To Spend Or Not To Spend?

I had this debate yesterday with a friend. The friend made the argument, at least in the first part, that I totally agree with. That is, that the Maple Leafs should start throwing bodies overboard in exchange for picks and prospects. Anyone who isn’t going to be part of the core moving forward is available.

Here is where we disagree. My friend is of the opinion that the leafs can then basically mail it in next year in order to do the rebuild right. That is avoid the temptation of the free agent frenzy this coming summer.

Now, before you shoot me for disagreeing, hear me out. I agree with the premise. Here is the problem that I see the leafs, namely Burke having. Prices for tickets, concessions won’t come down and as a result the market demands that the Leafs spend.

Again, I don’t think it’s the right thing, but I think there is tremendous pressure to spend a much as you can when you clearly charge as much as you can.

Therefore, I don’t see how Burke can sit on the proverbial sidelines this summer.

The question to you is this. Are you okay with prices being left where they are or increasing with the leafs payroll going down to rebuild properly?



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January 26, 2011 10:25 pm

TSM: I understand where you’re coming from, and your logic is sound.

Unfortunately, that is precisely why Burke won’t do it.

The thing about Burke — for better and, currently for worse — is that he does things based on principle; not logic. That’s not to say he’s illogical. But from what I can see, both his motivation and his end game — maybe even on a level that he doesn’t understand, or care to understand — is about doing things The Right Way. That is, the Burke way (or if humility is called for, then the way in which Burke’s peers do things).

That, to me, is the core reason why Burke won’t throw bodies overboard. It also explains to me why he won’t fire Wilson. It’s not because of mere loyalty — it’s not like Wilson will be on the bread lines, or that he won’t get paid. In fact, Burke may actually be doing his old pal a favour by cutting him lose, letting him earn his $3 million or so in peace, and then scope out a new gig somewhere sans Howard Burger.

It’s because of The Burke Way. Burke wants to win — he’s not insane — but he will only do it The Burke Way. He will not let reality dictate his decisions in the way, say, a Ken Holland does. He will hold his breath and wait for reality to fit into The Burke Way.

Ultimately, and quite strangely, this makes Brian Burke a really nice guy. At least as far as bosses or colleagues go. What he tells you on Monday will be true on Friday. God knows this is a rare skill in any field, but it’s probably next to impossible to find in professional sports. So in that respect, Burke deserves a ton of respect.

But he’s not designed to *adjust* to win. He’s designed to formulate a plan and then WELD blinders to his face and then outlast his critics. And that’s what he’s doing and, I believe, will do over the summer.

Put it this way: if you hooked up a lie detector to Burke and said: “at your eulogy, do you want people to say that you were a winner, or that you were principled, what would you say?”

My money is on the latter. Again, that makes Burke kind of a noble figure in a world where everyone lies all the time and everything from ethics to logic is circumstantial.

But it doesn’t make for winning. Anaheim was not a blueprint, it was an exception.

January 26, 2011 11:36 pm

I think in the salary cap world it’s clearly become a lot harder to throw bodies overboard. Plus, not every GM in the NHL is as easy to pry good draft picks from anymore…except the Leafs it seems. A lot of things changed when the salary cap came in and another effect is that many soon-to-free-agents never make it to free agency and end up re-signing with their team before July 1 further restricting movement.

I get a bad feeling that Boston is going to end up with two consecutive lottery picks (that part is fairly obvious) but that come next season when the Leafs get their first pick again (assuming they don’t trade that one too), the Leafs will be back to finishing middle of the pack just like they did with JFJ and will garner nothing more than a mid round 1st round pick for themselves. Thus, there will be no rebuild, just more 10th and 11th place finishes in the east for awhile longer.

January 27, 2011 7:56 am

I don’t understand the questions.

Am I okay with prices being left where they are? No, of course not. The product is poor and I can’t even see potential for improvement in the future.

Am I okay with prices increasing with the payroll going down to rebuild “properly”? Well, no, I’m not okay with that either.

When a team such as the Leafs charge as much as they do, the pressure isn’t to spend as much as they can, the pressure is to WIN! Spending as much as you can doesn’t guarantee winning.

And let me know when Burke is able to trade the current stable of Leaf players for draft picks. I don’t see too many other teams trading away their picks, and I certainly don’t see too many other teams trading away their picks for any current Leaf’s, other than the ones that will be part of the “core”.

January 27, 2011 10:15 am

My understanding is that since Komisarek is such a nice guy, they don’t criticize him too too much but freeing up money by sending K to the minors is something they need to look at. However, I guess there’s no real need to do this until they are truly in the playoff hunt. In the meantime, maybe he’ll turn it around.

January 27, 2011 2:15 pm

“as a result the market demands that the Leafs spend.”

You don’t get it. The market demands nothing. This team can finish in last place for the next ten years and will still sell out every night.

January 27, 2011 2:49 pm

Well TSM you would have a good point except for one thing – you would be right if this was any other market (well most other markets at least).

But Leafs fans have proven time and again for more than 40 years that no matter how bad the team is for how long and no matter how little hope or entertainment there is, they WILL keep spending whatever MLSE charges for tickets.

They have been one of the worst and least entertaining teams in all of hockey for how many years, and yet they still easily (very, very easily) sell out no matter what they charge.

It would take a concerted effort to alienate and disgust Leafs fans requiring someone in charge *worse* than Ballard with even less care for public image. Losing or having a bad team isn’t enough, thats been proven.

What is hilarious is that the Leafs are positioned better than ANY other team in almost any sport to rebuild the ‘right way’. Not only are they uniquely assured of selling out every game and generating ridiculous revenue even if they tanked for multiple years, but the entirety of the fan base was 100% ready for this, actually couldn’t wait for it.

EVERYONE was ready, they all knew that it would be a hard few years (2 or even 3+ at least) but wanted to win so badly and KNEW it was the way to go.

Its funny, because the reason most GMs would throw away draft picks heading into a rebuild would be to preserve attendence/etc. But when the leafs finally got to the point of being about to do that (while assured of attendence…), Burke gets cocky and misjudges his team grossly and decides against the rebuild before it even started…all having nothing to do with attendence/revenue as it would on almot any other team.

Looking back on it now….I believe that had almost any other GM been in place the trade wouldnt have happened. Not many others are as cocky and need to show as much ‘flair’ and ‘bravado’ as Burke, who clearly wanted to shock everyone by turning the team around faster.

And I’m not talking about principles or loyalty, those are great to have. But you need good/great players to be loyal to as well or its pointless.

But my question to you TSM is this: If the leaf already tanked for the last 3 years (ostensibly rebuilding) and it didn’t affect revenue adversely, what makes you think it would if they tried again? And this time actually doing the rebuild instead of just getting young (bad) players.

January 27, 2011 6:00 pm

I’m willing to bet that 95% of the people that read my comment will laugh/disagree with me. In my view, the team is not as far off as the record indicates – and that revamping line-ups each year doesn’t help matters and doesn’t make sense now…teams take time to gel. To agree with me, you need to believe the following:

The team has a legit #2 line: Kulemin/Grabo/MacArthur
The team has a good #3 line: Versteeg/Bozak/Armstrong
For 5 min/night, a satisfactory #4: Orr/anyone/Brown
…let these guys continue to gel…We said “meh” at the MacArthur signing and complained about the Grabo re-signing at $2.9M/season….worked out pretty good.

That leaves the #1 line…that’s a problem. I still believe we have 1 of 3 pieces….Kessel is a legit #1 winger. Focus must be on getting a #1 centre…it’s perhaps the most important position on a team aside from goalie…With a #1 centre we’ll have a legit set of forward lines….though I don’t know how we’ll get one if Richards doesn’t sign.

Defence…Phaneuf, Schenn, Gunarsson and Aulie work for me….Komi and Lebda need to be replaced or burried (if nothing else for $). I can take or leave Beauchemin…maybe he’s one of the guys you move if you can to get something back or save $. As for Kaberle, if he’ll sign a reasonable contract, keep him. Every good team has a top 10 point getting defenceman…and yes, many of them have defensive deficiencies…..I’m fine with a Schenn/Kabs pairing.

Goal…perhaps the biggest wildcard….I wouldn’t spend a fortune on a veteren….Aside from Roy, Brodeur and peraps Miller to name a few, all that has been proven in the NHL is that finding a consistent winner is tough and is a crap shoot financially. I’d “hope” that 1 or 2 of the young goalies in the system will do the trick (Reimer/Gustavsson/Rynass/Scrivens)….but if you want insurance….look into a reasonably priced UFA.

It aint that bad…you can’t keep blowing it up….there are more pieces now than the last few years…add a few pieces and see what you have over another season.

Be gentle.

January 28, 2011 11:14 am

Lt67: Count me in the 5% of people who won’t laugh at you. I don’t know if that’s a compliment, though, I think some really nutty things sometimes.

But, yes, I think the Leafs have enough raw talent (even as it has manifested on the ice — forget the “on paper” version, which is irrelevant) to compete for an 8th playoff spot, which is (quite sadly, really) their first baby step that they haven’t taken since before the lockout.

As far as I’m concerned, the biggest problem the Leafs have and will continue to have is in net. They need a goalie who will be in the Vezina conversation each year, or else they simply can’t move forward.

Can you imagine what the Leafs would be like with a goaltender with a save percentage of even .920? They would be at least 10 points better; maybe more. And then you’re just talking about tweaking things, not an overhaul.

I haven’t watched every game (because my sadism only goes so far), but can you count on more than one hand how many games a Leaf goalie has stolen this year? Maybe 3?

Now think back to Belfour, Joseph and Potvin. It was at least 20 a year.

I’ve never understood why the Leafs don’t just throw a huge pile of money at an elite goaltender. Yes, they are available if you pay them enough. I have never comprehended how the Leafs attempted to rebuild with a rookie goalie in net. Who does that?

January 30, 2011 8:16 pm

Denial, don’t you think if a team “requires a Vezina goalie” to challenge for the 8th playoff spot then we can pretty much say for sure that team isn’t very good.

It’s the ridiculous attitude of leafs fans who actually want to just challenge for the 8th spot that has landed the team in such an awful position. If it wasn’t for you people maybe successive GMs and even touted ones like Burke wouldn’t rush to throw away picks and rebuild on the fly.

Thank you sir for ruining my team.

February 2, 2011 8:41 am

@James: I didn’t say that the Leafs need a Vezina goalie. What I exactly said was this:

“They need a goalie who will be in the Vezina conversation each year, or else they simply can’t move forward.”

The “conversation” means, really, a top 5 or even top 7 goalie. Someone who is considered a dark hose/has an outsiders chance of maybe being a Vezina finalist.

While I agree with your adjective “ridiculous” coming before the phrase “Leaf Fan” in any context, I disagree that the 8th place goal has anything to do with it.

This conversation is (I believe) about talent on the ice, and I simply don’t believe that players have the ability to ‘strive for 8th place’ any more than they strive for 1st or 15th. They play the game.

(I would even argue that management really doesn’t have that much precision in its strategy to say “let’s put together an 8th place team and not a 4th place team, but that’s another topic.)

My point is, again, is that on the ice, the Leafs are not a train wreck. But they aren’t a bottom-rung team. At least not on paper.

But what they don’t have is a goalie who can really steal them 15-20 games a year, which is what Joseph, Belfour and Potvin did — and it was so common, that we just assumed it would last and last.

As I said, I’ve never understood how a team can rebuild with a rookie goaltender or even an aging vet like Guigere who is clearly on the downside of his career. To me, goaltending is a totally different sport. It’s a sport within a sport.

And so you find a top tier goalie who thrives on getting shots, pay him $3 million more than any other team will and sign him to an extra year for his troubles, and then worry about the rest. As I said, if any Leafs goalie had a .920 save percentage, they’d probably be at least 10 points better.

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