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Cody Franson signs somewhere (who really cares?) and 15 Leaf thoughts

Let’s face it.  As fans, probably the best thing we can do through the lockout is ignore it, as I posted here last week.  The longer we pine for the return of NHL hockey, guys like Krys Barch in Florida (does he play for the Panthers? I knew precious little about him- at least until he took to Twitter on the weekend...) ) will believe we can’t live without them.  And they will use their “platform” to try to convince us that hockey players have it rough because the big, bad NHL owners want to take their money away—and as a result, some players may even have to work for a living after they retire from hockey.

Imagine that.

As I’ve said here many times, maybe the players would like to try and make the money they’re being paid doing something else for a living, eh?  Let’s see how that would work out.

Before I go on, I’ll set the lockout aside while pondering the following Leaf thoughts:

  1. Does anyone really care that Cody Franson has signed somewhere to play?  For a while on Monday, there were reports that he would not return even if the lockout ended.  But would it have really mattered if he couldn’t come back and sign with Toronto?  He seemed like a nice NHL defenseman at times last season after some earlier career success with the Predators, but he didn’t exactly set the league on fire.  So he’s just another Leaf looking to take someone’s job in Europe.
  2. The Kadri thing will blow over, but I’m convinced there is something not quite right in the culture of the organization.  I’ve tried to say here for years that Burke is way too much about “I” and “my team” and how he does things, as though he invented the position of General Manager.  The organization supposedly established this whole “earning your sweater” thing but that's a fraud, really.  You mean to tell me that, on a team that has stunk for the four years Burke has been here, all those guys have earned their sweater every night?  Not a chance.  But they sure seem obsessed with making Kadri the poster boy for earning a roster spot.
  3. I never believed there was a sense of entitlement here before, or the much-discussed “blue and white disease”.  But seeing a) how long Wilson stayed on the job even though he and Burke were not on the same page about being a “tough” team, b) Burke’s never-ending public comments that just don’t stand up to scrutiny (e.g. “I always build my teams from the back end…”),  c) L’affaire Allaire,  d) the unnecessary references to Kadri and e) the fact that this management team can’t attract top-tier UFA’s, (and those are just a few examples...)  I think there is a problem now, if there wasn’t one before…
  4. Cap or no cap, the fact that a Leaf line-up badly in need of a jump-start and fresh blood might not be able to integrate Kadri and other youngsters in the line-up because players like Connolly and Lombardi are here is a reflection of some terrible personnel decisions by management.  There’s just no way to defend that.
  5. I like Reimer a lot, but if the season started tomorrow, does anyone believe Burke was not trying to obtain goaltending help this past summer?  Luongo was on the table, for sure (and still may be).
  6. Do you believe the Leafs are really and truly prepared to go an entire season with Reimer and Scrivens in goal?  After last season, not a chance.
  7. I wonder how the Leaf players who are waiting out the lockout and fighting the good fight on the CBA front lines will feel about teammates that basically left the union brotherhood to pick up a pay check in Europe?
  8. Every good NHL team needs elite defensemen.  Do the Leafs have any?
  9. Though the results don’t show it, the Leafs have been an easy team to coach in terms of motivation the last couple of seasons.  Why do I say that?  Well, they are a young team, filled with players simply trying to make—and stay in—the line-up.  No way do young guys challenge a coach’s authority.  The Leafs had no superstars (Kessel being the closest thing we have) and barely any veterans.  The only time Kessel expressed frustration a couple of seasons ago, he was told firmly never to go off message again.
  10. That said, I wonder what will happen the first time there is an issue with a guy being benched, etc. this coming season after the revelations from Allaire that he wasn’t allowed to do his job properly.  Something was going on behind the scenes.  You can bet the Toronto media will be primed to look for discontent everywhere now, though the Leafs will try to shut down any perception of rebellion.
  11. Rick Nash was injured in one of his first games in Europe.  What happens to guys like Nash, who are under contract, if they suffer a serious injury?  Do the Rangers have to pay him for getting hurt playing for someone else?  We wouldn’t be thrilled if he was a Leaf now (as we thought was possible at one point last season) and he was not able to play after the lockout.
  12. One-time would-have-been Maple Leaf Tyler Seguin struggled in his first game in Switzerland or wherever’s he’s playing.  This should not surprise us.  I don’’t imagine he grew up wanting to play for whatever team he’s on right now.  He’s there to get paid, stay in some degree of shape—and pass the time.
  13. I just looked at the Leaf current roster.  It does not inspire.
  14. Can someone fill me in on Michael Kostka?  He is listed on the Leaf roster on their web site.  He’s one of their top-8 defensemen?
  15. I wonder how Phil Kessel is staying in shape during the lockout?

Thanks to those who continue to visit VLM despite the lack of Leaf-related “news”.  I’ll aim to continue to post as often as possible…


  1. Michael,

    Loved that post. I was nodding along like it was a comment of mine that I was reviewing before clicking publish. The only difference seems to be that you put my literary talents to shame. Bang on with those thoughts.

  2. Mike Kostka is the player that scored against the Marlies to win the game (3) off the stanchion and into the net Scrivens had vacated to retrieve the puck that should've gone behind the net... not in it.

    By all reports he's a great signing for the Marlies and probably moved up the list because Franson signed overseas (and, not yet, 'here').

    The Leafs may not have an elite defenseman yet, but the top 4 may see some new blood if the obviously motivated (and extremely fit) Paul Ranger finds a return to form on the ice. I'm watching with interest!

    A comment on Krys Barch... I think that everyone (to a great extent) tends to be rather insular in their perspectives and compares themselves within their peer groups. Perspective beyond what they know is generally quite rare. He appears to feel 'poorly paid' on the lower end of the NHL scale, but his words belie a sense of entitlement.

    Did he not choose to play hockey... or am I missing something? I chose to pursue a Master's degree, yet I'm doing whatever I can in this economy making far less and taking significant risks in so doing. Here's my perspective... I'd love to make $750k for one year doing what I'm doing (risks and all), AND keep getting paid while I rehab for the injuries I pick up along the way.

    Hard to feel for ya' there, bud! Hope your suffering comes to an end soon, so I can focus on your game and stop reflecting on how things suck for me!

    All the best in your struggle...

  3. Thanks Jim- I appreciate that. And thanks for sticking with VLM. despite it being a slow time for "news"!

  4. First off, I thought you might be interested in this take on the strike:
    It reflects my disbelief that the league is shutting down just when they've gained a toehold in the heretofore elusive US market. Talk about taking the fans for granted!
    As for Franson, I'm one of the people who think he'll benefit from Carlyle's coaching. He showed flashed of real talent last year, and he's got some size.
    There's no question in my mind that there's considerable dysfunction at the heart of MLSE, and it's spread to just about every team they own. As I've said before, I doubt a pro sports team can be a champion when it's owned by a group of investors, as opposed to a passionate and determined individual.
    As Kadri's been in the news the last few days, can anyone say he contributed less than Connolly or Lombardi, given his limited time?
    I'm with you on Reimer and Scrivens. It's interesting to note that Burke et al have not delivered on one of their post-season promises to improve the team.
    And no, the Leafs do not have an elite defenceman. (see previous sentence).
    Kostka is a defenceman who played US college hockey before bouncing around from Buffalo to the Panthers to the Lightning. He played for Calder Cup winners Norfolk last year, and signed with the Leafs as a free agent.

  5. I guess that's part of my "issue" with all these players (Lupul was at it again today) who are complaining, InTimeFor62. I just don't think "fairness" is an argument when so many guys earn millions. If they don't want to play hockey, do something else. They have a choice. You expressed it well. I understand that athletes will be awfully well paid- I just don't want to have to listen to the moaning...

    And yes...that goal- now that one in the AHL playoffs was not one you see every day!

    We'll see if Ranger has a re-birth. Thanks InTimeFor62...

  6. I'll check out that article, Gerund O'.

    To me, there are huge issues within MLSE- and they have always been there. Pat Quinn was somehow able to overcome meddling and interference and build a team that was very competitive in the playoffs every year. I realize it was a different "system" with no cap, and it got harder for Quinn, I think, after Steve Stavro lost control of the team and Tanenbaum took over.

    This is an organization that does a terrible job with every franchise it owns. Awful.

    Thanks (and thanks to InTimeFor62 as well) for the info on Kostka.

  7. "Does anyone really care that Cody Franson has signed somewhere to play?"

    No, he's still a UFA. He could be quite useful and/or valuable in a trade. Next year, if Paul Ranger comes back to form he might prove superior to Franson.

    "The Kadri thing will blow over, but I’m convinced there is something not quite right in the culture of the organization."

    I think you expect too much. Even winning teams like the Oilers dynasty had dysfunction. I can't even write the stories I have heard, but those Oiler teams had world-class HHOF talent at every position. Who from the current Leafs is HHOF?

    "I never believed there was a sense of entitlement here before, or the much-discussed “blue and white disease”... I think there is a problem now, if there wasn’t one before…"

    Again, I think you are expecting too much. Burke's sense of loyalty may have gotten in the way of earlier departures for Allaire and Wilson. Lack of UFA signings? That seems more about this team not being a contender and Burke's unwillingness for long contracts.

    "Cap or no cap, the fact that a Leaf line-up badly in need of a jump-start and fresh blood might not be able to integrate Kadri and other youngsters in the line-up because players like Connolly and Lombardi are here is a reflection of some terrible personnel decisions by management. There’s just no way to defend that."

    I don't see it as a big problem. Both contracts end this year, plus what if Kadri flounders and isn't fully ready this year? The development of players is tough to predict.

    "Do you believe the Leafs are really and truly prepared to go an entire season with Reimer and Scrivens in goal?"

    I believe they are ready to give them a look while grinding down the price on Luongo.

    With the lockout, this problem matters less plus they get a further look at Scrivens to see if his playoff run wasn't a one time thing. The AHL is going to be a bigger test this year. If Scrivens is still shutting out guys like Eberle and Nugent-Hopkins at Christmas, the Leafs might feel pretty comfortable.

    "Every good NHL team needs elite defensemen. Do the Leafs have any?"

    Phaneuf and Gardiner might become elite. It takes time we might see some further improvement from Phaneuf. Reilly and Matt Finn also look amazing.

    "Can someone fill me in on Michael Kostka?"

    A really nice signing. He had 55 points as an AHL defenceman one year. He could do wonders for the Marlies and might surprise if called up to the Leafs.

    "I wonder how Phil Kessel is staying in shape during the lockout?"

    Somewhere in Wisconsin, another empty chip bag hits the floor as a doughy Kessel quietly smirks while reading yet another story on Kadri's fitness level.

  8. You make lots of good points as always, DP.

    The only thing I will say about your reference to the old Oilers: I agree that most - even very good teams - teams have some element of dysfunction. But when you are at best a borderline team, you can't afford those kinds of issues. And the Leafs certainly can't.

    Thanks DP.

  9. Best line: "I just looked at the Leaf current roster. It does not inspire."

    I agree. Looking at the roster, there isn't much different from last year's lottery team.

  10. Thanks Five For (I enjoy your site, by the way...). Always solid stuff.

    I realize the roster can and will change, it's just that the much-discussed "improvements" (goaltending, a centre, experience, toughness) don't seem to be in place.

    Thanks for chiming in....

  11. NHL (players, owners, management) have all let the fans down. i don't care about player signings/injuries at this time... when/if the league gets going again, maybe then i'll start caring. see ya cody.
    kadri's under a microscope like no one else... frustrating. as another commentor pointed out, no one seems to be picking on kessel for looking fat/flubby.
    management should have set the bar incredibly low four years ago, instead of saying the team would be play-off ready within a year.
    i'm glad that lombardi/connolly only have a year left to their contracts... time to flush them and the other so-so 'veterans' out of here.
    i'd like to believe that reimer & scrivens have what it takes moving forward.... time will tell if a couple of guys with minimum NHL experience and no play-off experience, are going to be able to lead this team.
    rick nash is injured? ohhhhhhhh man i would be furious to be a rangers fan (or the guy who signs his checks).
    if kessel can still fire the puck with deadly accuracy, i'm not too concerned if he has a 6-pack (as long as it isn't a 6-pack of labatt's before the third period).

  12. I'm with you Alex- I could not care any less where NHL (or Leaf players) guys sign during the lockout. I hate, as I've mentioned here before, that rich NHL'ers are stealing jobs from guys who actually need and deserve them, but that's another issue.

    What does it matter who plays where? I care about the Maple Leaf franchise, the history, the legacy. If "Leafs" play in Europe, it means nothing to me. Maybe I'm alone.

    And yes, if Nash were seriously injured, wouldn't the Rangers be thrilled? But since they are part of locking the players out, I guess this just speaks to how ridiculous this all is....

    Thanks Alex...

  13. A lot of people have had high hopes for Kadri and I'm wondering if the internal purpose for all the media comments on this player has more to do with 'devaluing' him in the Toronto marketplace (but not elsewhere).

    If doubt is constantly placed before our perceptions, is it not possible we would be more likely to accept Kadri's departure in a trade?

    Even if we still like the player, we may just accept the trade to 'give the kid a chance somewhere else.' Are we being manipulated to undervalue our loss in a trade (and then overvalue the player we receive). I wonder if Kadri isn't a big part of the price in multiple negotiations...

    All this criticism might make more sense to me if/when we see a trade down the road. I think Kadri will have a good career, but I don't think he fits into the plan. Perhaps he's always been a bargaining chip for 'down the road' - never an integral part of the 'plan.'

  14. You may be right, InTimeFor62. I've long said here Kadri has been available in trades. But hopefully the organizational strategy is not simply to prepare us or his departure!

  15. I may have been overstating the idea rather than acknowledge it is probably the present-day part of a plan to deal with the player (in the context of a dysfunctional family) - I hope this hasn't been the plan from the outset, though I wonder if the seeds of the plan may have formed fairly early...

    On another note, there's an interesting interview about the liklihood of resolving the lockout by December, linked with the possibilities of 'breaking the union' 'replacement players' and more:

    be sure to skip past about 11 minutes of commercials to make it more worth your while :)

  16. Lots of these issues covered Kadri, Scrivens, Kostka: