June 25, 2008

Cheers, Darcy Tucker

I think it's safe to say that Cliff Fletcher wasn't fucking around when he vowed to change the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey club going into next season.

Darcy Tucker is Fletcher's latest victim, bought out of the remaining three years of his contract, his career in the blue and white over, just like that.

While I knew it was definitely within the realm of possibilities that Tucker could be bought out, the news that it was actually going down still floored me.

Darcy Tucker. Darcy fuckin' Tucker. My boy. The man I've adored ever since the Leafs acquired him years ago for the lousy Mike Johnson. What a steal. And what a player. It's hard to believe I'll never see #16 lace 'em up again in Toronto colours. It's a sad day. I will truly miss him.

For Darcy, it all came down to his contract. Of all the guys with no-trade clauses in their contracts going forward (Tucker, McCabe, Kubina, and Kaberle), Tucker's was the most buyout-able. With three years and $9 million left on his deal, the Leafs are now on the hook for two-thirds of it, $6 million, and are able to spread it out, $1 million a year over the next six years, against the NHL's salary cap.

In other words, the Leafs are paying Darcy Tucker $6 million to leave.

A lot of the reaction I've already read and heard has to do with Jason Blake. If Tucker is being shown the door, why is Blake still a part of the club's plans? Again, it all comes down to Blake's contract. With $16 million and four years still left on his deal, buying out his contract would cost the Leafs over $10 million against the salary cap, and Fletcher has decided that he can't go down that route.

Ditto for Bryan McCabe. He's too expensive to be given the boot.

It hasn't sunk in that Tucker is done in Toronto. It won't until training camp opens in September and he's not around. At the same time, I can understand why he was targeted. His production dipped badly last season and his defensive shortcomings were glaring. In the past three years, in which the Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs (just in case you forgot), Tucker was a -31. He'd become a power play specialist and, last year, a predictable one at that. He's also been slowed by injuries.

Still, in my heart, Tucker was the embodiment of a Toronto Maple Leaf. He played with so much pride and passion that it was impossible not to love and appreciate him. Who can possibly forget the time he jumped right into the Ottawa Senators bench, ready to take them all on.

Darcy wore the Maple Leafs sweater with so much pride. At times, even when it was probably beneficial for him to rest his battered little frame and get healthy, he'd still go out there, because all he wanted to do was contribute and help his fellow Maple Leafs. Nothing gave the small town Alberta boy more joy than being a Toronto Maple Leaf. I truly believe he wanted nothing more than to succeed in Toronto and help deliver a long overdue Stanley Cup to this championship-starved city. That's what makes his premature departure so difficult. He didn't take off the Maple Leafs jersey he wore with such immense pride. He had it removed from his shoulders.

While I know that Tucker's injuries have taken his game down a level or two - he's "worn out," to use Coach Wilson's words - I still believed he had a role on the Leafs. His sideshow act from years gone by aside, I thought he had a lot to teach the young players who will lead the Maple Leafs into the future.

Shoaltsy at The Globe is reporting that, of course, Tucker took the news like "a real professional...who's looking forward to getting his career back on track somewhere else." I hope he lands on his feet, and I'm sure he will. Tucker has something left to give, and I hope the next city he plays hockey in appreciates him as much as those of us in Toronto did. That guy lives for the playoffs. I hope he gets back there as soon as possible, and gets his name on the Cup for all eternity.

Stay classy, Darcy. Your grit, heart, passion and determination will be sorely missed. Even though you were drafted by the Montreal Canadiens, played for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and will put on the sweater of another NHL team in the coming days, you'll always be a Toronto Maple Leaf to me...

To read Greener's tribute to Darcy Tucker over at He Score, He Shoot! click here. Sean over at Down Goes Brown thinks Tucker might be back. One day. Check out his post on #16 here.

Showing Tucker towards the exit wasn't the only order of business for Grandfather Cliff yesterday. Much to my dismay, Kyle Wellwood was placed on waivers, along with the human sieve Andrew Raycroft. Welly will likely become a free agent, while Raycroft will be bought out of his contract, because no GM, not even one drunk out of his mind, will touch that contract with a thousand-gajillion foot pole.

I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank John Ferguson Jr. for completely butchering the Leafs for years to come thanks to the completely boneheaded contracts he handed out and ridiculous personnel decisions he made. So, umm, thanks, fucker. Now back to your regularly scheduled programming.

I'm honestly a little shocked the Leafs are throwing in the towel on Wellwood. Clearly we're embarking on this whole rebuild thing, yet Wellwood isn't welcome back. Why? Is it because of his injuries? His work ethic? He's only 25! Who's he going to keep a roster spot from? Boyd Devereaux? Dominic Moore? Nothing against those two, they were great waiver wire additions, but this one just doesn't make sense to me. It wouldn't have cost much to bring Wellwood back, I'm thinking $1.2 or $1.5 million, but I guess that's too rich for the Leafs. They gave Carlo Colaiacovo a raise after a season in which he was injured again and played only 48 games, but Wellwood's got to go. Right.

In a sick and twisted supportive stance of Wellwood, I hope this one comes back and bites the Leafs in the ass. History has proven that some of the smallish players, who clearly do have some skill, take a little longer to develop. Remember Steve Sullivan (props to Sean at Down Goes Brown for the reminder)? The Leafs released him for nothing, and he went on to have a pretty decent career.

Daniel Briere was put on waivers back in 2001. Every NHL team had a chance to pick him up. For nothing. None of them did. Ditto for Martin St. Louis. He was put on waivers by the Calgary Flames, went unclaimed, released, and then signed as a free agent by Tampa Bay. The rest is history.

I'm not saying Wellwood is going to become the next Briere, who was a first round draft pick and came with much higher expectations. I'm not saying he's going to be the next St. Louis, a seriously late-bloomer who slipped through everyones cracks. What I am saying, however, is that Wellwood is way better than Matt fucking Stajan!

In all honesty, I do think that Wellwood does have the potential to have a decent career in this league, much like Steve Sullivan has. I find the notion that his NHL career might be over to be a ridiculous one. Someone is going to take a chance on little Welly.

Here's hoping Kyle and Darcy both gives the Leafs a little something to regret in the coming years.

As for Raycrap, he's dead to me. Buy him out. It doesn't matter what it costs, it's worth it. Raycroft is a disease. We must be cleansed of him. Good riddance to bad rubbish.

And I must say, Cliff Fletcher is serious about success.


general borschevsky said...

Nice work, eyebleaf. Even though we knew it was possible, Tucker is still a shock. Reaction to Raycroft is simply: "finally! Yes!".
Wellwood is a little sad and dissapointing. The first time I saw Wellwood play in a Leafs uniform in an exhibition game, I said "don't let him get away, he's a keeper".
Good luck Kyle, good luck Darcy, choke on your own vomit Andrew.

Down Goes Brown said...

I'd like to take this opportunity to once again thank John Ferguson Jr. for completely butchering the Leafs for years to come thanks to the completely boneheaded contracts he handed out and ridiculous personnel decisions he made. So, umm, thanks, fucker.

I find that as time goes on, I get angrier and angrier about Ferguson. He really does belong on any list of the worst GMs in recent sports history. He was Isiah bad. I want to hurt him.

Anonymous said...

Tucker gone....good....he's been a cancer ever since Corson banged Mogilny's wife....