My father had a funny way of declaring how smart he was (or thought he was, depending on the situation). He would tap the side of his head and say “I knew there was a reason why I have headaches all the time.” I guess now it’s my turn, because less than a week ago, I indicated that I highly doubted Cliff Fletcher would be able to do anything of significance before the trade deadline.
As of this morning, reality is setting in down in Leafland. Neither of Sundin, Tucker, Kaberle, Kubina or McCabe (well, at least not yet), have failed to waive their no trade clause. No one can blame any of these players. The ability to apply their veto to any trade was given to them by JFJ over the past year. They are just exercising their right as laid out in their contracts. I, for one, agree with them being able to do so. I am an independent contractor as well and in the past, I have had to exercise the rights given to me in one of my contracts. It doesn’t make it right, but I did have the ability to do so. It is the same with each one of these players.
I also recall mentioning something in a previous entry about how the GM in Toronto, regardless of who it is, will have difficulty doing anything when you have a number of players who have dominion over anything you do. And that, in a nutshell, is the situation the Leafs find themselves in today. Unless the GM is willing to take drastic measures with said players; someone to make the difficult decisions, things will not change in Toronto. It is this quality in a GM that Richard Peddie and Gord Kirke have to look for in their search. Mind you, Mr. Burke in Anaheim has these qualities. But, he’s publicly stated he’s happy in Anaheim.
Years of inept management, and not just by JFJ, have led to this situation. A year ago the decision could and should have been made to trade both Mats Sundin and Darcy Tucker. I still stand firm in my claim that the only reason they kept Sundin around last year was so that they could have something to celebrate; that being Sundin becoming the all time scoring leader of the Leafs. In the absence of a Stanley Cup Championship, I guess this had to do.
What I do find rather funny though is that Sundin claimed in his press release that he did not believe in the concept of a rental player to help a team over the hump. Don’t you think that if Toronto were in the position today to make a run at the cup, that Sundin would welcome to addition of a Marian Hossa or an Alex Tanguay or a Brad Richards? Wasn’t it a few years back that the Leafs, once again trading away prospects and draft picks, picked up Brian Leetch and Ron Francis? If memory servers me correctly, I do believe Sundin was happy that management went out and picked up these players to help the Leafs cause.
So, what does that say about Sundin? Does he care about the Leafs? Absolutely, he does. However, it is my belief that Mats has every intention of retiring after this season. If he didn’t, I believe he would have accepted a trade so that the Leafs could have received prospects/picks. He would then rejoin the Leafs in the offseason. But, if in the back of his mind, he knew he was going to retire after this season, wouldn’t it make sense for him to want to play out the rest of his days as a Leaf and then retire as a Leaf? I think so. Mats is no dummy. He knows that even if the Leafs were to make a deal to get a return on trading him, that the team would not win a Stanley Cup within the next 2-3 years. Then, ask yourself. Will he be around in 3 years? Probably not, even though he is still producing at a consistent rate as he did his entire career. So, by publicly announcing that he doesn’t believe in rental players and that he wants to bring a cup to Toronto, he has a way to skirt the issue of retirement.
While there will be those who are disgusted by Mats’ decision, if you look at it in the light that he is going to retire after this season, his decision makes perfect sense. He did not want his last game as a Leaf to be tonight against Ottawa. It will be in April 2008. You heard it here first!
The problem with this whole debacle in Toronto is that both the media and the organization were building up Leaf Nation to believe that major change was coming; that the Leafs were beginning the new era of building a team through the draft and developing their own prospects. There was a buzz of excitement in the air not only in Toronto, but with Leafs fans nationwide. Part of that plan was the apparent housecleaning that was about to take place with Sundin, Kaberle, Tucker, Kubina and McCabe. The problem is, as it always has been since Fletcher was hired, that each of these pieces to the grandeur held NTC’s and are not going anywhere.
Until this is addressed, Leaf Nation could be looking at a couple more years of playoff futility.