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40 Maple Leaf and NHL thoughts as training camp opens

One of our four grown sons who shall remain nameless is not a big-time hockey fan. (He may have been turned off hockey and the Leafs the night, many years ago, when Cujo and the Leafs played a 5-1 third-period lead against the St. Louis Blue turn into a 6-5 defeat.  Maybe it was something I might have muttered about the Leafs that night….)

In any event, when I was talking with him about how I was working on a post for this site, with the NHL season around the corner, he basically said, “C’mon…didn’t the last season just end?”

He’s a big NFL guy, and is struggling with the reality that his beloved Colts won’t have Peyton Manning for the first time since he became a fan many years ago.  So I forgive him his acerbic comment.

That said, it is time for training camp,, and since we have talked a lot about the Leafs lately (and there is only so much one can say until you actually see guys perform in some kind of meaningful setting), here are some across-the-board NHL thoughts:

  1. So the Devils are going bankrupt (not really, the team claims).  Perhaps Kovalchuk could provide them with a short-term loan, at a modest rate of interest?
  2. I wonder how many NHL teams are really in some find of financial difficulty? You never really know for certain, as no one with the League will be completely honest.  But we can assume the Devils are not in good shape.  Nor are the Coyotes, clearly.  The Panthers? Not good, I wouldn't think.  The Dallas Stars and the Columbus Blue Jackets seem to be the next in line that need investors.
  3. I still like the idea of contraction.  Put Kovalchuk in a "dispersal draft" and we could determine if any teams are willing to honour his contract...
  4. Seriously, how good would the hockey be if we lost, say, four teams?  I know the NHLPA would never let it happen in this day and age, but fewer teams would mean even better hockey.
  5. I can’t remember when “rookie tournaments” drew so much attention.  But hey, it creates interest in the game, especially for younger fans. For my part, fifty+ years of cheering into all this, I need to wait until the games matter before I get too energized one way or the other. 
  6. It would be pretty interesting to see the Bruins trade Marchand.  He was an impact guy in the playoffs, but the Bruins (like the Hawks before them) got their Cup.  Now he wants big money.  They’re evidently not sure he is a bona fide star worth a huge investment. They already have to pay Krejci big money.  He will no doubt sign but it'll be worth watching to see if the Bruins will start to face cap issues like the Hawks did.
  7. Training camp always provides the same story lines, one year to the next.  Guys have either been (supposedly) getting bigger, lighter, faster, more flexible—whatever they evidently weren’t the season before.  It all depends on their nutrition and conditioning program- and whatever message they are trying to sell to the coaching staff.
  8. So, I wasn't shocked to see that Reimer says he's lost 15 to 20 pounds so he can be "quicker".  Next year he will put on weight so he can be stronger for the long NHL season...
  9. The "old fan" part of me preferred the way it was before it was the business the NHL is today.  Guys enjoyed the summer and then showed up to camp to get into shape.  That said, I guess Keith Tkachuk a few years back came into camp significantly past due, and Byfuglien is said to have enjoyed the summer this year,  so maybe they are the true “throwbacks” to the '60s, '70s and '80s…
  10. Along these lines, I read recently the Dustin Penner, now of the Kings, has lost weight and is reporting to camp in shape.  Seems I heard this same story the past two seasons in Edmonton.  Maybe Penner gains weight during the season somehow, then has to lose it again over the summer…
  11. The two young Leafs that would seem to have the most realistic shot at vying for a regular berth on the big team are Colborne and Frattin.  It will be interesting to see if either or both emerge as serious candidates for a role here.
  12. I still believe Kadri is on the team already, though he certainly can't just coast through camp.
  13.  I wonder if there is one player in the NHL that could have the dramatic impact on their team that Manning’s loss has had in Indy?  Different sport, I realize, but the Colts, early on, look lost without their leader and best player.  The Penguins were much better than that after they lost both Malkin and Crosby, two dominant stars. 
  14. Has anyone seen a single article about any of the 30 NHL teams, online or in print, that has anyone from the organization, players or staff, saying anything other than:  we will be better than we were last year?
  15.  In other words, when was the last time you heard a coach, GM, owner or player admit that they were, in fact, going to be worse this season than a year ago?  If you know of such an article, let me know.
  16. My point, in part, is that we should perhaps restrain our Leaf-related optimism and enthusiasm a tad.  Every team claims to be better at this time of year. It’s hard to play poorly  until the season actually starts.
  17. Simmons in the Sun made a fair point on the weekend.  The East is certainly strong in one area—goaltending.  The Leafs should be improved (Reimer) but will they actually be better than, say, his counterparts in Boston, Montreal, New York, Buffalo, Pittsburgh, Tampa, Carolina, etc.?
  18. While we shouldn’t begrudge a young athlete wanting to make a nice salary, I can’t help but wonder exactly what Doughty is thinking in LA.  How much does he need, to keep the next few generations of his family in good shape financially?
  19. At 6.8 million a season for many years, the 21 year-old (who some claim is not the most dedicated off-season guy…) is a wonderful talent.  And in this crazy professional sports climate, he is worth a lot of money.  But 6.8 million is not enough?  It can’t be that he needs more.  So it has to be vanity, needing to feel that he is the highest-paid defenseman, or something. 
  20. I’m all for a hold-out.  Let him sit and see if he can make a similar amount doing something else for a living.  One thing many of us have learned over the years:  you should appreciate what you have, when you have it.  Health, money, relationships, jobs.  Before you know it, life changes and what once was a sure-thing is no longer.  A little less greed goes a long way.
  21. How many great athletes have we seen wringing out every last dollar they can from their employer?  And then they complain that the team isn’t competitive enough?  Well, sometimes that’s because they’re the guy making all the money…
  22. And we also see guys who are suddenly not in demand, and they beg for a job.  Look at Owen Nolan now.  Past his prime, but he wants to hang on, just like Modano.  Suddenly, it’s not about money, but wanting to be part of the game, being on an NHL team, playing a role, anything to be allowed to play a little longer.  Before, they had to be top-guy, the best-paid player who called all the shots.  Time stands still for no athlete…
  23. To be clear, I have no issue with athletes being well compensated for being elite in their field, which is the field of entertainment.  And yes, many have “short” careers.  But greed is greed and ego is ego.  Let’s call it what it is.
  24.  Does anyone think some NHL players may do the relative equivalent of pitcher Jerred Weaver and take a little less money to stay where they are happy, rather than always seek more in free agency?  (Ray Bourque did this many years ago to stay with the Bruins and the NHLPA was not pleased…)
  25. Is Cody Hodgson in Vancouver a bit like Kadri in Toronto?  In the sense that both came to their respective organizations with a lot of hoopla, both are talented young guys, had great junior careers.  Hodgson has fought injury issues, but both remain top-end prospects.  Is this their year to make the big jump for good?
  26.  The other side of that coin:  could both youngsters be moved, if they don’t strut their stuff early this season?
  27. The Crosby situation in Pittsburgh is unfolding in a way that makes many of us think that his career, while not in jeopardy, is in a difficult spot.  Even if the league cleans up “head shots” (not fully sure how they can do this completely and still maintain the instinctive, physical part of the game, but they have to try…) how safe is hockey for a player with a concussion issue?
  28. Yes, guys like Bergeron in Boston can come back and play well again after a lengthy absence.  Absolutely.  But there seems little question that for some players, long careers are no longer in the cards.  The game is too fast, too physical.
  29.  I still don’t understand why we can’t have no-touch icing.  I listen to the arguments in favor of keeping the status quo, but then I look at all the guys who get hurt.  It’s a play we can eliminate and save careers.  Why aren’t we doing it?  It’s not like we would be eliminating a scoring play...
  30. With the absurdity of the standings because of the three-point games, why do we still have regular-season overtime?
  31. And please, can we finally get rid of the shoot-out? (Yes, I watch it.  But it’s no way to end a hockey game, or a World Cup soccer match, for that matter.) I’d gladly give it up.  Teams would play differently and I think without the silly extra point, we’d see who the good teams are, since you can’t just clutch and grab your way to the end of the game any more to hang on for a tie.  Penalties are called all the time, now—even in the last minutes of the game.
  32. Who comes out of the West this season?  Most people no doubt figure the Canucks will advance again, but I’m just not sold.  Not sure who’s better, though…
  33. I haven’t followed all the off-season NHL moves closely enough to have a well-formed view of what team has, on paper at least, improved the most over the summer.  But I will be interested to see how Tallon’s re-build is going in Florida, after his success in building the Hawks into a Cup team.
  34. From what I’ve seen, though, many of his “signings” were over-payments to get to the cap floor.  I’m not sure he’s on track to do what he did in Chicago, though that took a while…
  35. If Doughty is worth 7 million a year, what is Luke Schenn worth?
  36. I’m going to miss seeing Kris Draper play this year.  Just one of those indispensible “lesser-lights” that any good team needs.
  37. When was the last time we thought the Flyers had an absolute sure-fire number-one goaltender?  Well, they’re supposed to have one now.  But nothing matters until we see what they do in the playoffs.
  38. Can Vokoun be the missing link in Washington?  They’ve developed some fine young goaltenders, but does the experienced Vokoun push the Caps over the top?
  39.  One of the teams I will be most interested to see is the Buffalo Sabres.  They now have an owner who is spending big money.  I’m not sure they have spent it wisely so far, but I guess we’ll see.
  40. Did I see correctly that Kyle Turris may be a hold-out?  Interesting that so many of these "looking for a second contract" guys want so much.  I didn't even think of Turris, though a talented guy, as being a player who had done enough to warrant a contentious debate...


  1. Hopefully Doughty goes through some sort of maturation process over the next few years. Wonderful hockey talent but he's a child emotionally, not the first time that's been said about a young hockey player who's spent their youth being lauded at every turn.

  2. while I will not begrudge Simmons his point, I'd like to say that I said the same thing, earlier;)
    in my blog:

  3. See, #14 and #17 are related- a lot of people are assuming the Leafs have no chance because, of course, ALL the other teams have improved. Riiiiight. 14 teams will still not make the playoffs. It's why I don't even bother to read prognostications on the sport anymore. At all.
    I look at the Doughty situation and I realize there is something wrong in LA- maybe the very same wrong thing that BB has spent the last 3 years getting rid of. I just downgraded the Kings shot at a Cup in the next decade.
    Kadri is not going anywhere, simply because I have a bet with my barber that he'll score 80 goals in his first 408 games. I'd prefer he do it as a Leaf, which will make the free haircut even sweeter.
    I like comparing everyone's opinion on Crosby to the standard opinion on Lombardi. Crosby is assumed to be returning, no matter what, or it's an existential crisis. Lombardi would be a shock to do the same, and the only people it would really bother would be David Poile and his team.
    Don't expect much of anything but bottom feeding in Florida for a while. You can't throw a depth charge into your roster like that and not expect serious mediocrity. They're the only roster that JaredofLondon literally laughs at, and I agree with him.
    I really enjoyed the rookie tourney. It's chaotic, energetic hockey, but I agree with others that fighting needs to stop in them, although it would be interesting to see what would happen if a young star was taken out with a dirty hit. I don't read TOO much into the series, but the least I can say is that our prospect pipeline is heading in the right direction. Olden, Frattin, Gardiner, Blacker, McKegg should all make the team. And I think I've found this year's Moulson/Tim Brent in Mitchell Heard. That kid can play, and I love not only that he went undrafted twice, but that BB and company snagged him. I think they're looking all the time for those overlooked gems and vacuuming them up.

  4. Should have clarified that as "should make the team eventually".

  5. Thanks Ben. It will be interesting to see how Doughty progresses in all areas in the years to come.

    Sean: your comment is duly noted!

    KidK- interesting post from you again. (Free haircuts are always an important consideration when debating hockey issues...) The Crosby guessing game is just that. And I like your point about Burke finding hidden gems...