Radio Wars Starts Earlier Than Expected

As I told you on Saturday, numerous folks were telling me that the Fan 590 was likely to be renamed something along the lines of Sportsnet Radio. Well, today, they did just that, as the old Fan 590 is now Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto. They also crowned the Fan 960 in Calgary as Sportsnet Radio Fan 960 Calgary.

If you needed further proof that TSN radio was coming, well, here you go.

It’s impossible not to see a connection between the name change (or “re-branding”) and the potential of a new competitor in the space. The war is coming. The Pelly/Moore era has officially begun!

So, let me get this straight… it’s now Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto? (Try and fit that on the back of a jersey.) And one guy who appears on regularly on Sportsnet (television) is Bill Watters. Clearly, Bill Watters of Sportsnet TV should appear on Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 right?

What’s that? He’s on the other station? AM640?  In direct competition with Sportsnet Radio Fan 590 Toronto?

Speaking of  Watters, I’m beginning to think that ol’ Cesar Romero has perhaps really started to lose it. Did anyone catch Cesar on the Maple Leafs pre-game show? He was rambling on forever about the skills and performance of one, François Allaire, Toronto Maple Leafs goaltending coach. It wasn’t enough to hear the ripping of Allaire’s performance (or at least the goalies he works with), but Cesar then blurts out that François Allaire makes $350,000!?

Now, as sports fans, we are blessed with tons of salary information in the NHL. There are phenomenal websites out there that purport to tell you exactly what every player in the league makes. There are also those who report, from unnamed sources, what head coaches make. We aren’t sure we have ever seen what an assistant coach makes, and can assure you we have never seen a report on how much much a goalie coach makes.

So the problem, as I see it, is that Cesar is way off in left field. Or shall I say, over the left field wall and past the bleachers. In other words, Wilbur apparently doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

Many of you heard the rant, and I was asked if indeed, Allaire’s salary is accurate.  I fired off an inquiry to the good ship Maple Leafs and was promptly told that the figure was erroneous, “way high”. It seems like Dr. Watters (sorry, I couldn’t help it, Cesar has taken to calling GSG Dr. these days) should go back to his agency days and represent François Allaire until he gets that $350,000 salary.

Moving on… Steve Simmons has a great article in today’s Toronto Sun.

“The other night, when the Leafs were playing the Los Angeles Kings, the obvious comparisons were made: One team building patiently through the draft. The other trying to fast track. One team doing it right, the story went. The other, missing all the cues.

If only building hockey teams were so simple.

While the Kings may seem to be a model for managerial patience and bottoming out — building through the draft being the catch phrase — understand this: The Kings missed the playoffs six straight years to get the draft picks necessary to compete. In the seventh building year, they made the playoffs and were eliminated in six games. This is Year 8. If the season ended today, the Kings would not be in the playoffs. So for all their patience, all their doing things the “right way” you can ask yourself a question: Where exactly are they?”

Look, it’s easy to read stories like this when the Leafs are on a modest winning streak, and Simmons is right. We are all in a frenzy over the trading away of draft picks. While many view building through the draft in a slow and steady way as the only way to the promise land, the truth is it takes a lot more. Specifically, it takes good drafting.

“It isn’t just the Los Angeles Kings, although they have the nicest roster of the recent rebuilds. The notion that Brian Burke messed up by trading away two first-round picks for Kessel is a wonderful debating point — but the evidence of successful teams building through the draft is not entirely clear.

The model franchise in all of hockey is the Detroit Red Wings. They’ve had 10 straight 100-point seasons. Almost everything they do seems like the right thing. Their team was built around three draft choices — Niklas Lidstrom, a third-round pick; Pavel Datsyuk, a sixth-round pick; Henrik Zetterberg, a late seventh-round pick. The Red Wings have traded their first-round picks away in 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2006. Only one important player on their team, Niklas Kronwall was their own first-round pick.

Which means what? It means there is no one way to find success in the NHL.”

To me, it’s about one thing and one thing only: perspective. I am not prepared to say draft schmaft, but perhaps a hybrid model could work.

Simmons’s article the second I have seen recently from a respected MSMer in Toronto on the subject of the good ship Maple Leafs. The other was by Damien Cox:

“Even teams boxed in by salary cap problems haven’t had to divest themselves of top-end, high-salaried players in significant numbers, as Burke and others anticipated. The cap has kept increasing year after year — by next year, a 57 per cent increase since ’05 — and allowed teams to increase their payrolls rather than make tough choices.

So, whether by trade or free agency, marquee players haven’t been moving much. Burke’s miscalculation, then, wasn’t dealing for a 21-year-old Kessel; it was believing Kessel could quickly be surrounded by other talented players through trades and free agency.”

Would anyone argue with that stance?

“Toronto is already among the NHL’s youngest teams. Three high first-rounders are in the system — Kessel, Luke Schenn, Kadri — while Bozak, Keith Aulie, Jussi Rynnas, Jerry D’Amigo, Jonas Gustavsson and Carl Gunnarsson appear to be bona fide prospects, if not blue-chippers. The majority were acquired by Burke, a clear commitment to youth.

Mikhail Grabovski is 26, Nikolai Kulemin is 24, Phaneuf is 25.

In other words, the cupboard isn’t bare. Collectively, it just isn’t ready to win. If anything, the Leafs need more youth, not expensive vets, to augment their young core.

So, the “in-between” approach makes sense. Play more youngsters now and give them more minutes. Hang on to all prospects and young players. Keep future first-rounders in place. Spend conservatively on mid-range free agents for depth this summer while protecting cap space.

Let kids take the place of departing veterans Tomas Kaberle and J.S. Giguere. Go younger wherever possible and absorb one more difficult, painful season on the chin.

Make the 2012 entry draft the payoff, then spend more aggressively that summer, if possible”

Seriously, Leafs fans. If that was put in front of you, am I the only one who would sign off on the spot? Forget the current winning streak!

I point out these articles because they are the antithesis of why I started this blog. I started because in general terms I was frustrated by the lack of objectivity on the part of the MSM in Toronto.  Two articles don’t make a trend, but if two of the top columnists demonstrate perspective and objectivity, then can’t they all?

Let’s just call it a refreshingly good sign.

I’ve read the comments, and the first step in any recovery is admitting you have a problem. Therefore I am happy to announce I have retained the service of a copy editor!

I hope that you will notice a big difference.

TSM

@yyzsportsmedia

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