Pension Plan Puppets: June 2006

Every Leafs fan has an opinion. Here's mine: We are all Pension Plan Puppets. The Teachers pull the strings and we dance.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Signings, Troubled Leafs, and Toronto's Prodigal Son

Bitter Leaf Fan noted that the Leafs have tendered a number of qualifying offers to their RFAs. Apparently, only Stajan, Raycroft, and Pohl received one way deals. This is interesting because it seems to suggest that JFJ is not entirely convinced that the Leafs Kiddie Corps is ready for the NHL but has some sort of plan to use Pohl (4th line centre?). Hopefully, solid training camps will erase any doubt and we can start building a team instead of trying to buy one.

Another nice note is that Antropov didn't get the usual raise just for being lucky enough to have been a Pat Quinn project. JFJ offered him a two way deal which will probably lead to arbitration. The best outcome is a deal that drops the minor league clause for less money.

Troubled Leafs
Now that McCabe finally signed his $28.75M/5yr contract he has revealed that there was a good reason for the delay. Why he would allow rumours to run rampant slamming his wife for wanting to move closer to her family is beyond me. He stated after signing that he did not want the attention:

"It was very stressful," McCabe said Thursday before boarding a flight back to Long Island. "Everybody was speculating. It's tough because it's some serious personal stuff and it's really not anyone's business. My wife doesn't want to be in the paper. It was disappointing."

Surely, since she was in the paper anyway he could have relieved her of the pain of seeing her name in the media in a less than glowing manner by releasing a simple statement. Best wishes to the family and hopefully Roberta makes a speedy recovery.

And it seems the Pronger rumours have upset Tomas Kaberle with his agent noting that the Oilers would just end up trading one disgruntled defenceman for another. I agree, it would be a terrible move to get Kaberle to sign a long-term deal only to trade him before the no-trade clause kicks in. It would be a bad sign for future free agents.

The Return of Roberts
Kenny Campbell first broke the news and now Mark Zwolinski is reporting that the Roberts deal may be almost complete with a 3rd/4th round pick being the Panthers' asking price. If we are going to bring in a veteran presence to help the kids develop then Gary is a good choice and a 4th round pick is not that high of a price. It is definitely a MUCH better option than this: JASON ALLISON. Sweet Jesus, NO! This would undo what has so far been a summer of solid work by JFJ (maybe he does have a plan, who knew?). All the wisdom that Jason has to offer is how to milk the PP for points, skate slower than any hockey player under the age of 90, and make the same incredulous face after every penalty call (too late: McCabe has it down pat).

I'll be having a relaxing/stressful weekend of World Cup action and praying for some solid free agent additions. Enjoy the long weekend and Happy Canada Day!

Labels: , , , , ,

Monday, June 26, 2006

Raycroft, Rumours, and Anti-Leafs Ranting


As anticipated, on Draft Day the Leafs moved to solidify their # 1 position by trading Finnish prospect Tuukka Rask for former Calder Trophy winner Andrew Raycroft. The key to the deal is obviously 'former Calder Trophy winner'. Yes, Rask was the top goalie at the World Juniors but for every Roberto Luongo, Jose Theodore, and Kari Lehtonen that has won that award there is a Yevgeny Tarasoc, Pauli Jacks, Jamie Storr, and Jimmy Waite. Rask could fall anywhere between the two levels.

While adding Raycroft as the # 1 is a gamble (of course, I was in favour of gambling with Aubin/Telly) it is far less so than mortgaging the team's future for a Giguere or Nabokov to hold down the fort until Rask (hopefully) develops into a starter. He has already proven that he can be a # 1 (2003-2004: 29-18-9, 2.05GAA, .926SV%). Like many NHLers that did not play during the lockout, Raycroft struggled mightily (2005-2006: 8-19-0, 3.71GAA, .879SV%).

Raycroft will find his pre-lockout stride. The renewed confidence of not just a starting job but a new long-term deal in addition to a full pre-season and training camp will stand Raycroft in good stead. If I had to wager, I would say that Aubin will be the backup with Tellqvist most likely being moved (if Pogge is with the Marlies then it'll be a Pogge-Racine duo) or Telly backing up Pogge if Racine continues with the Memphis Riverkings in the CHL.


Ken Campbell of the Toronto Star is reporting that the Leafs are trying to shore up one of their weak spots by landing one of the top defencemen in the league in Chris Pronger. Unfortunately, we can't do like we did with Cujo (maybe that explains the next item) and outbid the Oilers. they are demanding Kaberle and Steen (not a good move as I'll show later) which is too much for a team that is supposed to be BUILDING A TEAM after years of mortgaging the future. Maybe that's why JFJ has never mentioned any sort of plan. He's just continuing the old plan, bad contracts, old players, just enough results to prevent anarchy.

Well, after seeing the Hartford Whalers win the cup in their SECOND Finals trip in four years Leafs fans will not be too happy to see more young players leaving (ie. Alyn McCauley and Brad Boyes for Owen Nolan) to have their best years elsewhere while the Leafs get older players on the decline. Granted, Pronger is not on a steep decline but he has logged about 30 minutes per game for 12 seasons. He's going to start breaking down (since he's always been injury prone this will only get worse) and it will be in Toronto if JFJ has his way.

Anti-Leafs Ranting

Geez, the reaction to Darren Dreger of Sportsnet writing that he thought that the Leafs were 'the most intriguing option' for the Oilers garnered A LOT of reaction. Most postings average 15-30 replies. This one had 117 mostly blinkered, frothing at the mouth, anti-Leafs comments. The most ridiculous comments alternately stated that Alexander Steen was a terrible prospect or that Tomas Kaberle was over-rated and over-paid.

In his rookie campaign Steen put up 18-27-45 in 75 games to rank 8th in rookie scoring. He placed ahead of such highly praised rookies as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Ryan Getzlaf, and Corey Perry. Sure he slowed down in the latter stages of the season but he had never played more than 40 games in a season.

As for Tomas Kaberle, he was fifth in defencemen scoring, 9-58-67 in 82 games ahead of, among others, Chris Pronger. Both had similar +/- of -1 and 2 respectively. While Tomas, at age 28, just signed a contract that will pay him $4.25M/yr Pronger is set to receive an average of $6.25M/yr over the next 4 years that will take him from 32 to 36 years. And as much as Pronger plays Kaberle actually averaged 28:10 per game compared to 27:59. I would say that Kaberle is the better option for the Leafs rather than trading youth to get a player who has played most of his best years. I would rather see JFJ rescind the deal he's offered McCabe and use that money to get a better deal on a replacement like Aaron Ward or Jay McKee.

Labels: , , , , , ,

Friday, June 23, 2006

Leafs Need New # 1?

Ken Campbell wrote today that the Leafs have decided against an Aubin/Telly platoon. Of course news like this resulted in some heated e-mails and a lot of discussion. The long and the short of it is that this move is not a good idea.

The contracts that both Giguere and Nabokov would bring are one of the main reasons. Giguere is only making $3.99M/yr but he will also be a UFA after the 2006-2007. So the Leafs could end up in a similar position as when they picked up Nolan, giving up young talent for a guy that will only be here for a short period. As for Nabokov, next year he stands to make $5.375M. He's also under contract for three more years after next for a total commitment on Toronto's behalf of $21.5M over four years for San Jose's backup.

The main issue is the Leafs always trading away anything resembling young talent to try to win RIGHT NOW. I remember reading a Bill Simmons' article that said that most fans would rather their team win one championship followed by 5 years of missing the playoffs instead of 6 years of being good but not good enough. Sound familiar? apparently in Toronto it's 1 championship followed by 40 years of ineptness sprinkled with a bunch of close but no cigar seasons.

My friend put it in the best in his e-mail:

The Leafs are dumb to go after Giguere. He's a UFA in 2007. Why do they insist on building a team ranked 6th-12th every season? They need to ink some more talented players. The Leafs have enough youth to fill out the roster so only legitimate upgrades should be made. I'm talking impact players not role players. If we roll the dice with Telly and Aubin the worst thing that happens is that they fizzle in a year in which our expectations are focused on developing our young players rather than mortaging the future. Nabokov has a rich contract and I'm not convinced he can be The Man. I think he would struggle under the TO media scrutiny. Also, If we give up quality youth to San Jose again Boston fans will make fun of us. At least they only got ripped off once.

So there you have it: Go with youth, build something, make quality upgrades. Doesn't JFJ realize that this is the blueplan for success post-lockout? probably not.

In other news: this draft weekend has the potential to be huge. The Leafs are apparently trying to move up to the top 5 picks and Luongo, Bertuzzi, and Pronger are rumoured to be on the move.

Update 1: has reported that the Canucks and Panthers have completed a trade that will send Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, and Alex Auld to Florida with Roberto Luongo and Lukas Krajicek heading out to Canada's West Coast.

Initial thoughts: Thank God Mike Keenan is in the NHL. He single handedly makes the draft weekend interesting. Who else would trade a top 5 goalie for a career backup who did well enough to fill in for Cloutier and the only surviving neanderthal? At least Bryan Allen is a career +3 defenceman. If only Mike Milbury was around to keep the crazy train going.

The World Cup will keep me from posting predictions on what the Leafs might do with their picks but check out Raking Leafs to get an idea of what moves might occur. I'll post my thoughts on the draft, the trades, the hirings, and all sundry moves on Monday.

Labels: , , , , ,

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My Contribution to the Blogosphere

Hello and welcome to my blog about the Toronto Maple Leafs. As a boy growing up in Ontario pre-sens (they get no capital letters) was there any other team to support?

There's a story I like to tell to show how dedicated and passionate a fan I have always been. This is in contrast to 4 of the other 5 Canadian teams whose fans LOVE the bandwagon (I'm looking at you Ottawa, Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver).

I was 5 years old and watching my beloved Leafs get their butts kicked all over the ice by the Flames (in their late 80s Battle of Alberta heyday). My father, another big fan but a bit quicker to lose patience, had seen enough and called the poor Leafs clowns. I lost it. I turned to my father and, with what he termed the angriest face he had ever seen me make, intoned 'YOU ARE A CLOWN!' Needless to say, the game was over for me but my love for the Leafs was well established.

This blog will feature links to articles relating to the Leafs as well as my opinions. Sometimes I'll include the thoughts of two friends with whom I spend a lot of time e-mailing at work. Enjoy.

Labels: ,