Friday, June 29, 2007

Does anyone know what's going on there?

In most organizations the probation period is, what, about three months? At MLSE it appears to be about four years.

Yesterday, MLSE President and CEO Richard Peddie confirmed that MLSE has retained an executive search firm to hire a senior hockey executive to provide counsel to their hockey department.

In what can only be charitably described as backhanded compliment, Peddie said that, despite JFJ being the GM position since of August of 2003 and irrevocably in charge of the Leafs for the past two year, his hand-picked GM is “still learning.”

Ouch! The admission that all is not going well with JFJ’s tenure is like some sort of awful metaphorical eating contest - Peddie choking down some crow while publicly serving JFJ a great big piece of humble pie.

Despite two weeks of near daily media coverage, MLSE’s intentions are about as clear as JFJ’s Master Plan (you know the one-year deal to clear cap space to sign the UFAs who never materialized plan, which became the build-not buy plan that became the deal three first round and two second round picks in four years plan, which sort of fit in with the tougher to play against plan that didn’t really work out, leaving the Leafs with the make the playoffs at all cost and CYA plan. Whew.)

Thursday, June 28, 2007

Shane Doan does Subway


Frank Thomas Hits 500th Homerun


The Big Hurt keeps hammering the ball.

Islander Season Tickets for $420

It's true, the Islanders are selling season tickets for $420 - but there is a catch. If you have to order one full adult season ticket, then you can reserve the seat next to you for a child 12 years and younger for an incredible price of $420. Tickets are currently available in designated family sections but that includes good lower level seats.

Makes me wonder how well season tickets are selling on Long Island. Just another example of how poorly the game is selling in the U.S. market. If I was only 12 years old again...oh yes and living on Long Island.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Raycroft vs. Toskala

Here's a look at some work from Hockey Numbers looking at the save percentages of Toskala and Raycroft (left and right respectively) based on shot location:










Looks like we went from a goalie with a glovehand problem to one with a stick side weakness. Still Toskala is again the better overall goalie. There is no doubt that this is an improvement in net for the Leafs.

The interesting thing will be to see how Raycroft reacts to the trade. He can either pout and quit (like in Boston) or he can man up and challenge Toskala.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Bettman has Painted Himself in a Corner

Nashville is a failed franchise although it had success on the ice. Ten years ago current owner Craig Leipold paid $80 million for a expansion franchise and today it's like worth only about $100 million. So when Jim Balsillie offered $238 million for the franchise, you would think the other owners and Gary Bettman would be falling over each other to approve the sale. That price only increases the value of the other franchises. And that price only makes sense if the team is moved in a strong hockey market.

However, Balsillie's plan to transfer the franchise to Southern Ontario is contrary to Bettman's vision for the NHL. He wants to see hockey as a major sport in the U.S. with a big television contract. So instead Balsillie is treated as an unwanted predator (excuse the pun) and the sale appears to be in limbo. In fact Bettman used quite strong language in regards to Balsillie and suggested that he had lied to him and Leipold. Meanwhile Leipold is dumping high salaried players to reduce his operating losses which isn't exactly going to improve attendance.

Balsillie is likely going to wait and see what the NHL governors want to do about his offer to purchase a team. Bettman has now painted himself in a corner because their are no longer any other suitors for Nashville. Certainly not at that price.


Monday, June 25, 2007

Leaf Cap Space

Despite the suggestion that the Leafs would be busy during free agency, JFJ will largely be a spectator as he was for much of the Amateur Draft. This is what the Leafs have under contract right now. They have less than $ 2.5 million to spend because you need to leave some room if you want to make a trade during the season. They need to add a forward or two to fill the #2 centre spot and to kill penalties. But it will not be Ryan Smyth or Scott Gomez.

12 Forwards: $20,411,000
Antropov
Belak
Bell
Devereaux
Kilger
Pohl
Ponikarovsky
Stajan
Steen
Sundin
Tucker
Wellwood

8 Defence: $20,829,000
Colaiacovo
Gill
Kaberle
Kronwell
Kubina
McCabe
White
Wozniewski

Raycroft: $2,000,000
Toskala: $1,375,000
Belfour's Buy-out: $770,000

SUB-TOTAL: $45,335,000

Cap room remaining: approximately $2.5 million (presumes a $48M cap with some flex room).

Why Ferguson Keeps Trading Away Youth

I could help but notice that by the time the Leafs got around to making their first pick in the Amateur draft on Saturday Montreal had already made 5 picks. So it's not hard to determine who will be better off in 3 years. The Leafs only have one of their first picks from the last 5 years in their organization. In addition, JFJ has dealt away many other picks during that same period for people like Jeff O'Neill, Yanic Perreault, Luke Richardson, Ron Francis, Brian Leetch, Andrew Raycroft and now you can add Vesa Toskala and Mark Bell.

Despite all these moves JFJ insists he wants to build through youth. So why isn't he? Well JFJ will continue to stray from his plan as long as he has no long term contract with the organization. As long as he feels he need to make the playoffs to keep his job then he will continue to sacrifice another piece of the Leaf's future to hang in for another year. So he can't afford to drop to the bottom of the standings like the Flyers did last season.

Since the Leafs keep bringing this guy back each year then just sign him to a multi-year contract and see what he can do. And if you have no confidence in him then why is he in the job for even one more day?

I don't think going "green" was intended to be this


Sunday, June 24, 2007

First Team Photo


The first team get together was on a lovely Saturday afternoon in the backyard of Sandy and Jane. It was a great opportunity for players, parents and staff to mingle and introduce each other before people take off for the summer. Next time we meet will be in September for our first practice.

Have a great summer everyone!

Are you a computer geek?


My computer geek score is greater than 31% of all people in the world! How do you compare? Click here to find out!

This might be the ugliest dog in the world


Friday, June 22, 2007

Leafs Trade for Toskala and Bell

Ferguson's big draft weekend trade: Toskala and Bell for the Leafs' 2007 1st (moves to 1st in 2008 if San Jose can't get the player they want) and 2nd round picks plus the Leafs 4th round pick in 2009.

My thoughts: Well most good GMs have figured out that draft picks and home grown talent are essential in today's NHL. I guess JFJ doesn't fall in that category. For the second time in his four year tenure, he deals away the Leafs' first round pick.

It's nice to have Toskala to challenge Raycroft and Toskala's cap hit is fine, but he's 30 years old and an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season. Today I heard JFJ actually admit he was unhappy with Raycroft's performance last season. During the season he couldn't say enough nice things about his goalie.

Mark Bell is is intended to fill the power forward spot that the Leafs have sought. He has been a disappointment so far in his NHL career so I'm not expecting a lot out of him. So a conditional 1st round pick, 2nd round pick and 4th round pick seems a bit high - especially if the player San Jose wants in the 1st round isn't available. If San Jose can't get their man, the pick moves to 2008, a draft many are calling the deepest in years - comparing it to the very robust 2003 entry draft.

For me this is another disappointing deal by JFJ.

Weird Foods from Around the World






Thursday, June 21, 2007

Maple Leafs at the NHL Amateur Draft

I don't get too excited about the NHL Amateur Draft coming up this weekend. For the Maple Leafs it is almost a non-event most years which is part of their problem. For several seasons (2001, 2002) they drafted well under the direction of Scouting Director Barry Trapp. Trapp's picks make up all the young players on the current Leaf roster (Stajan, Steen, Wellwood, Colaiacovo, White). But John Ferguson dumped Trapp for one of his cronies and new regime is back to questionable draft picks.

Over the pat 10 years, the Leafs have traded 3 first round picks away before drafting (1997, 2003, 2004), traded 2 picks after the draft ( Boyce/2000, Rask/2005) and 1 pick is out of hockey (Cedera/1999) and one will play with the Marlies next season after a so so year in the OHA (Tlusty/2006). That leave only 3 first round picks on the Leaf roster - Antropov (1998), Colaiacovo (2001) and Steen (2002).

Going into the draft the Leafs biggest needs are a #1 centre to replace Sundin who it appears may be in his last season. Steen, Wellwood and Stajan have not shown enough to be more than 2nd or 3rd line players. Also the team should be looking for a power forward. They currently have little size on the wings. They could fill these needs through trades as well. They have a surplus of defensemen which explains why the rumours regarding a trade for Bryan McCabe. Not an easy contract to move. More likely is Stefan Kronwall.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

OK. Which Duck dented the Cup?


This Blog is "Out of Order"

With smoke coming out of my computer this morning it would be safe to say I'm in the market for a new one.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ouch!

Do the Leafs have Low Expectations?

The Ottawa Senators announced today that coach Bryan Murray was being promoted to general manager and that John Muckler was now unemployed. I find it hard to believe that the move has to do with the team's failure to win the Stanley Cup after making it to the finals. Afterall, after many years of playoff disappointment, the Senators finally lived up to expectation but ultimately fell short.

So Muckler is probably leaving because of some grand plan of owner Eugene Melnyk. But it's interesting that a GM would be let go after such a successful season. Meanwhile in Toronto, John Ferguson has been given an endorsement and contract extension although his team has not made the playoffs the past two season. Clearly a case of lower expectations.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Crosby is no Longer the Next One

When Sidney Crosby walked away Thursday with the Hart, Pearson and Art Ross trophy, it settled the debate who the best player in the NHL was.

Crosby is the youngest-ever winner of the NHL scoring race (Gretzky was 20 when he won his first of 10).

Crosby is the first teenager to win a scoring title in any major professional sport, and the youngest professional hockey player to record a 100-point season. Crosby has done it twice now in his first two NHL seasons.

He is also the youngest NHLer chosen as a first-team all-star, another honour picked up this past week. On May 31, Crosby’s Pittsburgh Penguins named him their captain, too, making him the youngest team leader in league history.

The most successful Leaf in trophy voting was Thomas Kaberle. He finished 8th in votes for the Lady Bying Trophy. Surprisingly Kyle Wellwood finished only 24th and he didn't receive a single penalty all season. Kaberle finished 17th in votes for the Norris Trophy. For some unexplained reason McCable finished 24th (I didn't know salary factored in the voting). Finally, Paul Maurice finished 16th in votes for the Jack Adams Award. Why would anyone vote for a coach who's team didn't make the playoffs (Maurice wasn't alone here)?

Excellent Spelling


By the way this sign was spotted in a major pharmacy chain in New York City and not in a 3rd world country.

Here is something you don't see in North America


Coca Cola sells a drink in Japan that's called Water Salad and taste like....water salad.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

The Predators are Coming


By the end of day 1, Balsillie reeled in about $6.25-million in deposits on season tickets and luxury suites at Copps Coliseum in Hamilton.

Sixty of the 70 proposed suites were booked at $5,000 each, according to The Canadian Press, while 4,700 lower-bowl seats went for $1,000 each and about 2,500 upper-bowl seats went for $500 each.

Battle to Move Predators to Hamilton May Get Nasty

There is certainly is some momentum building in Jim Balsillie's efforts to purchase the Nashvillie Predators and move them to Southern Ontario. On the positive side:

The purchase price of $238 million is well above what the franchise is worth and what anyone was willing to pay so the current owner is eager to sell to Balsillie and the NHL governors cannot possibly turn down the sale (requires 75% majority)

Nashville officials have already indicated what they are looking for to let Balsillie out of their lease ($18 million) and he seems to be fine with that. Any Save-the-Predators activity will not be effective because the team receives little support from the Nashville business community. Meanwhile Balsillie has already worked out a 20-lease arrangement for Copps Coliseum. Should the transfer be approved he will use the next year to bring the arena up to NHL standards.

The Leafs have been silent about the move and it is rumoured that they have been offered $50 million as compensation for infringing on the Leafs' territory. I don't see the Teachers' Pension Plan turning down that kind of money since they are guaranteed to continue to sell out the ACC.

Balsillie has been in contact with the federal Competition Bureau which has had concerns that the NHL bylaws contravene the Competition Act.

However, on the negative side:

Gary Bettman is opposed to more franchises in Canada and supports expansion to Houston and Kansas City. He continues to believe that he can land a significant U.S. TV contract despite falling interest in hockey in the U.S.

The NHL governors are resisting dealing with the sale and franchise move at the same time (which is preferred by Balsillie) and have now postponed their June 19 meeting to discuss the sale.

One NHL governor, who requested anonymity, told a Globe reporter that he and a number of his peers are not happy with the way Balsillie is conducting his bid for the team. "This guy is showing he is a pain in the ass before he even gets in the club". Balsillie's likely to succeed in his crusade for the simple reason that he'd be less of "a pain in the ass" if granted his team than if they try to fight this new development.

It's unsure if Balsillie will have sufficient votes for the move and whether certain teams have the ability to veto the move. This is where the Competition Bureau may step in. However, Balsillie appears to be more than willing to go to court if necessary. He fought the U.S. government over access to the U.S. market for his blackberry products so the NHL is small potatoes to him.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Saturday, June 09, 2007

No Stanley Cup Parade for Anaheim

If you thought the New Jersey Devils holding a Stanley Cup 'parade party' in a parking lot was bad, check out what the Ducks are doing.

There won't be a Stanley Cup parade in Anaheim, although it won't be because of traffic issues. Instead, there will be a rally at the Honda Center tomorrow night, if the locals haven't already forgotten about this Stanley Cup victory.


So, how are the Ducks spinning this?

"We want to make sure the fans have a way to celebrate and acknowledge the players who brought this championship to Orange County," said city spokesman John Nicoletti.

"We always take our cue from the team, and the team wanted to make sure the celebration and grand arrival of the players is concurrent," he said. "This gives everybody the opportunity to be in one place."

Who were the winners at the NHL trade deasdline?

Let's take all the big names that went at the trade deadline — Bill Guerin, Keith Tkachuk, Alexei Zhitnik, Peter Forsberg, Ryan Smyth, Gary Roberts, Ladislav Nagy, Mattias Norstrom, Todd Bertuzzi and Dainius Zubrus.

Only Zubrus and Bertuzzi advanced to a conference final and they were the only ones of this distinguished group to record seven or more points (Bertuzzi had seven; Zubrus eight, but did not score). It's always difficult to question a GM who has the intestinal fortitude to make a big trade, but, in hindsight, it doesn't seem like very much return for the futures that were spent to acquire these big-ticket players.

Again, the sellers all won.

Is the makings of a Cup contender?

Below is an updated list of Leaf contracts for next season. As you can see, John Ferguson has been busy locking up last year's team and is quickly approaching next season's salary cap. With Sundin and Colaiacovo still to be signed the Leafs will be at about $42 million. Unrestricted free agents are Perreault, Peca, O'neill and Aubin. Replacing them will bring the Leafs right up to the cap which is expected to be $48 million likely without any real improvement over last season.

Salary Commitments

PlayerPosStatus 06-07 Cap Hito7-08 Cap Hit
BelfourGYear 2 of buy-out $750K$750K
DevereauxFSigned to 2009$450K$650K
AntropovFSigned to 2009$1.125M$2.05M
KilgerFSigned to 2009$900K $900K
NewburyFSigned to 2009$450K$450K
OndrusFSigned to 2008$475K$475K
PohlFSigned to 2009$463K$463K
PonikarovskyFSigned to 2010$713K$2.105M
RaycroftGSigned to 2009$2M$2M
StajanFSigned to 2008$875K$875K
SteenFSigned to 2008$901K$901K
TuckerFSigned to 2012$1.59M$3M
SundinF

Club option

$6.33MTBD
WellwoodF

Signed to 2008

$875K$875K
WestrumF

Signed to 2008

$463K$463K
BelakDSigned to 2008 $670K$670K
GillDSigned to 2009$2.075M $2.075M
KaberleDSigned to 2011 $4.25M$4.25M
KronwallDSigned to 2009$625K$475K
KubinaDSigned to 2010$5M$5M
McCabeDSigned to 2011$5.75M$5.75M
WhiteDSigned to 2010$453K$850K
WozniewskiDSigned to 2008$463K$463
TOTAL


*$35,490,000

Thursday, June 07, 2007

NHL Relocation Policy Will Likely be Challenged

According to a report from the National Post, the Canadian Competition Bureau is investigating the NHL's franchise relocation policies and specifically the aspects that involve the "territorial rights" of teams like the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It's hard not to believe that Jim Balsillie didn't have just a little to do with the fact this is now being investigated, and you wonder if this business is making the Maple Leafs brass squirm. He would love to move the Nashville Predators to Hamilton and has already had some discussions regarding arena leases.

I would love to see this happen. The Toronto Maple Leaf organization treats its very loyal fans poorly - that is a fact. They charge the highest ticket prices in the league and provide a very poor product. Their commitment is to making money (and they make lots of it) and not to winning. It is a country club atmosphere built around a culture of losing.

Let's face it the GTA is a huge market that can be shared by two hockey teams. A second team will introduce competition and force the Leafs to examine their product and price for the first time. The other owners have no love for the Leaf organization because of their weak support of the lockout and the amount of money they make. Wouldn't it be nice if the other owners ganged up on Toronto and forced them to accept another team in their territory? Or better yet,what if Balsillie copied the Baltimore Colts and just packed up their hockey bags and moved to Hamilton? What would the league do?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

The Ducks are Finally Mighty

The Anaheim Ducks went all the way to become Stanley Cup champions because they had the greatest depth of talent. No luck was involved.

The Ducks had three strong forward lines that could all score, Norris Trophy finalists Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger to man the blue-lines and a consistently good goaltender in Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

The Senators were impressive through three rounds but could not cope with the rough-and-tumble Ducks in the final, and it didn’t help that goaltender Ray Emery had his worst performance of the post-season in the final game.

It took the Ducks 14 years to win the Cup. While the Leafs completed the 40th year since winning their last Cup without even making the playoffs. Comparing the Leaf and Duck rosters underscores how far the Leafs need to go to compete. The Ducks have a line made up of 2nd year players (Getzlf, Perry and Penner) that will all be stars while the Leafs best young players (Wellwood, Steen, Stajan) struggled this past season.

Meanwhile, Leaf GM, John Ferguson has been busy locking up
Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Tucker, Devereaux, White and soon will add Sundin. So there will be minimal change in the Leaf line up despite the fact that they couldn't even qualify for the playoffs. Once Ferguson signs all his free agents, there will be little cap money left to sign additional help.

So the culture of losing will continue in Toronto. Losers always have an excuse for not winning. When asked by Canadian Press to provide a post-mortem on the Leaf's most-recent season, Ferguson said "We were number one in the league to man games lost to injury in what turned out to be the toughest division in the East and probably in the league to qualify." When asked about the impact Sean Hill's delayed suspension had on the Leafs and Islanders, Ferguson said, "For sure I think we would have made the playoffs."

Monday, June 04, 2007

Don Cherry on NBC


I watched Don Cherry on NBC and he toned it down - in the wardrobe department anyway, for that much hyped second intermission appearance on NBC, alongside host Bill Clement and analyst Brett Hull. Cherry was wearing a white suit, with a polka-dotted tie - conservative attire by his usual standards. His rationale: "I didn't think the U.S. crowd was ready for one of my biggies" - but promised to trot out something more audacious if he was invited back on.

Cherry spent much of the time advocating for more fights in the NHL. He suggested it would be good for the NHL in America and for NBC. Seems 2-1 scores are fine for Cherry as long as there are 6 fights. He was not the usual bombastic Don Cherry partly because he voice was hoarse. But as well, Hull wasn't about to let Cherry dominate the air time.

Hello My Name is....


Spelling Bee organizers need to be able to spell


I'm pretty sure it's spelt MARYLAND.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

Dry Swimsuits Only!

Colin Campbell is Trying to Clean Up the Game

Give Colin Campbell some credit. He for one recognizes that hits to the head are not good for the NHL. So for the second time in the playoffs Chris Pronger has a 1-game suspension. When you suspend one of the game's star players, everyone else sits up and take notice. I doubt Don Cherry will be happy about this.



Dean McAmmond was skating 1-on-1 against Pronger early in the third period of Game 3 when Pronger hit McAmmond with an elbow. McAmmond was knocked out from the blow and is doubtful for Game 4 as well.

In Toronto Star online poll, 88% of respondents agreed with the suspension.

The NHL is all but dead in the U.S.

We all knew that the NHL had plummeted to relative obscurity in the U.S., but who knew it would drop this far. The sport that was once considered in the top four has been through a bad, bad stretch. The year-long lockout didn't help anything, and neither did its getting dropped by ESPN. To make matters worse, Anaheim's 3-2 victory over Ottawa in the opening game of the Stanley Cup Finals netted a paltry 0.72 rating on obscure cable station Versus.

What does that mean exactly? Well it means that only 523,000 households watched the game in the U.S. But perhaps what it really further illustrates is that nobody cares about hockey in the U.S. any more. The rating was down 18% from last year's opening game, which had a 0.88 rating. Here's a way to put things in perspective: The capacity for Ducks games at the Honda Center is 17,174. The team could match the overall viewership for Game One by selling out just 31 home games. Or another way - Versus reaches 73 million homes, which means that less than 1% of it possible audience watched the game.

Simply put, the NHL has no fans south of the border. Ratings are bound to increase when the series shifts to NBC after Game 2, but much of that will come from drop-in traffic. But if you want to use a true metric of real NHL fans, the Versus games are the ones to look at. They are the real fans that sought out the game. They are the ones who fought through the TV Guide and found Versus on channel 42,446. These 523,000 are the last real American NHL fans standing.

Edit: I hear that the local NBC affiliate in San Diego cut the last few minutes of Saturday's Game 3 Ottawa win over the Ducks so they could show Wheel of Fortune in HD instead. That sums of the state of the NHL in the U.S.