Greetings and Salutations… Back in Toronto after driving home from Florida over the last two days. I arrived in Niagara Falls in time for the third period and the post game on the radio and was left with a few thoughts and questions for you all.
I have said this a million times, but god bless the guys who do the post game call in shows, some of the comments, calls and questions are just plain moronic. I am stunned that people will sit on hold for as long as they do and still have absolutley nothing to say. Tonight was no different than any other night. However, one caller got me thinking. This guy went off the handle, he sounded like many of us do after yet another loss…totally frustrated. The callers prior to him, he suggested were all out to lunch (in his opinion) in pointing the fingers at the players like Poni, Stajan etc. when the blame should be placed on the GM.
Andy Frost’s response was basically, that whom the finger is being pointed at is a tad immaterial, there will always be blame to go around.
That got me to thinking. First, Burke has been here long enough to make his own changes, it is almost fair to say this is his team. Now he has some “dead weight” that he can’t be blamed for, however he has had time to make changes (and he has). So the question is, and let me ask this very clearly, ASSUMING there is something to blame for with respect to the Leafs perfromance to date- then who is to blame? Does it fall on the shoulders of the players, the coaches, management?
It’s not that easy an answer I don’t think. Ultimately, the buck stops on Brian Burke’s desk. It’s pretty simple if a guy he traded for or signed isn’t up to snuff- that is a mistake he made (and I know that it is too early to judge). Is it fair to say that a guy Burke inherited is also under Burke’s purview simply because Burke decided to keep that player as opposed to any of the alternatives available to him (and yes there are options on every player)? There are several guys who aren’t performing up to expectations who pre-dated Brian Burke’s arrival. Is it fair to say, well Burke made lots of changes, he chose to keep these guys there for he is on the hook for them?
The easy answer is, when you make the type of money Burke is making and are given the term Burke is, Yes- he is on the hook. It is however a little bit like the chicken and the egg.
Similarly, earlier in that same segment Andy Frost said, and this is a direct quote “Matt Stajan is an excellent player”- Frost went on to say that Stajan would be a great 3rd line center however he is being thrust into a 1st line center role and therefore having to assume 1st line center duties. This also got me thinking… Is this the main reason for the success former Maple Leaf players have upon their departure from Toronto? Is the problem not the player, but rather the role that player is being asked to play? If so- and I suspect to a large degree that it is, who’s fault is that? Is it the players? Should a player be blamed for not being able to produce over his capabilities? Is it the coach who is unable to get more from the player than he has shown before? Is it the GM who erred in thinking that because a player can do it elswhere in a reduced role that they can do it in a more prominent role here?
Ron Wilson commented last year about Grabovsky, that we all had to take his success in stride because he was getting top line minutes, the question would be how would he perform when he wasn’t getting top line minutes. The proof is in the Luke Schenn pudding wouldn’t you say? Is it the responsibility of the coach to best use his assets in their most effective way? If Matt Stajan is the an awesome third line center isnt Wilson doing everyone involved a huge disservice by playing him as a first? Doesn’t Burke have to find someone better equipped to play that role if Stajan isn’t?(easier said than done I grant you).
It seems to me that the reason trades and free agent signing go awry in hockey is that guys perform at a certain level in city A and they are brought in to a new city to play a much different role that they simply can’t do. If Tie Domi had been signed by the Red Wings to replace a retired Bob Probert (you know what I mean) then the role expected of Domi would be similar to that which he had previously played. Where teams go offside is taking a defenceman who played exceptionally well as a number 3 or 4, and thrust them into the first or 2nd slot and expect that player to be able to handle the responsibility just because they played so well the year before. It seems the responsibility is in the scout and ultimately the GM for misjudging the capabilities of the player ….
Food for thought…