Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Damien Cox - When asked why he doesn't gamble, he replied that he doesn't know the outcome in advance

Senators might be too smart for own good

Let’s start with this headline. This is going to be a difficult point for Cox to prove. People who are smart generally know what is good for them. The phrase “too smart for your own good” is what a mother says to her smartass son and is not usually used to refer to a hockey team’s management.

Hockey spirits are riding high in Ottawa these days, and so they should be.
Rather than taking a step backwards after their flaccid performance in the Stanley Cup final against Anaheim last spring, the Sens have come flying out of the gate this fall, winning 12 of 13.
As it is, who could blame the Ottawa skaters for being overconfident when the puck is dropped tonight against the Maple Leafs and their league-worst defence?
Many canny personnel moves, needless to say, have been made by a variety of people in the nation's capital in recent years and some are raving over the fact that the Sens locked up centre Jason Spezza for seven years at the princely cost of $49 million (all figures U.S.) last week as though this was a resourceful act born of divine inspiration.

I’m a Leafs fan but if I were a Sens fan, I’d be raving too since they have now locked up 2 of the best 20 players in the league as they enter their prime. In fact, they paid a very reasonable price compared to what was paid to players who are clearly not as good such as Scott Gomez and Thomas Vanek.
Also, note the last Damien Cox post where he claims that this was not necessarily a brilliant decision. Now he is making it out to be the obvious move. Which is it?

Still, Ottawa appears to have, with its core in place and locked up, years of success ahead.
The key word there, of course, is "appears."
There's no guarantee that all of this will work out. Is it possible, for example, that both Spezza and Dany Heatley (six years, $45 million) will play superbly for the duration of their contracts, never once causing fans to gripe that they're stealing money?

Cox really is struggling in this mixed-up world of “uncertainty” and “risk”. Who knew that players do not always live up to expectations? However, barring the invention of time travel, we are going to have to go with what we call projections. Crazy, I know.

Right now, of course, everything looks just gorgeous. Even signing Martin Gerber last year now looks brilliant, and other than Spezza's balky groin, there seems not to be a cloud in the sunny, blue skies over Ottawa's red-hot hockey team.

Can someone please tell me why he keeps using words like “appear” and “seems”? Am I missing something? As far as I can tell, there isn’t much to be worried about if you are an Ottawa fan unless you are the type who also worries about when they are going to be a victim of the next terrorist attack.

But while everything Eugene Melnyk touches turns to gold, the Leafs are portrayed as the daft uncle down the road who can't read or write, the idiot team that can't skate straight.

I don’t think we need the word “portrayed” in there.

Now, we media types in the GTA have hammered the locals early and often this season, but at a certain point the burgeoning arrogance of the hockey faithful in Bytown – many of whom have clearly mastered email – starts to grate.
One might think they'd wait until the first Stanley Cup banner goes up at the place-your-corporate-name-here rink before losing their humble demeanour, but that's not the case.

First, great joke Damien. I’ve never heard anyone riff on the fact that arena names change constantly these days. Second, Ottawa is awesome. What is wrong with you? Yes, they didn’t win the Stanley Cup because short series are often decided by luck but they made it to the final four the year before that and I’d say the few years prior to the last two were pretty good for them as well.

Moreover, if the Sens are Mensa-smart for building slowly, drafting well and developing effectively, perhaps a look at the Leafs in that regard is instructive.
Ottawa, depending on its roster alignment tonight, will likely dress 12 or 13 drafted players. The Leafs, if Kyle Wellwood returns, may dress nine such players, unofficially the highest total for a Leaf team in a decade, possibly two.
Look back to the 2001-02 season, for example, and only one player who had been drafted by the Leafs and had played only for the Leafs skated in more than 25 games that season. The '93 Western Conference finalists had seven players of that description.
Six of the Leaf draftees in the lineup tonight, meanwhile, will be 24 years of age or younger, and John Ferguson's group believes that it has two 21-year-old stars of the future in Marlie goalie Justin Pogge and Nikolai Kulemin, a 12-goal shooter in 24 Russian league games this season.
All in all, that's progress, or at the very least, an intelligent change of approach for the Leaf hockey department despite all ownership has done to undermine those hired to make hockey decisions in order to find a shortcut to even two or three games of playoff revenue and feed the 22 per cent profit margin monster.
Ottawa, clearly, has used a logical draft-and-develop blueprint to build the terrific team it now ices on a nightly basis.
So maybe, to be fair, if they're geniuses in Ottawa – after all, they've got one Stanley Cup final victory now to lord over all – they can't be total dummies down south here in Ontario's second city of hockey.

I’m all for grand pronouncements in the concluding paragraph if you have actually proved something in the article. But this time, I’ll say no, you haven’t. Even if the Leafs have some decent young players, they have virtually nobody who is projected to be a star (let alone a superstar) and are also hamstrung by some lengthy, high-value contracts given to players who had one good season (or in McCabe’s case, half of a good season). The Leafs management is actually quite dumb. What team says that they are going to find a supervisor for their GM (strange enough to begin with) and then just gives up when the better candidates are smart enough to see what a terrible position they would be put in if they were to accept such a job? You didn’t prove anything, especially the headline. Let’s just hope you didn’t write that piece of trash. In fact, blame your editor for this whole debacle.

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