was 1968-69. Leafs were a decent 4th place team. Imlach brought in Forbes Kennedy for the final 13 games and the playoffs to add toughness. Kennedy was at the end of his career and not very good but Imlach insisted on playing him. Leafs played Boston in the first round of the playoffs. In the first game it seemed to me that Imlach sent Kennedy out to get as many Boston players as he could. The result was a 45 minute brawl with Kennedy centre stage. Kennedy amassed 38 penalty minutes and decked a linesman to boot. This seemed to deflate the rest of the team badly. They were then swept with Boston outscoring them 24-5. Kennedy never played another game in the NHL.

    The incident is partially shown beginning at the 2:07 mark.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CD88F-7GPrk

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    1. I remember that game (and the incidents you refer to) like it was yesterday. In a way I felt bad for Kennedy, because he was likely doing what he felt he needed to do. The Leafs were terribly over-matched in the first two games of that playoff series with the Bruins (did they lose like 10-0 and 7-0, before playing two good games back home?) but the brawling did not help. Thanks Pete.

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  16. Hey Michael,

    I haven't had time to comment on here for a while but have read all the posts and have always had the feeling that Nonis in the off-season had a real character shift from his usual hockey ways (stay the course and be slow and steady) to a new management style (enters the new CEO and his throw money at it to fix it approach and Nonis seems to follow suit).

    I have personally felt Leiweke to be the puppet master pulling the strings of one Dave Nonis this off-season - Nonis's hockey moves just feel like he is a different guy - and that kind of change doesn't happen over night unless your job and neck are on the line with new upper-management.

    Leiweke may be a very qualified CEO but he was not the reason for the success of those franchise's in LA, it had a lot more to do with luck and other people's work. But the most recent champions and some of the regular powerhouse franchise's have shown that in today's NHL to even come close to having a dynasty - you have to build the core throw the draft on the cheap and then do the window dressing of solid support cast throw signings/trades. The theory of buying your way/getting some of the great vet. performers to become a championship team can work on occasion but generally blows-up in your face like it did with the Jays this summer or the penguins in the playoffs.

    As for people's like and dislike of Nonis getting the five-year extension - well I agree he doesn't deserve it yet but he may work his way into deserving it in a year or two on how he delivers and is perceived to have done his job in the media and among fans.

    I, like you, respect the past and consider it to be a model to learn from - both the good and the bad. In fact the MLSE owners should the put a picture of Ballard in the office of the CEO to remind him of what happens when making money matters above all but that will never happen - since that is there goal in buying MLSE in the first place. And put a picture of Mr. Smythe to remind the CEO of the power of will and determination that can solidify a franchise.

    In the end hockey or any sports is about results/kind of like gambling. If the moves you make result in a good/best return then you are a genious and if it turns bad/for the worst - then you are an imbecile.

    We will have to be patient and wait and watch to see what Leiweke and Nonis appear to be in a few years.

    Sidenote: I absolutely agree with your thinking that Reimer's days in a leafs uniform are numbered notwithstanding an epic disaster of a season from Bernier and the opposite from Reimer.

    Sidenote 2: Thanks for all the great reading material when there is so little to work with. It's hard to find another site that quite reaches me like yours - well maybe Steve dangle - he is both funny and thoughtful - and a Scarborough kid like me - lol.

    Keep Well.

    Anon from Scarborough

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    1. I love your idea of a Ballard photo in the office of the CEO as a reminder of what happens when money trumps everything else, Scarborough Anon. It would provide a serious reminder of how a preoccupation with profit combined with blarney and bluster don't win championships.

      Letting good managers run the hockey operations just might.

      And thanks for the kind words, Scarborough Anon. I'm not posting a lot these days, but when the timing feels right, I try to offer up something to bat around!

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  17. You know what I'm tired of the Maple Leafs. I was sitting here thinking about what I was going to type and it hit me I'm just tired and disillusioned. After a half year of no drama and surprising results we are back talking about the guy who runs the entire business and his ego again. A guy who's primary focus is not and can not be on the Maple Leafs is meddling again ala Richard Peddie.

    I have no idea why there was a rush to resign Nonis when he already had a contract for 2 more years. It just smacks of typical MLSE thinking. A half year of decent, not great but all right progress and bam you get a pay raise and 5 years. It's like Toskla and Bernier, trade for someone else's backup who they want to get rid of and before they have even played a game for us they get a pay raise and more years.

    I don't know how good a GM Nonis is, none of us really do. He had a decent half year, largely on the back of the departed GM although he made some shrewd moves that helped the team. His moves this off season have been a mixed bag at best and have set the team back at worst. We went from having lots of cap space to being in real danger of having one of Kadri or Franson either hold out or get traded. Some of us, me included think the Leafs would have been hard pressed to make the playoffs over a full 82 game schedule and in fact are due for a bit of a regression this year. I hope the moves work out, I really do but I have no great expectations they will and as the first signs of failure start to set in Leiweke will gets his fingers in and like all meddlers with an over inflated sense of their worth start to panic and make a bad situation worse infinitely worse. It is not a great sign that only a month into your reign people already long for last season when the off ice bull shit (pardon my french) was at a minimum. I sense a return to the all the off ice drama of the Burke regime and already I am just tired of it. I just don't care.

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    1. Thanks Willbur- I can sense the agitation in your words.

      Do you remember a couple of months or more back, when I wrote here at the end of the Leaf season that I was looking forward to the first off-season in years where we did not have to spend our summer talking about, debating and discussing the next new goalie. I thought we finally had gotten past that.

      Lo and behold, we are doing precisely that, and in part because the new guy wanted "his" goalie versus "the guy we inherited". (Can you imagine the new guy talking like Reimer- drafted almost a decade ago, is the unwanted relative, as though Reimer's the guy they are "stuck" with...?)

      Sadly, this is the way of the world in Leafland. It never seems to change- Ballard, Tanenbaum, Peddie, Burke, now Leiweke. Only one of them was a real hockey man. Yet they run the show. A shame.

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  18. Is it me, or does this guy do just as much talking as Burke? Except that Burke was smart enough to stay away from the parade route and the history.

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    1. We knew Burke was a hockey guy, though his bombast left some of us unimpressed. But this guy, I don't get at all. His public comments were unnecessary and ill-timed. Thanks Jeff.

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  19. I know you don't like Leiweke, Michael. Many people find his style abrasive and would prefer a more humble demeanor. But I have to disagree with what I view as unfair criticism of him. Nonis has been very smart so far with the Leafs. He's an intelligent man with past experience as a GM and his personality is more in tune with what you and the MSM prefer (aka professional). He's also learned to be more aggressive(Signing of Clarkson, buying out Grabo), a reputation that dogged him after he put together a very competitive Vancouver team.

    Nonis got this extension as a sign of Leiweke's faith in him. This is so his subordinates do not make the mistake of thinking he is a lame duck. Its business and I happen to think its great. Its not my money, yours and it doesn't count against the cap. I doubt Leiweke will try to control hockey operations and to suggest he will is mere conjecture. He didn't sabotage the Kings when they won. To suggest he'd do that here is unfair and ungrounded.

    The Leafs have never been better in the past 10 years and I'd go so far as to say they're better than in the past 20. Those late 90's early 00' teams were flawed: too old, too many free agents and they tended to miss out on the best free agents. Even Joseph left town for greener pastures. Why all the negativity and concern?

    Robert from Kingston

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    1. Thanks Robert- I appreciate hearing a different perspective.

      I can see good moves that Nonis has made. I've discussed those here before. That said, all GM's make moves every summer, all teams feel enthusiastic and positive going into training camp, so we'll see over time how this all shakes out. I understand your point that giving Nonis an extension sends a signal to everyone else in the organization, including the players. But if he is as good as you suggest, it wasn't necessary. Everyone would know he would be around for a long time. No one walks away from being the GM of the Leafs.

      As for Leiweke, I (and I'm guessing others) would not be so harsh had he not come into town talking like he had a lot to do with the success of the teams he was part of in LA and essentially crapping on those of us who care about the team's heritage- which he knows nothing about, obviously.

      The new guy in charge doesn't have to be humble, but to say what he said over the last two weeks left a lot of us cold. That's on him, not those of us who responded. He knew exactly what he wanted to say and he said it. Fair enough.

      As for saying it is ungrounded to suggest that he will influence hockey operations: signing his son-in-law smacks of precisely that. The Bernier trade and his comments regarding Reimer show that as well. I think his comments (and tone) alone show he will be an interventionist guy, especially considering he now really believes he had something to do with the championships those teams had in LA. I don't see it as conjecture- I think it's a fact.

      But we can disagree on that point. I don't see my posts as always or unduly negative. I provide opinions, and a platform for discussion. Thanks Robert.

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  20. I've been a Leaf fan longer than Tim Leiweke has been alive. So maybe it's that sense of "deja vu all over again", but I've taken to simply sighing resignedly with every new story about the new CEO. We all know LA is the home of Hollywood, and he's definitely "Hollywood". I feel like I'm in the middle of some PR blitz for what a studio hopes will be a blockbuster. But - to continue torturing the metaphor - it's only after the product's out there that we'll know if we have a success or a bomb (though in the Leafs' case, box office receipts are guaranteed no matter what).
    Overall, I like the job Nonis has done so far, but I'd probably have waited until his team played a full season before I gave him an extension. There was still plenty of time left on his contract to assess his success. At this point, I think it's nearly impossible to know what we really have with the Leafs. Hopes is high, as they say, but I could say the same thing about the Blue Jays last April. For now, even though I'm offended by Leiweke's apparent cluelessness about what the Leafs mean - certainly to long-time fans - I'm prepared to give him and Nonis the benefit of the doubt until we see the pudding their recipe produces.

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    1. Well said, Gerund O'. We've said this about others in their shoes before them, but we will indeed have to give them time to do their jobs. Some puddings are worth waiting for...

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  21. I have no problem with the 'vote of confidence' contract replacement/extension given to Nonis, providing that Leiweke merely provides the extra weight with ownership that would allow a reasoned and intentional hockey acquisition to be made. If Leiweke attempts to be a puppeteer who tries to direct hockey decisions through Nonis (and his new contract), then I will be most discouraged. I would hope that it will be blatantly obvious which path we are traversing in the coming months.

    I remain hopeful that the former situation is in place and functional for a foreseeable future where prospect development continues and youth is not sacrificed inappropriately.

    I hope the extension will help Nonis with player perceptions about contract negotiations and continuity of direction for the team.

    I know that many are hopeful that we can re-up Kessel (and possibly Phaneuf) sometime before the season begins, and it occurred to me that the ability to extend players with a year left on their contracts may provide a solution pertaining to the remaining RFA's in the context of our limited cap space.

    It seems to me that players like JVR signed extensions where the first year had a much lower salary than the cap hit. Since we anticipate an increased cap as early as next year, why not pursue a solution with our RFAs that could incorporate a one-year deal at a cap hit that gets us under the bar this year, followed by a second (longer term) contract signed later this summer (but agreed to in principle at the signing of the one year deal).

    The second contract for Franson or Kadri could be announced any time this summer (after the announcement of the one year cap-friendlier deal), just like we could do with pending UFAs Kessel/Phaneuf.

    Wonder if they've even thought of such a solution?!

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  22. Good question, InTimeFor62. Is is possible, I wonder, to essentially sign two separate contracts, months apart?

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  23. Thus far, this offseason has left me utterly underwhelmed. We use assets to trade for a goalie we don't really need. We extend Colton Orr, who seriously would find no hockey-related job anywhere outside of North America, KHL and Vityaz Chekhov, but they are a team that is, unsurprisingly, a team not very good at hockey, which is something to be expected from a franchise that has hockey culture built by Andrei Markov. We boot out Grabbo to make cap room to vastly overpay the vastly inferior Bozak. We sign Clarkson to a deal I initially assumed was some sort of a sick joke, because plumbers usually don't get paid that much, even in emergency situations.

    We extended Carl Gunnarsson, so that's good, and we have a GM who very obviously wants to cater to his head coach when building a team, which is good in principle. Too bad Carlyle has his hockey ideals firmly set back to the days when Elvis still lived, and too bad Nonis is obviously too dumb to recognize it. I'd miss Burke, if not for the fact that he is the man responsible for signing them both.

    Tim Leiweke appointment and his prompt extension of Nonis is just the latest addition to a series of disappointments that just doesn't seem to end. I was on the brink of becoming a member of the infamous tank nation, just to see a couple of guys gone and maybe get a couple of good picks on the way, but Leiweke doesn't seem like someone who looks out for what is best for anyone but Leiweke. He'd just replace Nonis with another puppet.

    I used to be pretty passionate about NHL, and the Leafs in particular. I still love the sport, and I still love watching the Leafs, but it's becoming harder by the day to concentrate on what's happening on the ice, when you know there's a lot of related (and disturbing) corporate stuff going on while the boys play. This all used to be a whole lot simpler.

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    1. I know you have followed the Leafs for a long, long time from Finland, CGLN, and I can feel the disappointment in what you write. You represent, I think, a segment of Leaf supporters who see the latest moves as maybe in fact sending the team backwards (Bernier, Grabbo, etc.). While I'm trying to think more positively than that, I do hear what you're saying.

      One point we very much agree on: this all used to be a whole lot simpler. The economics of the game and the corporate off-ice stuff can feel debilitating. Thanks for taking the time to post, CGLN- I hope you're well.

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  24. Just saw this August 3rd article today (the 6th) and thought it might be somewhat helpful in 'reading' about Nonis' background. Seems like he's not exactly a 'yes' man, if he's being represented correctly by Steve Simmons.

    In any case, it may be worth the read:

    http://www.torontosun.com/2013/08/03/who-is-dave-nonis

    Seemed like the more appropriate 'thread' to post this...

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    1. The article had caught my eye as well, InTimeFor62. Thanks for sharing this. I don't think Nonis is simply a yes man, not at all. But history does show that he has followed Burke around pretty much everywhere in his professional career, so it's difficult to view him as entirely his own man.

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  25. One more link on an Elliott Friedman interview with Tim Leiweke... might be worth a listen, too.

    Seems he's got a few things to say about some of the hot button topics we've been addressing.

    http://www.dailymotion.com/video/xzphs7_friedman-1-on-1-with-mlse-boss-tim-leiweke_news

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  26. A great article mike and a lot of interesting feedback from the viewers. After taking it all in, I'd like to touch on my feelings on Leweike and the Bernier trade.
    Before leiweke came many skeptics thought Toronto would not be able to lure him away from LA because he was simply too accomplished. When they finally did get him, one of the first things he acknowledged was that his boisterous, enthusiastic personality would get him into trouble with the media. He was already aware this was going to happen. Leweike is a seller, the kind of guy who can make a pitch to a pro athlete and aggressively influence their decision with his confident, domineering approach. Having someone like this is a huge asset. Leweike did not come from wealth or even go to college, but being who he is he has been able to accomplish so much. Hes already helped make significant improvements to tfc and the raptors bringing in maximiliano urruti and changing the culture of the raptors bringing in a gm who i consider to be a stud. I didnt like the tj brennan signing but it's inconsequential in my opinion. Leweike will not tolerate losing and will continue to change the culture of mlse while bringing in big names when he can. However, clearly he did not interfere too much with dean lombardi in LA and even if he did that would make him a hockey genius as LA is a team built exceptionally well with no superstars. Either he lets his gms do their job or he personally ia a great gm.
    Without Bernier the kings could very well have missed the playoffs last season. He was sensational as he has been since junior; bernier has been a blue chip talent since day 1 and the leafs aquired him for spare parts. i apologize for my boldness but i feel its absolute ignorance to not realize what a steal that trade was. young stud goalies dont come cheap and LA only dealt bernier because he forced their hand. Leweike nonis and probably even burke would have made that trade anyday.Now the leafs have two excellent young goalies, this is not a problem when one of them is a great character guy like Reimer and the other only wants a chance to prove himself. Leweike is arrogant, but I embrace it. I think he will do great things in Toronto. I think his treatment of the past has been disrespectful but I also fully support his vision.

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    1. Good to hear from you on this one, Garey. I obviously respect your views and you raise very good points.

      We all have our likes and dislikes and I simply do not like Leweike's style - at all. He speaks as though he invented being a sports executive, and he had, in my view, precious little to do with the success of the Kings. Yet he thinks he can come to a real hockey market (because of that "success") and talk down to people who may actually understand the game and its history. That doesn't work for me, regardless of how shrewd the guy is, or how good a sales person he is. If I want to hear a carnival barker, I'll go to the circus.

      As for Bernier, he may be great here. I'll believe it when I see it. This is a different team, and a very different market for goalies. Good luck to him. I don't see two 26 year-old goalies working in Toronto. But I appreciate you making a good case for the hopeful side of the equation! Thanks Garey.

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    2. Valid points as well mike. I think anything right now is pure speculation and then things like injuries can get in the way as well, so only time will tell. Leweike talking down to canadians who have been immersed in hockey their whole lives is wrong. Many of us understand the game very, very well. Scrivens and reimer worked out well enough and they are both young. Bernier is considered in the hockey world to be quite superior to Scrivens so we will see. I see Leweike as one of two things. Either the man who calls all the shots and if this is the case, then he was largely responsible for LA's successes. If he is not this and simply a man who lets the ppl he chooses go about and their jobs then I think this is fine also. I don't think he would come to toronto and then completely uproot all his philosophies, but maybe he feels bolder in TO then he did in LA?

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    3. My hope is that he will come to understand this market and the fan base. He doesn't need to re-invent the wheel. He's not the first to believe in a "winning culture" and all that stuff.

      Many real hockey people before him- Gregory, Fletcher, Burns, Quinn, Burke and others had a vision, too, and some came very close to delivering something special. If Leiweke sticks to what he's good at and stops trying to impress us with his reputation as a "winner" he may win people like me over (if he even cares about that). Thanks Garey, good to have this discussion.

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  27. Also I did like matt frattin. I thought he had all the components necessary to be a dominant player in the league, however I agreed with Carlyle I'm assessing his inconsistincies. But for the leafs to lose this trade, frattin would have to live up to the utmost of his potential with bernier on the other hand, Absolutely busting. I don't think scrivens is good now or has potential and I like how nonis keeps his first round impact picks but trades away his other for valuable pieces like bolland. In theory not one of those picks could ever play an nhl game.
    Many have stated that LA kind of lucked their way into winning the cup. Dean lombardi built that team patiently for years and when they were finally on the cusp, he made a bold move in bringing a playoff warrior, mike richards. Then, despite the poor regular season play, he struck again acquiring carter. The kings are a brilliant team built for playoff success. Thats why they almost won again this year even when Chicago was amazing. Not a lot of teams win the cup and then shakeoff the hangover in time for another trip to the conference finals. The kings have a perfect mix of talent size grit strategy and heart. Whether or not leweike is a hockey guy, he got to see what a well oiled machine of a hockey team looks like first hand and being the smart business man he is, he will find a way to replicate this. MLSE isn't worth so much because of his financially savvy penny pinching predecessors. Its because its an unbelievable market that would explode with some championships. I believe leweike sees this better than anyone and he's preparing to make it all happen

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