Pension Plan Puppets: August 2006

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

Wednesday, August 30, 2006


Well Damien Cox has returned from vacation and no surprise here, he's bashing anything Leaf-related. While Chris Young over at JABS provided a similar reaction to myself War decided to go the anticipated route: bash Quinn. He does it in his patented no-regard for the facts, bash Leafs first kind of way.

Cox thinks that it is funny that Quinn is upset at the media for twisting his words and then goes out and twists Quinn's motives for clarifying his comments:
Naturally, Quinn has been careful to avoid saying bad things about his former employer in hopes of roping in another NHL team to pay him an exorbitant salary as a coach or consultant.

Of course! If a 40 year veteran of the hockey world clarifies that his far-reaching comments were not, in fact, a dig at the Maple Leafs but rather a comment on the state of affairs in professional sports then he is clearly angling for a job. No one would hire a man with Quinn's pedigree unless he backpedalled like crazy from a comment that is probably one of the most innoccuous to ever light a fire under Cox.

God forbid that Quinn has not badmouthed his former team because he is a decent human being. He's 'turtling' (see: Lemieux, Claude and Neil, Chris) which I guess is Cox's way of calling him a coward. This is on top of calling him a 'double-dipper' and saying that he speaks with a 'forked tongue'.

Then Cox goes about showing that he might not follow the Leafs as closely as being a hockey columnist is Toronto might require:
Just once it would be nice to hear him take some of the responsibility for the Leafs' inability to get anywhere near a Cup during his tenure.

Hmmm, maybe I dreamt the trip to the conference final in '02 with a injury addled squad? That was pretty close and a lot closer than most coaches have gotten their teams. While he was the GM Quinn could never be accused of not having ambition as his deadline deals will attest. They were not spectacular successes but he made the effort. That is something that Cox would probably be loathe to admit.

Maybe while Cox is sucking up to poor embattled MLSE and Richard Peddie he could note that for the past two seasons he has had to deal with JFJ's brilliant personnel moves. Failing that, he could slam Quinn to his face. I doubt he'd do that though. He'd probably turtle.

Here is a great clip of straight-talking Bill Watters taking on Nick Kypreos after the firing of Quinn.

Update (September 5, 2006)
The comments section has, of course, degenerated into a Pat Quinn and Tie Domi bashing session. I tried to reply to a post from a sens fan trying to make fun of Domi by posting the YouTube link to Domi's pummelling of Chris "I only fight when we are losing" Neil. Unfortunately, that goes against what Cox wants so it was 'moderated' despite being a perfectly acceptable comment.

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Testify Brother Quinn!

Former Leafs coach Pat Quinn always had a love-hate (much more hate than love) with the Toronto media. Really, who could blame him when two local papers (the Globe's sports section sucks and the National Post is paper non grata in my life) have War and Famine (Cox and Simmons of the Star and Sun for you unfamiliar readers) on the payrolls. These two are basically paid to find the bad side of any situation with the Leafs and inflate it to catastrophic proportions. The latest incident, covered by Paul Hunter (where is Kenny?), will not endear Quinn to T.O.'s media any more.

Quinn spent an entire off-season of declining comment and refusing to sling mud at MLSE when he really must have wanted to dish some dirt. Now, Quinn speaks the mind of Pension Plan Puppets everywhere and it becomes a big deal. His quotation is below:
"I don't know who defines success today but we have a lot of those middle managers, so to speak, the presidents that don't have a clue what's going on but might be able to build a logo," said Quinn in the interview. "But you know what builds the logo? Winning hockey games, that's what builds a logo. Anyone else that says they can come in and make something work. ... It's like in Toronto, you don't need to be the village monkey to do anything. That thing was sold out when it was just a lousy team. So let the people that are given the job to run the hockey team, let them run it."

This sounds exactly like what Quinn has suggested the comments were meant to be: a discussion of the rise of business interests clashing with sporting interests.

Even the most ardent MLSE back cannot argue that the Leafs are a great example of too many chefs spoiling the broth. Also, the village monkey probably could get a job there if he did not pose any threat to Larry Tanenbaum and Richard Peddie's powerbase. Look at Rob Babcock. The crux of the point that Pat was trying to make is that for too many teams the business side of the team is clashing with the sporting side. Power struggles, nepotistical hirings, and a view on being 'good enough' rather than great have all contributed to 40 years and counting of agony for Leafs fans.

This is not necessarily confined to the NHL or MLSE. Examples can be found in the NFL (Jerry Jones' Dallas Cowboys), NBA (Whoever currently owns the hapless New York Knicks), MLB (the Red Sox for so many years), even in European football (Spain's Real Madrid and their Galacticos). These are all examples of teams that have had massive success in the past but whose owners were so focused on maximizing profits and revenue streams that they allowed their rabid fan bases to suffer through horrible championship droughts (see: Red Sox, Boston 1918-2004), bouts of irrelevance (see: Maple Leafs, Toronto 1970s/1980s), and the sort of ineptitude that has lately gripped the Knicks (see: Thomas, Isaiah).

Sadly, the common factor is that all of those teams have enough 'plastic' fans (fans for the sake of following the herd i.e. 90% of Chelsea's fans) that any real disenchantment on the part of true fans will never affect the bottom line. Even if Leafs fans organized a boycott there would be more than enough plastic fans willing to fill the ACC, buy some souvenirs, and patronize the concessions.

What we need is more people like Quinn to speak out and say that making money is well and good but your ultimate goal has to be winning. So I say Preach On Brother Quinn! Hopefully, the Pension Plan, Richard, and Larry will get the message.

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A Phoenix Rises

Throughout last season one of the more disappointing Leafs was winger Jeff O'Neill. Granted, he was coming off one of his worst offensive seasons and the death of his brother during the summer. Despite the latter's heavy burden, Jeff was expected to provide Mats with the bona fide 'sniper' that his wings have mostly lacked since he arrived in Toronto. In today's Star, Paul Hunter takes a closer look at O'Neill's off-season and his preparedness for the new season.

What is clear is that O'Neill did not anticipate the heavy burden that his grief represented:
"If anyone hasn't experienced it, it's a very difficult thing to deal with," O'Neill said yesterday. "It's hard enough to play in this league with no distractions. It hurt a lot. I didn't know how much it was going to hurt but it hurts a lot. It just takes a lot out of you, just stress-wise. There's no way of really getting over it but I just think I'm more comfortable with it and I'm just ready to play hockey again."

Watching him last year you could see that he was sluggish and disinterested in most games. This was so pervasive last year that he suffered the ignominy of being relegated to the press box for a stretch. That must have done nothing but exacerbate the situation. Thankfully, rather than being quickly thrust into a grueling NHL campaign Jeff was able to benefit from a long summer (a benefit of missing the playoffs?) of reflection on his grief and career.

Time has passed, healing has occurred, and shoulders are operated on and now O'Neill is sounding like a man ready to be re-born.
"I feel refreshed and I feel like I'm actually concentrating on hockey solely right now as opposed to being worried about off-ice stuff and family issues," he said. "It's been a long summer to think about it. I feel like I'm ready to play hockey again and to focus my attention on it."

I think that if Jeff is truly in that mindset that we will see a player that more closely resembles the player that was controversially left off of the 2002 Olympic roster in the midst of a 40-goal season and looks less like the sad, lost player that donned the Leafs jersey last year. If he can capture that old form (I am betting on it) he could be the player to help the Leafs get the most out of their captain.


Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Doubleplusgood News!

My dearest apologies to my loyal readers for the lack of postings over the last three weeks. However, it is hard to write anything when nothing Leafs-related is really happening.

Encino Man Returns
The first plus is that the Leafs are back in the news. Encino Man was back in the news with his own profile in The Star. Now that Domi is gone I guess they needed a new 'Everyman' fan favourite. I hate to tell them that it likely will not be Wade. On the other hand, the interview tossed up some real gems such as:
Who would you like to take on in a celebrity boxing match?
Tom Cruise. He just bugs me. He's just so weird. I think he used to be normal, but I don't know what's going on with him right now. He's all whacked out.

You know if Scientology's hitmen took out Belak for that joke they would solve a lot of problems. Although, now they might come after me for that joke.
Who would play you in a movie of your life?
Probably Dolph Lundgren (laughs). Everybody tells me I look like Dolph Lundgren.

Actually, the co-star of Rocky IV would be a good casting choice. Both are tall and blond and thick as a brick.

The Human Torpedo
What Leaf fan does not love to see a blue or white blur streaking from off screen aimed directly at the opposition's defenceman? Darcy Tucker in full flight is quite a sight to behold. Unfortunately, his time in the Big Smoke might be coming to an end. Darcy is entering the last year of his contract (here comes a big year) and some, like Howard Berger, think that the Leafs will not have the financial werewithal to re-sign him.
"I'm sort of in a Catch-22, I guess," Tucker said today. "If I match or improve my numbers from last season, I could price myself out of Toronto. I'd like to stay here, but I've been a pretty good bargain to this point, and free agency in my prime years is something I've worked hard for."
Hmm, that sounds suspiciously like the former Raptors' guard Mike James 'I am going to get PAID!' speech. I'd like to see Darcy stay but not at a ridiculous price like the comparisons that Berger raises suggest he might be in line to receive. Somewhere between $4.5M and $6M for a 5'10" 180 lbs crash and banger who will turn 32 this season might not be such a great deal. I would love to keep Tucker a Leaf but it has to fit within the larger plan for the Leafs. I disagree with Berger's belief that the salary cap will not increase next year. Finding the cash to pay Darcy will not be the problem. How much he wants and for how many years will dictate whether he remains a Leaf or not. It may come down to whether he truly wants to remain a Leaf or if his chance to cash in is what drives him.

Mats' Future
Berger also mentions the captain's club option next year for $7.6M. I will write further on my feelings but I love Mats and if the Leafs show improvement then I can see the team and Sundin being able to work out a deal that lets him end his career at a reasonable salary.

The Goalies, Training Camp, and Getting Pumped
Ninja says what most Leaf fans are glad to hear: Raycroft looks good and Maurice is going to drill this team into shape. I get more excited for the season every day. I heard Nickelback's Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting on my iPod while cutting my grass on a Saturday and I was ready to sit in front of my TV, get a belly full of beer, and commiserate with my dad about how much we hate Harry Neale.

While following Mats' 6-5 victory over the Panthers last year I purchased LeafsTV in the second intermission in order to see the Leafs remain in an eventually fruitless playoff race. I meant to keep it for a month but forgot to cancel it (the programming in the summer is pretty much crap) but that forgetfulness means that I will get to watch the pre-season games as well as the 12 regular season games. So if you live outside of the region or do not want to spend the $2/month (you are a bad Leafs fan) make sure to check back for a fans' view of the games that barely anyone else can watch.

They also made a great addition to the broadcasting team. Before there was Jennifer Hedger there was Jody Vance. Well she is back as the pre-, post-game, and intermission host(ess?) for the team's digital channel. Good luck to her on re-claiming her throne as Canada's hottest broadcaster.

Voting Update
Considering that Kypreos got 77 write-in votes and finished fourth in the 'Guy whose mouth you'd like to duct-tape' category I would say that we made a statement about how little we like Death. Also, in 'Newspaper guy who should stick to newspapers' War and Famine ended one and two. Congrats!

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Thursday, August 10, 2006

Rich Get Richer?

As if getting tickets to a Leafs game were not hard enough (most attempts require the sale of a kidney or part of your liver) this ruling just came down allowing teams to scalp their own tickets!

Of course, knowing the Leafs, they are already involved in this kind of racket. Ticket brokers are bad enough without having them run by the 'Profits First!' Pension Plan. Imagine trying to get those $30 purples if MLSE had a ticket brokerage division. It is bad enough that those seats have a delay between the action and the sound. You would not be able to get those puppies for less than whatever crazy fans would be willing to pay. This could be a terrible precedent.

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Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Money Matters

Ingmar Bergman Shoots...And Scores has a good analysis of the overall salary commitments of all 30 teams including divisional averages and players still unsigned.

Some interesting things to note related to the Leafs:
  • All five teams in the Northeast will spend over $40M this year giving the division the highest average spending in the league.

  • The sens currently are only $29K behind the Leafs so they can stop crying poor and be glad that all of their whining about the 'Old' NHL paid off. The irony of course is that the salary cap made them lose a young player (Havlat) that they developed just as they would have under the old system. As Oscar Wilde said, "There are only two tragedies in life: one is not getting what one wants, and the other is getting it."

  • Last year's surprise package, Buffalo, not only is developing some of the world's worst jerseys (and most heated backlashes) but they are also losing some vital pieces of their team. Jay McKee split for St. Louis, J.P. Dumont is now a free-agent after the team rejected his $2.9M arbitration award, and their cap figure stands at just over $41M with Ryan Miller, Dmitri Kalinin, Adam Mair, and Jeff Jillson all unsigned. Good news for the Leafs.

  • Bad news for the Leafs: Harry Sinden is calling it quits. This will invariably improve the team as this Beantown fixture will not be around to pennypinch his stars (while inexplicably opening the purse strings for guys like Martin Lapointe) and hamstring the Bruins. At least the improvement will not come this year.

  • Somehow Stajan is still unsigned. That will eat up most of the cap space that we have left. JFJ needs to get this done.

We are now less than a month away from opening night with the sens and I could not be more excited. Thank God the Premiership is starting up and that can keep me occupied until October fourth.

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Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Call To Arms

The Toronto Star is trying to compile fans' opinions of the folks that describe the play and provide their own thoughts. This is a tailor-made chance to let them know that the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse (War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death) are terrible.

Nick Kypreos is Death because listening to him speak makes me want to kill myself.

Pierre McGuire is Pestilence because I would rather have a terminal disease than listen to any more of his screaming.

Steve Simmons is Famine because it looks like he is single-handedly responsible for African Hunger.

And my first hate, Damien Cox, is War because usually his articles make me want to launch a little Shock and Awe his way.

But I digress, in this poll The Star has Nick Kypreos under 'Best Hockey Analyst' with Pierre 'the louder I speak the more true my thoughts become' McGuire. However, they both would be more appropriate as write-in votes (how are they not on the list? someone should get fired) in the category of 'Guy whose mouth you'd like to duct-tape'. I guess 'Guy whose mouth you'd like to duct-tape before tying bricks to his feet and throwing him in Lake Ontario' was just too long.

In the category of 'Newspaper guy who should stick to newspapers' (clearly 'as they are put through the printing press' was dropped) we have both Famine and War! Both are worthy nominees and the only solution is to vote many times.

Here is the link vote early and vote often!


Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Sportsnet Angers Me

I think that the powers that be at Sportsnet might not read what I write. It is a sneaking suspicion, so to speak. Otherwise, this would not have been done to viewers. My vacation has hindered my posting but here's some humour for you: Kypreos' Sportsnet Bio.

Some highlights:
Most of the time, professional athletes have problems adjusting from the limelight to the twilight, when they retire.

Limelight? that kind of implies some sort of fame for his abilities. It is not really the word that describes a career that over nine seasons averaged five-four-nine (always write out single digit numbers) and 49 games played (complete stats here).
I have many great memories from my time as a professional.

Considering that Kypreos is more famous for the way his career ended you would not think that he would have many memories left. Maybe the guys at Sportsnet put together highlight reels to remind him about the past like Drew Barrymore in 50 First Dates.
A teammate of mine once mentioned that I could 'talk a pit bull off a meat wagon.' I'm still not sure if that's a good thing or not, but what I am sure of is that I can't get enough of talking hockey.

I am guessing that this is another muddled memory like thinking that he was ever in the limelight. His teammate probably meant that he argued like a demented bulldog and was a meatheaded idiot. But I am just reading between the lines. Also, I can definitely get enough of this thick skulled neanderthal talking shit (read: hockey). Hopefully multi-year means two and he is gone before that. God help us.

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