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July 27, 2005

The evil Spector attacks

Bearing in mind that Canadian sports journalism's collective high water mark is somewhere near the Daily Mail's, I think the National Post's Mark Spector is a pretty decent hockey writer. But his recent Coxic, Strachanian obsession with the evil Toronto Maple Leafs is becoming tiresome. I mean, really now — just how many times does it need to be said that the Leafs have cap problems?

Here's Spector on Tuesday, a little confused:

Yes, on the first Monday of the rest of their lives, the small-market clubs watched the Red Wings burn US$9.31-million to clear out some room under the salary cap, buying out Derian Hatcher, Ray Whitney and Darren McCarty...

But that's flat-out wrong. Those players were waived when he wrote the article, not bought out, and could still have theoretically wound up back in Detroit. (But they didn't.)

Spector on the buyout provisions:

It is a once-in-a-CBA lifeline for all those clubs who stared into the coming labour strife during the last two seasons, then went ahead spending like fools anyhow, likely guaranteed by Bettman that they would get this week-long, "Get Out Of Jail At A Price" card. Call it payback for having stood back and let the small marketeers steer the ship during the lockout. A team like Toronto wasn't going to take a back seat during the negotiating process, only to have a CBA that left them painted into a corner with no quick way out.

Huh. That's certainly the first time I've seen the scenario framed as some kind of favour to the big-market clubs (or indeed to anyone). I think it's remarkably punitive towards clubs with big salaries on the books: teams aren't even allowed to restructure existing deals or to re-sign players they've bought out. Short of forcing the Rangers, Red Wings and Maple Leafs to actually sit out the 2005-06 season on account of cap violations, a harsher solution for those teams is pretty much inconceivable. I mean, think about it: Darren McCarty — lifetime Red Wing, fan favourite — was prohibited from agreeing to a lower salary with his team! This doesn't just punish the team — it punishes McCarty and the fans as well. Logic says it was some kind of concession to the NHLPA, but it won't put a smile on anyone's face.

Spector on the Leafs and the cap:

In Toronto, it's hard to picture a scenario under which a team could be more ill-prepared for the new CBA than the Maple Leafs are today, with US$27-million of a US$39-million salary ceiling committed to only eight players -- five of whom are 33 or older.

Here's a few ill scenarios right here: the Rangers have $21.7 million committed to six players, four of whom are 32 or over and all of whom suck and/or have been complete financial disasters. Philadelphia had nearly $34 million tied up in 11 players before they bought out LeClair and Amonte. If the Wings want to remain competitive they'll have to sign Henrik Zetterberg, Pavel Datsyuk, Steve Yzerman, and a #1 goalie, as well as fill the rest of their roster, with about $15 million. (That's assuming they don't let Yzerman go to another team or allow this to nudge him into retirement, which, as much as I am not a Wings fan, would be a real sporting tragedy.)

Oh and hey, speaking of worse scenarios: Boston doesn't have any players!

Spector swings a dead cat around:

Today, the hot topic around Toronto is whether the Leafs should go after Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk, a pair of 39-year-olds who have had plenty of time to take the Maple Leafs somewhere and failed.

(Nieuwendyk has had one (1) season to take the Maple Leafs somewhere.)

Spector ignores empirical measurements of strength:

Toronto is a very average team whose best players are in the twilight of their careers, with very little coming up through the farm system.

I bleed blue and white, it's true, but if you're going to base your assessment of a team on factors other than winning, I think you'd better identify those factors. Toronto hasn't been an "average team" in a decade.

Spector engaging in some shadow-general managing:

With so little going for them at the moment, it would behoove Toronto to make good on this final advantage, buy out a Nolan, Belfour and McCabe, and get to work on landing a true superstar in the prime of his career.

Yeah, and who's going to play in net? Or is Nikolai Khabibulin the superstar in question? Come on.

Please, Mark Spector, the position of Leafs-hating, vendetta-pursuing Canadian hockey journalist has been filled many times over. I beg you to seek out new and more exciting career opportunities.

Posted by Chris Selley at July 27, 2005 11:34 PM

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Sorry. Unconvinced. Toronto is a lot of clutch and grab style old guys who are clearly on the decline. Look at a team like Tampa Bay, skill, finesse, speed, youth. They also won the Cup. It's pretty obvious that the guy is right, you can't keep the dinosaurs running around forever.

Posted by: name at July 28, 2005 12:09 PM

It would appear that the venerable Mark Spector was about right when it came right down to it. Here we are - many months later, with skill teams in the playoffs and the Leafs on the outside looking in. Congratulations T.O. Another typically brutal Maple Laffs season. Enjoy the golf while we in Edmonton - a skilled and fast team - enjoy hockey in May. The new CBA is a great thing for the league and their fans. If only the so-hard-done-by blue and white could stop whining long enough to see that.

Posted by: Oilman at May 11, 2006 01:42 PM

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