Predicatble Damien Cox Doesn’t Disappoint

Well sports fans, as promised Damien brought out the knife today and aimed it squarely at one Clff Fletcher. At least so far Damien has been very pro Brian Burke, or at least more balanced when it comes to reporting on his actions (or lack thereof). With Cliff, he says the right things, kind of but his criticism is, like Kramer said, hanging right out there…

“Had that not happened, Cliff Fletcher would have remained in charge through to this coming June, and it’s difficult to imagine the damage that might have been done by that time. Fletcher’s a nice man who owns a Stanley Cup ring and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. He is part of hockey history, and that will never change. But he wasn’t a suitable fit to run an NHL team in the cap era, yet Richard Peddie was prepared to let him to do so. Fletcher gave away viable draft picks like candy last summer (even a fifth rounder was obscene for Ryan Hollweg) to try and put a better team on the ice immediately and in so doing hang on to the “interim” GM position. The last piece evidence that he was prepared to sell the future was the deal that brought Lee Stempniak to town for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, a deal that will be even more difficult to swallow next season when the light-weight winger earns a $3.5 million salary.”

One point to remember on Stempniak, is that is cap hit next year is under 2 million. Damien has been anti Cliff since Cliff took over. I think Cliff did a hell of a lot better then JFJ was doing or ever could have done. The Hollweg deal was a joke, I think the Mayers one was equally as bad and I have to think that Wilson was at least partially on board with trading Steen and Carlo. He did make the move for Schenn, which some people still argue was a bad move given the other players who were available at no additional cost to the Leafs. He did deal away McCabe and get Van Ryn back and he did bring in Grabovsky whom only yesterday Wilson said he “had all the time in the world for Grabovsky” which seems in stark contrast to what other media members seem to say his reputation is.

“Yesterday, meanwhile, the league fined the Leafs $500,000 and stripped them of a fourth round pick for the Jonas Frogren signing last summer. The contract was illegal, but rather than running it past the NHL first, Fletcher just did it and now the Burke administration is paying the price. Whether Fletcher really understood that the deal wouldn’t pass muster is unclear. The new CBA, after all, is a complicated beast. But that this was all done to sign Frogren, a marginal NHLer with suspect foot speed who can’t stay healthy, is ridiculous. Again, the notion was that Frogren would make an immediate difference, however, and that, not long-term growth, was the priority of Fletcher, which is why Jeff Finger was signed to such an outlandish contract How’s three more years at $3.5 million hit you today?”

Again, I may be alone on this one, but the Finger deal doesn’t bother me. By the Buds are really competitive the Finger deal won’t be so bad and it will be almost over. The guy is exactly as advertised, a steady defencemen. He doesn’t hurt you and he doesn’t embarrass you. I think if he had some strength around him his play would be even better. Let’s say that the Frogren matter is a pain in the ass and it stinks to high hell too.

“Burke may never lack for bluster, but he showed great class yesterday in not making any comment at all that could be seen as a condemnation of the previous caretaker administration for the Frogren screwup, and good for him. It would have been easy for him to roll his eyes at the loss of the very same draft pick that he essentially bought from Tampa for $500,000 in a complicated deadline deal, one that he made sure the league would accept BEFORE he did it, so instead he refused comment and issued an nondescript, let’s-move-on press release. ”

True, good for him. However what good would it have done for him to carve Cliff. There are lots of people who love the silver fox and carving him would only have made Burke looked bad. I think Burke knows that Cliff did what many of us would have if we were in the same situation. He came in midstream with no real mandate and no real timetable.

“The good news for Leaf fans is that while Burke and his underrated sidekick Dave Nonis are aggressive managers, they know the CBA and always make the extra phone call. They’ll make mistakes. Christian Hanson may be the first one, who knows. But it won’t be because they don’t have a logical plan or don’t know the rules.”

Let’s remember that when the sword comes out and Damien wants Burke to fall on it. We all know that day will come. It always does. I don’t know why he would point to Hanson in this column. I can’t imagine how he could classify signing a kid to a 2 year entry level deal as being a mistake. Say he plays less then 50 games as a leaf ever. What did it cost him. It didn’t cost him a pick. There was no compensation outside of money. Money he has lots of. Seems like a strange example to throw in to this piece.

In his mailbag segement of his blog today, he has an interesting response to a question about Justin Pogge (and no, I didn’t write it):

“What is unclear to me is whether Corey Hirsch is a suitable goaltending coach to bring the best out in Pogge, and Burke will have to make that assessment this summer. It would be a shame if the Leafs decided they didn’t even want to re-sign the young goaltender, but these are the tough decisions you have to make in a cap world.”

Funny how I said the exact same thing about Hirsch only a day or two ago. I have no clue if he is the right go or not. There are lots of good goalie coaches out there and to be honest I had never heard Hirsch’s name mentioned among them. That doesn’t mean he isn’t. With respect to resigning him, there is no way in hell Pogge will be able to demand a one way deal. His play hasn’t warranted that. So I am not sure why the cap comment here. Burke should be able to sign Pogge to a deal that pretty much pays him the league minimum. I still don’t see why they wouldn’t try to sign him to a two way deal….

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