June 24, 2008

Say It Ain't So

Shoaltsy at The Globe is reporting that the Maple Leafs are set to bid adieu to diminutive playmaker Kyle Wellwood. I am rather saddened by the news. Say it ain't so, Cliff, say it ain't so.

I guess I just assumed that Wellwood, a restricted free agent come July 1st, would get another shot with the Leafs. I know, he was awful last season - 21 points in 59 games, and a nasty -12 rating - but he was coming off two abdominal injuries and surgeries, and those are traditionally the toughest ones to recover from. Can we just forget last year ever happened?

I know, it doesn't help that Kyle doesn't give a damn about off-ice conditioning and that his exercise regiment is centred around carrying two-fours from the Beer Store to his car. However, on a team so devoid of offensive talent, there's no room for Kyle Wellwood? Really? Seriously?

We're talking about a guy who is only 20 months removed from a season in which he put up 42 points in 48 games, and who was a big part of a mostly successful power play back in 06/07. And now we're just going to give up on him, and let him walk away for nothing?

I don't get it. Wellwood should be a part of the youth movement going forward. He's only 25 years old and clearly possesses gifted offensive talent. His 108 points in 189 career games proves that. Let's give Ron Wilson a chance to work with him, and mould him into the stud playmaker we all know he can become. Or at least give Wilson a chance to write his name on the white board and call him out.

Come on Fletch. Please. Don't do this to me. Welly made $975,000 last year. Give him a one-year deal at, say, $1.2 million. Let him earn it. If he doesn't perform 40 games into the season, send his ass to the minors. If someone claims him off waivers, so be it. But let's give him another chance. I know he doesn't really deserve it but, well, just do me a solid, Uncle Cliff.

You want to know why I'm so desperate to retain Wellwood? I'll tell you. Because I'm scared. Yeah, I'm scared. I'm man enough to admit it. If Mats Sundin bolts for greener pastures (not that there's anything wrong with that), and Wellwood isn't brought back, who the hell is going to play centre? I'm assuming Nik Antropov would take over line one duty, and I shudder to think that Matt Stajan would be expected to be the teams second-line centre. Stajan is a third-line centre, at best.

Speaking of Stajan, Shoalts' excellent reportage also fills us in on the fact that talks between the Leafs and the restricted free agent are not going well. Stajan apparently wants $2 million a season. Based on that request, he's clearly smoking a lot of dope. I would have to respectfully agree with Fletcher that Stajan is not worth that kind of money. Alex Steen is scheduled to make $1.7 million next year, and there's no way in hell Stajan should be making more than Steen.

As for Wellwood, look no further than Antropov as an example for dealing with young players and injuries, and the question of whether to keep fishing or cut bait. Antropov dealt with his fair share of injuries, serious knee operations at that, after teasing us with his initial progress. Much like that jackass George W. Bush, we stayed the course on Antropov, and he certainly paid off last season.

I can only hope we'll do the same with Wellwood. Stay the course, Cliff, stay the course...


general borschevsky said...

A little surprising about Wellwood. Seems like the entire year last year should be forgotten for everybody. With the exception of Maurice and Raycroft, it's obvious everyone can do better. Maybe it's just a character issue. Or maybe his broken foot really did him in?

Down Goes Brown said...

I'm with you on this one. I can see letting Wellwood go if he gets an RFA offer and we like the compensation, but to just summarily show him the door seems odd to me. Shades of Steve Sullivan?

I'm wondering if there's more here than we know about it.

Anonymous said...

very much shades of Steve Sullivan except we are not choosing Dimitri Khistrich over Wellwood which makes it even stranger. It is not like we are desperate to free up a roster spot.