Tuesday, February 26, 2008

I thought we were signing a contract with a "woah trade!" clause

Damien Cox, talking about... well... nothing:

As expected, the final 24 hours of NHL trading did include a couple of dozen trades, and as expected Cliff Fletcher couldn't pull a rabbit out of a hat. Asking him to do so after just over a month on the job was a MLSE fantasy, of course, but it does make you wonder whether John Ferguson, with more preparation time, could have done more.

Probably not. But it was still mostly pointless to fire him mid-season.

Instead, the Leafs still have their five no-trade heroes - Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle - and have failed to use the trade deadline to significantly advance their rebuilding needs.

You mean the five dudes who negotiated a no-trade clause so they could ensure they wouldn't be traded when didn't want to be traded? Darn those a-holes! Darn them to heck!

"One thing I can assure you is that the face of the Maple Leaf hockey team will be different come October," said Fletcher.

Hal Gill got the Leafs Pittsburgh's second rounder, which could be helpful. Dumping Wade Belak and Chad Kilger for middle-round picks probably isn't going to mean much, but you never know.

Didn't the Leafs get a 3rd round pick for Kilger? You might get a decent prospect with a 3rd round pick. I know my hockey knowledge is shakier than Michael J. Fox serving drinks on a tilt-a-whirl but isn't every pick past the first ten pretty much a crap shoot in the NHL?

And, oh yeah, they got rid of crappy old overpaid hockey players and their cap-eating salaries for a chance to draft better, cheaper hockey players or maybe trade those picks for other hockey players. I would have traded Hal Gill for one of those informercial ladders that can be folded into any position. Cliff Fletcher got a couple of draft picks for him. He wins.

All of this is nothing, however, that couldn't have been done without Fletcher. The notion that he could somehow recreate the magic of the Doug Gilmour trade for this franchise 16 years after the fact was foolish at best, but that's what the MLSE board tried to sell the public, and now those same board members look foolish again.

It's sad, really, to see such a prominent franchise reduced to playing on the periphery while teams like San Jose, Pittsburgh and Dallas take centre stage. The Pens deal for Marian Hossa, stealing him from under the noses of the Montreal Canadiens, while the Sharks landed Brian Campbell and the Stars added Brad Richards.

It's sad that Montreal didn't have the assets or weren't willing to give up enough for Hossa. They're an original six team. Original, baby! Instead, he went to the Pittsburgh Penguins who I guess are some expansion team who doesn't have the best player in the world and never won back-to-back Stanley Cups with some dude who was not named Mario Lemieux. Did you know there are 30 teams in the league these days?

The Leafs, meanwhile, added four draft picks - and not high ones - and are remained wedded to players they clearly would like to be rid of, like Kubina, Tucker and McCabe. Fletcher had no bold moves to make, and so made three easy, simple ones. He did say one of his Untradeable Five initially agreed to a trade before the Leafs' game against Ottawa on Monday, then changed his mind after the game.

He did not, boldly, go back in time and courageously re-write five contracts so that they would not be heroicly terrible. I heard Pavel Kubina was going to waive his clause but changed his mind after winning a game last night in Ottawa. Pavel Kubina thinks the Leafs are going on some kind of run and are going to march into the playoffs. And if this guy sounds like a moron, remember that he fleeced the Leafs into paying him too much money and negotiating a fucking no trade clause.

"We weren't skating in the same arena as some other teams," said Fletcher. "We're happy with the results of the day based on going in knowing the situation of all our players."

"This is just the first step of the process," said Fletcher. "I did not think we could do more."

Today might have been the first day in the history of the world that someone running the Maple Leafs realized there is a salary cap. So wipe those tears, Damien Cox, it's going to be okay.

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