Okay, Leafs fans, admit it – it was tough to see Tyler Seguin pulling on that Bruins jersey earlier tonight when the Beantowners picked him with the Leafs’ first rounder, courtesy of the Phil Kessel trade.
I tweeted about this earlier today, though. Boston fans got to watch one highlight today that Leaf fans find a little galling. We got to watch 30 highlights last season from Mr. Kessel, with many more to come down the road.
For a while, I thought that was the only way I could console myself about the Leafs’ uninvolvement in this draft. Then I watched as Ottawa GM Bryan Murray crapped the bed. With several highly ranked prospects still undrafted, he traded his pick to St. Louis for David Rundblad. Who?
Well, exactly. No doubt Senators fans – the few that have learned to read, and the rest who’ve heard about this from a friend – are spending the evening with their tiny little heads in the oven. Don’t worry, in a few hours they’ll realize they have electric appliances.
In the end, Burkie’s “nothing” was vastly superior to that bit of Ottawa bedshittery.
As a Toronto Maple Leaf player, you are invited to attend the annual Toronto Maple Leafs end-of-season banquet and awards ceremony. This year, the banquet will be held on Saturday April 17th, 2010 at Jack Astor’s, unless of course we make the playoffs. Ha ha, just kidding! Seriously, though, the banquet is on the 17th at 7 p.m. sharp.
I’m not including a map to (or the address of) the specific Jack Astor’s restaurant we’re going to because it’s important that we keep the location of our team shindig confidential, to avoid having any unwanted guests. In unrelated news, I’ve told Rickard Wallin (through a Swedish interpreter, he doesn’t read English) that we’ll be at Wendel Clark’s Classic Grille in Oakville. He has been instructed to arrive early, demand to speak with the owner, and threaten him with trouble if we don’t enjoy our evening (which I have booked under the name “Fetisov”). Don’t spoil the surprise for Ricky – remember how many stitches it took to close up the wound in Jason Blake’s face last year? Oh, right, almost none of you were here for that. Well trust me, it was good times.
The dinner menu at the actual, non-fake, banquet location includes: beef. If you do not want to eat beef, or if you are a vegetarian or have other incorrect desires, let me just say that Edmonton gets pretty cold in the winter and – as incredible as it may sound – the Oilers are less likely than even us to win anything anytime soon. Jonas Gustavsson can have pickled herring, but only because he has a couple of doctor’s notes and I don’t like to get covered in exploding heart blood. Remember, for this meal, the “Wellwood Rule” is in effect so portions will be limited to six servings of 48 oz. each.
After dinner of course, we’ll be handing out the end of season awards. By tradition, your Master of Ceremonies will be the longest serving Leaf player, Tomas Kaberle. As you know, also by tradition, the M.C. is ineligible to win any of the awards. We offered to move Kabby out of that spot, but he insisted that he isn’t concerned about winning and wanted to stay (why does this sound familiar?); in fact, he would like to MC both this year and next. I can say that we’re prepared to meet him halfway on that one.
Awards to be presented this year include:
the David Williams Memorial “Mister Congeniality” Plaque (2010 recipient: Colton Orr – has anybody else noticed no one has disagreed with Colton about anything since he dummied Matt Carkner?);
the Wendel Clark “Most Valuable Player” Trophy (2010 recipient: Jeff Finger – shhh, don’t say anything, I’m talking trade with someone whose name rhymes with “Errol Flutter” and this MVP thing may get us Jarome Iginla and a pick); and
the Gary Leeman “Best Teammate” Prize (2010 recipient: former Leaf Vesa Toskala, in honour of the unremittingdedication to his craft he displayed. He doesn’t know it yet, but Vesa will be in attendance at the Banquet courtesy of a burlap sack, some duct tape and the trunk of Jay Rosehill’s car. Please note that this award will be presented posthumously and as soon as possible: bring your own blunt object.)
After the awards ceremony, though it’ll be tough to top that last award, we’ll be moving to the entertainment portion of the evening. Right now, the plan is for Phil Kessel, Nikolai Kulemin and Tyler Bozak to come up with something to dazzle us all. The rest of us will have to hope that’s enough. So it’s pretty much business as usual.
Since he ought to contribute something to the team this year, Garnet Exelby will be responsible for bringing the beer. When he screws that up, we’ll just buy some from the bar. Please note that in view of the numerous unfortunate incidents resulting in so much broken glass at the goaltenders’ table last year, players are asked not to toss bottles to one another at any time.
Remember that while in attendance at this function, you are representing Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the Toronto Maple Leafs. Be pleasant and respectful to the wait staff, bartenders and busboys, especially Boyd Devereaux and Justin Pogge.
Stay as late as you like, and enjoy yourself. Our next meeting as a team will be in Los Angeles on draft day. Maybe we can go to the zoo or something, we’ll have plenty of time on our hands.
A huge day for the Toronto Maple Leafs today: they traded Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to Calgary for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. Stajan, White and Mayers are all on expiring contracts, so they are essentially rentals. Hagman has two years to go on an economical 3 million dollar deal for a streaky but reliable goal scorer.
That was a huge deal. My preliminary evaluation is that the trade reeks of desperation on the part of Darryl Sutter. He has overpaid for a couple of scoring forwards in a desperate attempt to turn the Flames’ ship around and make a run for the Cup while they have the core (Iginla, Kiprussof and Bouwmeester) signed up. Calgary is tied for third worst in the Western Conference at 143 goals for; turning to two players from the 29th place team in the league for help, and giving up a 24 year old potential franchise player-calibre asset for three rentals and a streaky scorer in the process, is a recipe for disaster. Darryl Sutter has just gone all in; this move combined with the Olli Jokinen trade last year may well cost him his job. Heck, he might have to move out of Calgary if Phaneuf re-acquires half of the potential he showed in his first couple of years in the league.
Even more remarkably, however, Brian Burke managed to unload Vesa Toskala the Incompetent and Jason Blake – the world’s most expensive and energetic hamster – for J.S. Giguere. I am at a loss to understand how Bob Murray steels himself to approach the microphone and announce to the press gathered for Ducks news that he has traded for Vesa fucking Toskala. The only explanation that makes any sense at all is that his team plays in Anaheim and nobody – himself possibly included – really cares about hockey.
As for how these trades affect the Maple Leafs, my analysis is posted over at Maple Leafs Hot Stove. Click on over there for the full details, but my general sense is that these moves make sense and represent positive steps towards the ultimate goal of icing a competitive team. It isn’t going to happen this year or possibly even next, but everything that happened today is consistent with the over-riding objectives I identified in my article about the rebuild for the Maple Leafs Annual last summer.
Update: I just realized something else…Brian Burke didn’t just make a bunch of trades, IT’S FREEDOM 55 DAY!!!
I went down to the Leafs/Kings game at the Air Canada Centre last night with my Dad.
I’ll wait a moment or two while you make whatever derogatory, insulting and completely justified remarks about the woeful performance of the Blue and White.
(taps foot. scratches ear. coughs. looks at watch. scratches ear again. yawns. checks email. still scratching ear. you done yet? cracks knuckles…)
Well, that took some time but I’m glad we got it out of the way. Very inventive use of profanity by you, by the way; you have a special gift. Your mother must be so proud! To summarize, then: the Leafs’ recent performance ranks somewhere on the acceptability scale between “cannibalism” and “child pornography”; let us all agree that the Buds’ bed is now well and truly shat and – though it’s only late January – this has to be seen as another lost season.
I’ll have more to say about the reasons I think these things have happened and I hope to get into some discussion about the future too, but for now I want to give MLSE props where props are due. I can hear the yowls of protest from the talk radio haters now; what good could possibly be said about MLSE? Everybody (well, at least everybody who calls into talk radio shows) knows that MLSE is a soulless corporate behemoth, one that greedily hoards every spare cent for the Pension Plan, right? Everybody knows that the greed of ownership is the reason the Leafs always suck, right? And everybody knows that’ll never change because the suits don’t have any incentive to ice a competitive team when they’re making money hand over fist already, right?
As for the heartless greed of MLSE, consider this: last night, MLSE and the Leafs arranged to collect funds from fans entering the building for relief of those affected by the recent earthquake in Haiti. Typical, right, MLSE reaching into your wallet for your dollars, all the while cackling maniacally on a giant stack of their own money, right? Except that the Leafs were matching every dollar collected threefold; that’s right, for every dollar collected from fans attending the game last night, MLSE is chipping in three bucks of their own for the emergency relief fund. Apparently, the Leafs did the same thing at a Marlies game on the 23rd and a Raptors game on the 24th. This doesn’t appear to me to be an attempt to grab some cheap publicity; I wasn’t able to find any reference online to how much the promotion raised, though I did find the newspaper stories and press release announcing MLSE’s intentions to do the fundraiser. None of the MLSE Twitter feeds make any reference to how much money was raised, according to a search I did earlier tonight. I’m going to try and contact MLSE tomorrow to see if they can confirm the results. I’d also like to find out whether that money is going to be funnelled through a charity to which the federal government’s matching program applies – which would effectively convert every dollar handed over by the fans into eight bucks in the hands of relief organizations in the quake zone.
Incidentally, I learned about the Leafs’ efforts in this regard from the big boss himself; when I entered the Air Canada Centre with my Dad for the game at around 6:20, Brian Burke himself was at the front door, schlepping a coffee can for donations. Say what you will about the way Burke is running the team; go ahead and criticize the way his rebuild plan for the hockey club is unfolding. Whatever you feel about either of those things, you’d have to agree that it takes some flat out balls for the General Manager of a Maple Leafs team that’s on its way to missing the playoffs for a fifth consecutive year to stand right there in the lobby, look the paying customers in the eye as they come through the turnstiles, and ask them to pitch in for an excellent charitable cause. When I spoke to him, he was careful to tell me that MLSE was kicking in the extra matching funds, and he seemed genuinely interested when I told him about the fundraising efforts that the crew at Pension Plan Puppets recently made.
The Leafs have rightly taken a lot of heat for their performance on the ice this year. Give them their due when it comes to community responsibility and good corporate citizenship.
I am told that the Maple Leafs Annual is now available in many Chapters Indigo stores. My Dad picked up his copy in a store in Burlington today. Other reports via Twitter suggest that copies have been found in places like Wal-Mart elsewhere in the province.
If you’re someone who has already bought a copy of the magazine and you’re a new visitor dropping by this site because you followed the link at the end of my article, thanks for your interest. PLEASE do me the favour of taking the time to drop me a message in the comments, even if just to let me know you were here. I’d prefer it, of course, if you wrote a few hundred words about how my article is the best thing since somebody froze up a piece of poo and started whacking it around the frozen pond with a crooked branch, but feel free to berate me instead for whatever flaws you have identified in my article. I really would like to have a discussion with the readers and get your impressions of what I wrote (even if you don’t do impressions :-), thank you very much, don’t forget to tip your waitress, be sure to try the veal and I’m here all week). Like many of the contributors to the magazine, I haven’t done this sort of thing before and I am (some would say pathetically so) desperate for feedback on the results.
My complimentary copy of the 2009-2010 Maple Leafs Annual – the Leafs season preview magazine containing my article on the arc of the Leafs’ rebuild and published by the “lunatic millionaires” who are “allergic to money” has arrived! Can you believe it, my piece was published on page 85, well known in the trade as the single most important page in any book, magazine or Jehovah’s Witness literature.
My initial reaction, having just opened up the box and frantically turned pages to confirm that my bit actually got published (in order to ensure that this is not part of an elaborate joke being played upon me by family and “friends”), is that the magazine looks terrific. Alec Brownscombe should be very pleased; I know I am.
Realistically, Stralman has failed to crack the Leafs lineup over the last two years under either Coach Wilson or Paul Maurice. The Leafs’ defence has been paper thin in this time period. Stralman is not old at 23, but it’s fair to say that his failure to impress when given an opportunity suggests that losing him is no big deal.
Remember too, Leafs fans, that your blueline is stacked and set for a number of years. Stralman didn’t figure realistically in Burke’s plans; better that he gets converted into an asset for the future rather than burying him in the minors to waste away and bugger off next year for no return whatsoever.
Wayne Primeau? It’s all about shuffling around salaries and such. Burke gave Calgary a bit of soothing cap relief and basically got a 2nd rounder out of the deal. Whether Primeau plays centre on the first line or sells beer in section 504, it matters not.
But it has to be said that it is not just the Leafs’ good fortunes that have sparked the positive mojo; also playing a role in Leaf fans’ gleeful anticipation of the coming season are the disasters-in-waiting being presided over by Messrs. Murray and Gainey in Ottawa and Montreal respectively. It cannot be denied that a healthy dose of schadenfreude in relation to our divisional rivals’ struggles is spicing the Blue and White soup of excitement just so, turning this particular dish into a gourmet delicacy upon which the faithful are gratefully gorging themselves.
I can’t help but think that we owe our friends in Montreal and Ottawa a debt of gratitude for the enjoyment we’ve received from this most delicious and nourishing meal (trust me, I’m going somewhere with this). Accordingly, I have a proposal, set out in more detail at the end of this post, for a way in which we might show our appreciation for our rivals’ hospitality.
But first, a little refresher on the facts.
The Senators contributed the first ingredient or two to our delicious repast, first with Dany Heatley’s ridiculous team-chemistry destroying trade demand (followed up expertly by his refusal to waive his no-trade clause upon the conclusion of a trade agreement with Edmonton). Next came that delightfully flavourful moment at the draft, thankfully captured for posterity by TSN cameras and microphones, during which our angry Irish overlord produced, with the unwitting assistance of the beleagured Murray, the most astonishingly public gobsmacking in recorded history. Just a few days ago, Murray put the cherry on top of his part of this concoction, signing the chronically apathetic Alexei Kovalev to a contract so unbelievably lucrative that I originally assumed that the financial figures must have been reported for some reason in pesos.
These events, though, have in truth paled in significance when compared to the struggles of one Robert “Bob” Gainey, the manager of generalities in Montreal. On the heels of the “centennial” season that wasn’t, the laughable drive for 25 that ended up as a bug to the Bruins’ windshield and widespread public dissatisfaction with the Habs players (I’m looking at you, Carey Price) and management, Gainey gave Leaf fans another gift or two. In the early hours of free agency, Leafs fans were like disappointed children on Christmas morning (having opened a box containing Colton Orr when the Sedins had been expressly requisitioned of Santa Claus) but Gainey gave us something to focus on and deride: his trade for the enormous contract of a tiny underachieving centreman: Scott Gomez. The trade made no sense, even to Leaf fans, who are especially adept at attempting to piece together the demented and alleged logic underpinning the roster moves of our own organization; why would the Habs take on a massive salary, give up their best young prospect and get back so (literally) little player for their troubles? Just as the startled laughter began to fade over this move, along came the punch line: Gainey apparently designed and built a nuclear powered money-throwing machine that he immediately deployed to assist him in propelling currency at both Mike Cammalleri and Brian Gionta, which currency the two gnome-like wingers quickly stuffed into their tiny pockets.
Then the Fun Train really got chugging along as the Leafs signed Mike Komisarek – a big part of the physical presence on the Montreal blueline – and Gainey fired his riposte, an overpayment for defenceman Jaroslav Spacek to the tune of $11.25 million. It was as if the spirit of a drunken, brain-injured John Ferguson Jr. had inhabited Gainey’s body, and (predictably) had begun rampaging through the Habs’ organization like the Stay-Puff Marshmallow Man, with nary a Ghostbuster in sight. Fans of the Blue and White couldn’t get enough of this poltergeist’s mischievous destruction.
Leaf fans have been wiping away tears of laughter ever since. Sure, Mike Cammalleri is a talented player, and the Leafs even wanted to sign him up to the hometown squad, but Mike Cammalleri is no Steve Austin; he just isn’t a Six Million Dollar Man. Gionta and Gomez were/are also vastly overpaid, but more amusingly – I don’t know if you’ve noticed this – they’re all rather diminutive. It occurred to Leaf Nation – and approximately 100% of the rest of humanity not pulling on the controls of the Hab machinery – that this might not be the best plan ever concocted for success in the National Hockey League.
Gentle reader, it’s a known fact that people can be cruel about such things. I am saddened to report that some among the Leaf fans gathered at Pension Plan Puppets even succumbed to their lesser nature and fashioned a jest or two thousand premised upon the central organizing conceit that Montreal Canadiens forwards, this coming season, might be somewhat smaller than average. I have even heard the occasional jape fashioned around the notion that Alexei Kovalev might not exhibit the sort of leadership that even, say for example, a fourth grade hall monitor might. Shocking and misguided, I know.
Watching the whole series of events unfold in the Twitterverse, I’ve started to get the feeling that Habs fans were feeling a little down about the whole thing (side note: is there a collective term for Canadiens fans? Is there a “Habs Nation” or are we just sticking with “that bunch of fickle pricks chanting `na na na na’ and singing fucking soccer songs”? Yeah, I thought so.) I started to wonder whether, in the spirit of good karma, we Leaf fans ought not to pitch in to cheer the fuckers up. I got to thinking about the many ways that the Leafs’ free agent signings had improved the general welfare of the universe and it occurred to me that there MUST be something positive, from a wider societal perspective, to say about the Montreal transactions (we know they’re no damn good in terms of improving their chances of winning hockey games, that’s for sure).
As for Senators fans, well they’re a bit different. The thing about the Sens fans is, bless their little hearts, they don’t understand how totally screwed their team is. They have, to put it mildly, a problem. I have a suggestion about how to help fix that for them (watch this space in the coming days), but – for now – the immediate concern is our depressed friends in the bleu, blanc et rougechandails.
So here’s my proposal.
To thank the Montreal Canadiens and their fans for the part they played in cheering us Leaf fans up, I propose that we come up with a series of 100 simple statements (one for each year in this, the REAL centennial) about the state of the Canadiens’ franchise along the lines of a positive affirmation for our friends. Each statement should delineate some beneficial feature of the Habs’ present predicament that represents a silver lining in the storm clouds gathering over the Bell Centre, along the lines of the model set out below. Let’s collect a hundred such statements (remember, it’s their centennial), package them up with a nice bow, and send them off to our friends at Habs Eyes on the Prize with our compliments; after all, they’ve been so supportive of us during the last few difficult years, I truly feel this is the absolute least we can do.
Here’s my first contribution to Project “C’est Something Nice!”:
In the future, the Montreal Canadiens will be leaders in the field of hockey equipment innovation and research: the Buster Brown shoe company, for example, will be retained to design and manufacture special “right-sized” skates for the Habs’ forwards.
Feel free to leave your own efforts in the comments below. Let’s make this happen, Leaf fans – I know you have this kind of compassion in your souls.
Update, Thursday July 9 8:30 p.m.: Well, folks, we’ve only managed to gather together an even dozen zingers so far. Quite frankly, that’s a Kovalev-ian effort, dammit. We are far, far…erm….”short” of our goal of a century of zingers soothing mottos to package up for the burning cop car/broken windows at the depanneur set. I know there are some of you who have more love to give. Maybe you’re uncertain whether your first attempt at soothing the Gallic pain will hit the mark; no problem, leave a couple of attempts in the comments below. Let’s work this bee-yatch up, yo.
My second contribution to the project:
Corporate cash cow: sales of official Montreal Canadiens “game-used booster chairs” expected to skyrocket in 2009 – 2010 season.
Last night, I painted a metaphorical picture of Maple Leafs’ defenceman Francois “Happy Trails” Beauchemin and his bulky blueline brethren as each being rather like a rampaging Godzilla, treating the opposition like so many unfortunate stomped-upon movie extras. Today, Brian Burke brought us a real live Monster; the Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson to a one year entry-level contract. For those of you who are heavily medicated, have severe brain injuries, or are Ottawa Senators fans, I will explain slowly and carefully: the nice man who used to wear the yellow and blue hockey sweater has a funny nickname – that’s a name that isn’t his real name, but which people use to refer to him anyway – and that nickname is “Monster”. Yes, that’s right, just like Jason Spezza is known as “Giggles” except, you know, about 100 bajillion times cooler.
No doubt Don Cherry will rant that the Leafs have blasphemed by signing a foreign Monster, when good Canadian beasts like Ogopogo or Champ can’t catch a break in the NHL. Cryptozoological curiosities aside, however, I am very much encouraged by today’s news. Not only the Toronto Maple Leafs, but indeed society at large will enjoy many advantages as a result of this development. In an effort to foster reasoned, objective and complete debate about all of the many wide-ranging positive ramifications of this acquisition, Heroes in Rehab: the blog has developed the following Monster quick-reference fact sheet:
Benefits of The Monster: a preliminary (but holistic and societal) estimate:
FACT: Unless my old Dungeons & Dragons papers have gotten mixed up with these scouting reports, the Toronto Maple Leafs are now the only NHL club whose goaltender shoots left, catches left, and has a fiery breath weapon that does 8d10 damage. Note: simple chronic halitosis doesn’t count as a “breath weapon”, or Henrik Lundqvist (who presumably eats rather a lot of lutefisk) might have qualified here. Gustavsson’s fiery cone of destruction is advantageous because the repeated immolation of Ottawa Senators forwards on national television, in additon to being profoundly entertaining, will teach young children not to crash the crease irresponsibly unless they are willing to man up and make a saving throw with 2d10 or (in the alternative) are impervious to fire. Wait; come to think of it, I might be slightly confused about this one.
FACT: Sports headline writers throughout the mainstream media learned of this signing today and instantly burst into tears of joy. They immediately saw that (as a result of the off-the-charts pun potential of Gustavsson’s nickname) they could seriously elevate the already considerable level at which they are just fucking mailing in their work, and that this profound apathy can reliably be expected to continue until the end of Monster’s contract year or until newspapers themselves become officially extinct, whichever comes first. In any case, the world has thus been spared the possibility of these ink-stained wretches having to actually work, becoming unhappy, and going postal on a Mickey D’s while screaming incoherently about not being able to come up with any new foliage-related bon mots.
FACT:Rodan and Mothra are now 38% less likely to attack and destroy the Air Canada Centre during a Leaf game – which is good for MLSE and its shareholders, mostly for insurance reasons. Oh, and also, there is also some non-financial (but still desirable for MLSE anyway) benefit to the fact that 18,000 Leaf fans won’t be slaughtered in their seats by giant prehistoric monsters bent on destruction. This is also good for beer sales.
FACT: In an unusual move, the National Hockey League will prohibit Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa from even entering the building if and when Jonas Gustavsson is present. This ruling comes as a result of the Brian Berard incident in 2000; apparently, the league is worried that Hossa’s casual approach to stick control might cause a similar injury to the Toronto goaltender. The NHL is determined to avoid the significant embarrassment and notoriety resulting from the inevitable subsequent references to the “One-Eyed Monster” in net for Toronto. The league is reported to be extremely concerned about one nightmare scenario in which a wounded and monocular Gustavsson plays poorly and is replaced during the game, in which case the wags would no doubt scandalously be talking about Ron Wilson pulling the One-Eyed Monster.¹
FACT: It’s 2009 and there’s a worldwide recession in full swing, people. Except that now MLSE has the Monster and cross-promotional marketing and advertising opportunities abound! New Leaf sponsors are expected to include monster.com (hey, I hear they’re so good, they even got Andrew Raycroft a new job – playing hockey!), Monster cable (I suspect somehow related to the washrooms in the ACC), Monster trucks (ACC Zambonis, suitably modified, clear the ice and crush surplus Chevy Cavaliers at centre ice during the intermissions), and the occasional monster movie (Aliens vs. Predators on the ACC Jumbotron at intermission with Gustavsson in goal for the Leafs against Nashville, naturally). Result: Jonas Gustavsson single-handedly saves the global economy.
Some will tell you that Gustavsson’s signing is a good one because it gives Brian Burke and the Leafs some depth and flexibility at the goaltending positon with Justin Pogge still apparently developing in the AHL. Some may say that it should have the desirable result, via the natural engine of pre-existing national rivalries and competition for employment, of spurring Finland’s Vesa Toskala to greater achievements in Toronto’s twine tent this season. Should Gustavsson prove himself equal to the job of an NHL starter, some may even say that this signing might provide Brian Burke with the ability to trade a (hopefully) rejuvenated Toskala for some scoring depth at forward while simultaneously retaining the mobile, offensively gifted and musically beloved Tomas Kaberle. This latter achievement, of course, would be the stick and puck managerial equivalent of the loaves and fishes miracle and would legally entitle Brian Burke to slap every other NHL GM in the face whenever he wanted, just for shits and giggles. These are among the various benefits that some hockey analysts will identify in relation to the Jonas Gustavsson signing.
But you know better, gentle reader. You know that the real benefit has to do with breath weapons, economic recovery and a significantly reduced risk of annihilation by rampaging mutant dinosaurs.
¹Critics will tell you this was a very long way to go for a dick joke, but I stand by my artistic decision-making process.
The Maple Leafs signed defenceman Francois Beauchemin, late of the Anaheim Ducks, to a 4 year deal today. The deal brings an annual cap hit of about $3.8 million.
I am a huge fan of this signing, for several reasons:
It will be hilarious to watch Montreal’s Lollipop Guild of Cammalleri, Gomez and Gionta spontaneously pee their tiny little pantses when the Leaf defence pairings stomp on to the ice this year. Seriously, the Leafs have more beef on the back end than Oprah, J-Lo and Tomas Holmstrom combined.
The move gives Burke options. He can trade Tomas Kaberle for Jesus Christ and a (top five) first round draft choice or he can move some of the surplus second-tier blueliners now milling about the halls of the ACC, bumping into each other and the walls (such as Stralman, Van Ryn, Finger, Oreskovic, etc.) for more urgently required spare parts: “depth” (i.e. “crappy”) forwards or draft picks.
Whatever the fate of Kaberle, adding a bona fide fearsome defender like Beauchemin on top of the earlier Mike Komisarek signing, the addition of Garnet Exelby (via trade with Atlanta) and the continuing threat of Luke “The Human Eraser” Schenn ensures that no one will come within approximately sixty feet of the Maple Leafs’ crease next season.
This last fact ought to help in the “Monster” derby, the race to sign Swedish goaltender Jonas Gustavsson, which ought to help bring some depth to the goaltending position. This is a polite way of saying that the Leafs’ goaltending sucked donkey balls last year. I love Curtis Joseph dearly, but he did not play well, and an injured Vesa Toskala also turned in a performance best described as “weaksauce”. Why does the signing of Happy Trails Frankie help out in this regard? Ask yourself: if you were a young Swedish lad considering which team to join in order to make your NHL debut, wouldn’t you kind of want to go to a club where the defencemen treat attackers like Godzilla treats Japanese public transportation vehicles?
It’s back to the future, man. Back in the day, when the Leafs were the shit instead of just being “shit”, their style of play was always defined by hard-nosed defence. The Leafs of the 50s and 60s were more about Horton and Stanley than they were about any fancypants offence. It’s how we do things in the Blue & White: crushing hip checks; solid positional play; gutsy shot blocks; pick and shovel, physical defence with a soupçon of elbows, facewashes and general bad-assery. Leaf fans have always been especially taken with the lunchpail brigade, but we are especially enamoured by players who patrol the blueline this way. It has been this way since of Red Horner and Bucko McDonald, through the Horton and Stanley era and more recently to guys like Sylvain Lefebvre, Dmitri Yushkevich and Danny Markov. This tradition is why Luke Schenn will be the captain of your Toronto Maple Leafs by 2012.
I am really looking forward to seeing Beauchemin use his breath weapon to destroy Daniel Alfredsson.
Attaboy Burkie. I see the plan, and I like it. Watching the reaction to the Beauchemin and Komisarek signings in the twitterverse these past few days, I can tell you that your fanbase is definitely loving it too. (Side note: It was absolutely fascinating watching the Beauchemin signing in particular unfold via Twitter today; I saw a tweet that reported the signing, was able to confirm it via Sportsnet, then tweeted about the signing myself and watched as the news spread from person to person via re-tweets. Enjoying the salty tears of disappointment shed by Habs fans despairing of a lost opportunity was especially enjoyable when experienced in real-time. In all seriousness, though, the revolution has come. This is the way we’re going to get our information about things from now on.)
If the Leafs can’t land an elite scoring forward or two through trades this year (most likely immediate candidate for dispatch in this regard: Tomas Kaberle; dark horse trade bait: a rejuvenated and repaired Vesa Toskala), I am content to watch the young forwards like Tlusty, Grabovski, Bozak and Hanson try to make their way in the league. Some, if not most, of them will struggle and/or fail, and the team will similarly struggle to score goals. We may continue to lose games, and lose them often.
But I’m going to really enjoy watching this team play this year. There will be no easy nights for the Leafs’ opposition. Better still, I can see the foundation of the team being built and I can really foresee now, for the first time in a long time (since JFJ got his mitts on the controls, really) a time in the not-too-distant future when this team will be demanding that it be reckoned with as a legitimate Cup contender.