I’ll Have the Egg Salad…and a Penalty Killing Scheme, Please.

Cliff Fletcher apparently met with the media fletcher_cliff_getty_260today to give a horrible season by a bad team the uncomfortable (but not overly time-consuming) eulogy it needed. Wisely preferring not to point fingers at under-achieving players (which might lead to some uncomfortable moments among the pallbearers while interring the corpse), Fletcher further stipulated that the future of Leaf coach Paul Maurice is up to the incoming General Manager. According to the Globe and Mail’s account of Fletcher’s remarks, Fletcher appears to have quite appropriately assumed the hushed tones and comforting countenance of a caring and compassionate funeral director. He offered re-assurance for Leaf fans that time heals all wounds, and that the Leafs are going to a better place.

“The message is simple,” says the interim general manager. “The team is going to get better.

“It’s going to be a team starting next October that the fans are going to get excited about and be able to become proud about again.”

HiR:tb sources deep inside Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment confirm that the “there, there, it will get better in time” theme underlying Fletcher’s remarks to the media was selected after several board meetings characterized by boisterous debate between opposing management camps; in the end, the board decided this approach would be superior to the “don’t worry, the 2007-2008 Maple Leafs went to live on a farm” message that reportedly tested very well in focus-groups composed largely of six-year olds, hardcore Tie Domi fans from Woodbridge, and CBC budget planning executives.

In the “No Shit Sherlock” Department, please note that Fletcher isn’t saying that the turnaround will come quickly:

“Back when I was in Calgary and we looked up the road at the Edmonton Oilers . . . I had lunch with a rancher one day,” Fletcher recalled. “I said, ‘Boy, we’ve got to straighten this thing out in a hurry.’

“He said, ‘Cliff, the corral is full of horses but you can only bring one into the barn at a time.’

Couched as it is in folksy wisdom terms involving things like barns, horses and corrals, this observation must indisputably be both pithy and truthful. As compelling as all agricultural reasoning may be, however, I think that it would have been better for Uncle Cliff to quote Robert Duvall’s character (Officer Bob Hodges) from the film Colors, which would have had the obvious advantage of referring to bulls and fornication instead of barns and horses (which are, no doubt, a rather “girly” animal). Perhaps it’s just a matter of personal preference, but I think that this reference, delivered with the appropriate amount of non-Michael Jackson-like crotch grabbing would have a salutary effect upon Fletcher’s overall machismo and might well intimidate other general managers and scare them into making a stupid trade with the Leafs, such as Andrew Raycroft for – well, anybody.

The real news in this article, however, concerns neither the public grieving for a stillborn season, nor the relative merits of colourful rural parables. Rather, the incredible news in this item concerns the nature of an NHL general manager’s job duties: to run a team based upon the received wisdom of sandwich-gobbling cowboys. All these years, I thought that general managers were executives who functioned much like management in other business organizations: setting goals, objectives and priorities, evaluating personnel, devoting scarce institutional resources towards certain needs and doing things like, well, managing (generally) their organization’s attempts to achieve an objective. I guess I just sort of assumed that the decisions the manager made would be based upon his own assessment of the correct organizational response to the particular challenges faced at any given point in time. It would appear, however, that the evidence runs much to the contrary: if the Calgarian renaissance in question was indeed sparked by an aphorism-spouting farmer, the key to success does not come from within, but is instead received as a fait accompli from without.

One thing is, accordingly,unmistakably clear: Cliff Fletcher needs to start eating a shitload of lunch with so many homesteaders as are prepared to provide their accumulated wisdom, so that Fletcher may glean the answers to the pressing concerns of the day. sammichSpeaking as an interested Leaf supporter, I would be in favour of Mr. Fletcher replacing both his breakfast and his dinner with lunches, as it seems to me that there are plenty of hockey-related problems to solve and precious few meals in a day; it would be better, in my estimation, if he didn’t fill up on things like cereal and steaks, which are unlikely to be accompanied by any helpful advice whatsoever. I know that Mr. Fletcher is getting on in years and that he can’t commit his entire life to the rebuilding project, but I wonder whether he would also be prepared to squeeze in a couple of extra lunches a week, perhaps in the afternoon when the rest of the guys in the office have gone out for coffee. If it would help, maybe MLSE could spring for a treadmill to put in Cliff’s office so that he’s not in danger of getting so much guidance that his pants start to split.

Obviously, Leaf management can’t be out to lunch all the time (though folks like Damien Cox will suggest the contrary) , so it occurred to me that in the interests of pushing the boundaries of managerial excellence, it might be possible to augment the lunchtime policy symposiums with the undoubtedly excellent counsel offered in a number of other places in which the rich ore of hockey wisdom has yet to be mined by rival general managers (rather like the Leafs’ decision to draft Luca Cereda from that secret hotbed of hockey, Switzerland – and you know how well that worked out). Accordingly, I’ve compiled a list below of other places (besides lunch with didactic agriculturalists) in which it might be possible for the Leaf brass to obtain the insight necessary to right the ship and win a Cup:

  • The barber shop. Hey, you gotta look good if you’re going to be eating all that lunch, so why not go for a trim and – while you’re there – learn who to hire to run the power play and why it is important to employ a sufficient number of aggressive cretins to ensure success on the ice. Saturday afternoons are good, I think – listen carefully whenever anyone begins a statement by opining loudly “In my day…” or speaks wistfully about an incident like the time Dan Maloney tried to see what was inside Brian Glennie’s head by smashing it on the ice – these are “real hockey fans” speaking.
  • Any bar, or indeed any establishment that serves alcohol in the Dominion of Canada. Note that the most excellent intelligence is likeliest to be offered up after the patrons inside have each had a few bowls of loudmouth soup. Tip: ask around for someone who doesn’t watch any televised hockey and doesn’t attend any games in person; in my personal experience, these guys have by far the most expert advice to offer.
  • Ann Landers. (’nuff said).
  • Newspaper columnists. Many sports columnists have several opinions about the correct course of action for the franchise to pursue.
  • The blogosphere. Um, I’m just going to shuffle my feet for a bit, stare at the floor, then clear my throat for a while to break up the awkward silence.

Feel free to drop me a line in the comments section if you can think of other places in which Leafs managment might get a little free education about the task ahead.
Full text of the Globe article here, go clicky…

By junior

Guitar owner and silly person.

5 comments

  1. I submit that there’s some sort of indefinable chemistry to being on a team; ergo some sort of personality test (not recommending Voight-Kampff here, though) or, god forbid, match.com as a last resort may be of some use.

    Yeah, and they’re the heavyweight villains from the 80’s, but the Russians do know how to play some team hockey; it really wasn’t until the Red Wings stocked up on Soviet Bloc talent that they really started clicking in the early 90’s (Larionov, Fetisov in particular weren’t just part of the same on-ice unit, they also had plenty of hoary old wisdom locked up in their heads). Perhaps some sort of rent-a-relic service, then? Bring alumni back onto the (practice) ice for inspiration and advice.

  2. I propose that Wendel Clark come back and just beat everyone on the Leafs, including support staff, to a bloody pulp.

    They might not get better at hockey, but anyone that survives will certainly be tougher.

  3. @ Mike:

    Now that you mention Blade Runner, I’m starting to think that Chris Chelios is a replicant.

    @Chemmy:

    A good ol’ Saskatchewan whuppin’ is surely educational, but evidently not as helpful as straight up lunch…

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