Pension Plan Puppets: The Silly Season

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

Saturday, July 01, 2006

The Silly Season

Well, today at noon it finally started: Free Agency.

The early leaders in the 'Buying Improvement' contest are the Boston Bruins and...the Leafs?

I know, I know. We didn't sign Elias today or Chara (Elias is likely out of our range and the Bruins pipped us to Zdeno) but there was a big difference from last year and that is that JFJ was awake this year. Sure he was probably awake last year since it would be tough to sleep for that many months if you aren't a bear (TERROR ALERT!) but he clearly was not quite sure how the new market was going to play out.

This year has been a study in contrasts. JFJ has been decisive (at least) and made moves ranging from 'not bad' to 'could be good/great' to 'solid'. Granted he did make 1 'odd' move (Pohl's one way deal) and one questionable move (McCabe is making a lot of money for a defenceman that can't really defend. Bring back the Can Opener!). However, he has avoided the inaction of last year as well as making any truly boneheaded deals (of course, that Allison rumour is lurking). In fact, he has cleaned up some of his idiot moves. Give Belfour a pre-lockout 3 year deal? Don't exercise the option and buy him out. Sign Tie to a two-year deal at the Friends and Family rate? Realize he can't make the minimum contribution he used to make, buy him out. Together these moves will constitute a hit to the salary cap figure but at least they won't be making a hit to the team's wins and points figures. Anymore.

Now I am not really saying that the Leafs made the second biggest improvment out of all teams but they did fill two big holes on defence by getting Hal Gill from the Bruins and Pavel Kubina from the Lightning. Now, on their own maybe neither signing would be that great. Kubina's would definitely be seen by some as over-paying (especially in light of the contracts that Willie Mitchell and Jay McKee signed). Those people would be right. $5M/yr is a lot in light of those deals and taking into account what Kaberle ($4.25/yr) and McCabe ($5.75/yr) are already being paid.

However, taken together, they provide the Leafs with a solid second defence pairing (my assumption is that they will play together since Kaberle and McCabe are a pretty much undisputed to pair). This is something that was seriously lacking last year and that will allow the 5, 6, and 7 spots to go to three of the kids that filled in last year. Gill and Kubina complement each other pretty well. Both are big, strong defencemen; especially Gill who will be our 6'7" answer to Chara. The symbiosis in this relationship is that while Kubina has put up back-to-back solid offensive seasons while Gill (minus last year's disastrous season for all Bruins) posted +/- numbers of 16, 21, 16 over the last three years.

These two moves work to build a better defensive foundation in front of our new # 1 Raycroft. They are also signs of JFJ having a pulse and a clue, both good things for long suffering Leafs' fans. Granted, their success depends on the return to form of two Bruins but they will be entering this season on the back of a full off-season of training and camp not a year long lockout.
Free Agency Grade (thus far): C+

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Blogger ninja said...

Reading up on the Gill and Kubina deals, apparently Kubina is Tomas' national team pair partner, and is a right handed shot. I didn't want Kubina before the deal, but it seems like a good fit. Gill is a left-handed shot to supposedly pair with McCabe. But thinking about those two on the ice at the same time makes me nervous. But I suppose if they are paired up, only one undiscplined penalty can be called.

12:36 PM

Blogger PPP said...

Yeah my friend actually mentioned to me after the news came out that Kubina and Kaberle had been national team partners.

I have seen a few permutations of defence partners: Kaberle-Gill, Kaberle-Kubina, McCabe-Gill (I agree that it's a terrifying prospect) Kubina-Kronwall (with Gill as the # 5 d-man)

I have gotten the sense that the last option is the most likely while the others will be possibilities that Maurice can move towards if Kaberle-McCabe isn't working out.

10:18 AM

Blogger ninja said...

Kubina-Kronwall? Interesting. And maybe Gill-White as a 3rd pair...

When is Carlo going to play?

11:50 AM

Blogger PPP said...

Sadly I think that Carlo's days in Toronto are numbered (if not because of his stalled development then potentially because of his concussion problems)

I like the idea of a Gill-White pairing because of White's strong puck skills but would not be surprised to see a Gill-Harrison third pair with White as the 7th defenceman.

The kids from the Marlies will have a tough slog in training camp to get those last places.

6:59 PM


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