I want to make a comment about all the Mark Bell talk this week. Every media person I've read this week has had nothing nice to say about the troubled winger, and even less to say about John Ferguson Jr. We all know I'm a leaf fan, so I may have bias towards them, but in no way do I agree with any of what is being said about Bell. The Toronto Sun's Steve Simmons wrote a nasty article today about him, while Hockeybuzz writers Berger and Tencer have both taken shots at him in the last 48 hours.
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John Ferguson Jr. took Bell because it was the only way he could get Toskala. This was a good move by JFJ, as Toskala is a direct improvement in goal, and was the best goalie for the best price available. Bell is a risk, but this whole situation has been blown out of proportion.
a) Bell will not miss any games because of this. His jail sentence will be in the offseason, he is likely to spend less than 6 months, all of which will likely occur beyond the leafs 07-08 season.
b) If Bell either struggles or does miss time because of this, he can be sent to the minors, and won't count against the cap. He's young, the Leafs can do that. He's not a cap risk.
c) Bell has something to prove, he has a fresh start, and he's not being asked of much. The pressure was on him a lot when he went from Chicago to San Jose. His 20 goal seasons were expected to increase, a lot of pressure for the kid to deal with.
If Bell turns out to be a bust, then there is nothing lost. He can be sent down, no cap issues to deal with. The Leafs didn't pay to get Bell, they paid to get Toskala. In fact, taking Bell lowered the price of Toskala.
If Bell turns out to be good, the Leafs got a freebie. If Bell puts up 20 goals, the Leafs got a steal.
As far as Bell is concerned, there is little risk and a lot of reward. Bell's future looked bright when he was in Chicago, there is no reason to believe he can't re-find his game and move forward with his life.
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