Wednesday, June 25, 2008


It's Housecleaning Time in Toronto

Well, "Trader Cliff" Fletcher is certainly not your typical Interim GM. Besides, being given the reigns for at least a season, and not just 1-2 months, it seems Fletcher has been tasked with leaving a clean slate for the new GM (Burkie?) to work with.

Instead of just sitting back and waiting for his sponge bath, Fletcher has been busy cleaning house and getting rid of garbage stowed away in the attic.

Witness ...

1. Waiving Andrew Raycroft - one of JFJ's biggest mistakes was giving this young goalie a monster contract. Raycroft wilted in Toronto and never found the form he found in his rookie season. Raycroft is too expensive to be a backup goalie and simply not good enough.

2. Waiving Kyle Wellwood - This move shocks me somewhat, even if Wellwood is a midget and soft on the body. Wellwood is young, offensively talented, and isn't too expensive. You'd think Wellwood would stick around for at least another season.

Then again, the guy did only get 21 points last year in 59 games and is very suspect defensively. The Leafs are obviously worried about his ability to stay healthy, also.

3. Waiving/Buying-Out(?) Darcy Tucker - Love him or hate him, you know Tucker is an effective pest who can occasionally put the puck in the net. He's also overpaid at $3mil per season, and has had problems staying healthy. With his age (33) and his style of play, you know Darcy is an asset that will depreciate quickly.

4. Not going after Mats Sundin - Even if the Leafs don't intend to compete, this is a move that I think is a poor one. Besides being Mr. Maple Leaf, Sundin is also one of the most bankable, consistent offensive producers in the game. You can always count on Sundin to provide about a point-a-game whilst staying healthy. If Sundin wants to stay, why not sign him? It's not as if the Leafs don't have cap room.

I've been extremely critical of the way fossil Fletcher was brought on board and critical of the way the Leafs have managed their franchise since ... forever. Instead of finding a talented GM to chart a new course, the Leafs decided on some old guy to come in and simply 'hold the fort'.

That said, I have to commend the fact that Fletcher is not afraid to clean up some of the mess left behind and ensure that the GM-to-be doesn't have to waste time on such endeavors. While being in a 'holding pattern' for a season is a poor way to manage a club, Fletcher seems intent on at least allowing the Leafs to start fresh and not simply hang onto whatever chaff they have on board.

The fact is, JFJ signed a lot of players to deals that pay them too much: Jason Blake, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, and Pavel Kubina. With the Leafs not being a very good team, it's obvious that some of these expensive players had to be let go in order to leave room for any future business.

As long as Fletcher doesn't spend this new-found cap room on aging vets in a stupid attempt to make the playoffs, the Leafs are, shockingly, looking like they might know what they are doing.

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Three things:

1] Vancouver claimed Wellwood off of waivers this afternoon, so now he's your problem. There are many good reasons why he was waived, including his lack of dedication to fitness, his lackadaisical attitude toward continued development of his skills, lack of physical play and ability to absorb it, and lack of speed.

2] When you consider how much dudes with one respectable season on the books [ie: Tom Gilbert] are being paid, Pavel Kubina's contract is hardly "bad". Kubina would surely fetch similar money if he were a UFA, and after Maurice allowed him to step out of the "number three" d-man position he had been forced into, he had arguably the best year of his career.

3] Tucker's buyout was a bit surprising, because now they've effectively chopped a million bucks off of their cap situation for the next six years. It had largely been rumoured around here, but very few expected it to actually happen. I think it's a bad decision to lob off a million on your cap, but a smart move because Tucker's usefulness has passed.
What if shocker of shockers, Brian Burke turns out to be overrated (the argument being that he did okay with the Canucks, inherited a winner with the Ducks and promptly signed that lard bucket Bertuzzi, and oh yeah, didn't do well at all with Harford)?

You're telling me there's no good young GMs in the wings anywhere?

Another Leafs season in the dumper.
And not signing Sundin is idiotic, whether it's a rebuilding year or not.

Dropping Tucker is an excellent move, however.
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