July 04, 2008

How'd We Do?

The eye of the storm has passed. The frenzied part of the NHL's free agency period is over. So, do I like what Grandpa Cliff Fletcher and the Toronto Maple Leafs have done? Of course I do.

Instead of writing about the Leafs' moves in an emotional, and inebriated, state on July 1st, I decided to let a couple of days pass. I was actually just really lazy, but, hey, I'm sure you feel me.

Only one player from my free agent wish list is on his way to Toronto. Curtis Joseph, welcome back, my man.

I was a huge, huge Cujo fan back in the day. Until he left for Detroit on his quest to win a Stanley Cup ring. Much to my surprise, a column I wrote entitled "Breaking Up Is Hard To Do," back in 2003 for On The Wall Magazine, is still up online.

Basically, I loved Cujo, hated him after he left, wished ill upon him and his family, fell in love with Ed Belfour, and revelled in the fact that Cujo wasn't able to get a ring. Petty and bitter, I know. What can I say, it was an emotional time.

Years have passed. I've grown up. It's all water under the bridge now. It's evident that Cujo's quest for a ring has ended, hence his signing back here in Toronto, but it's going to be fun seeing him back in the crease at the ACC. He had some phenomenal years in Toronto and is the perfect back-up for Vesa Toskala. He knows his role.

Cujo's signing also means that Justin Pogge will be the number one guy and play the majority of games, in both the regular season and - especially - the playoffs, for the Toronto Marlies, and I'm all over that.

It has taken a few days, but I've rationalized the signing of Jeff Finger to a $14 million, 4-year contract. It took a while, and some deep soul searching, but I've done it. Don't get me wrong, it was a struggle.

Just when I thought I was happy about it, I went and read this. It was, needless to say, extremely disheartening. Could the Maple Leafs have actually confused Jeff Finger with Kurt Sauer? Like Kevin Garnett said a few weeks ago, "anything is possible." I mean, we're talking about the Toronto Maple Leafs here. If DeVry's motto is "We're serious about success," then the Toronto Maple Leafs' motto is "We're serious about incompetence." Being a Leafs fan has taught me that I can never, ever, ever, put anything past the clowns that run this franchise. They are capable of worldly acts of idiocy, including mistaking Jeff Finger for Kurt Sauer, and if it's true, Fletcher is every bit as old as he looks.

Anyway, after I learned of the actual terms of Finger's contract (originally I thought the deal was 4-years, $3.75 million total, not per year), saw that he's rated only 68 in NHL 2008 on my XBOX 360, I curled up in the corner of my bedroom and had a good cry. I then sat around trying to justify his presence on the Maple Leafs blue line.

Firstly, let's throw the terms of his contract out the window. It's a fucked up contract. Let's not pull any punches here. You know it. I know it. We all know it. Before Tuesday afternoon, none of us knew who this cat was - OK, except MF37 - and come Tuesday night, none of us could believe the terms of the deal. But such is the beast known as free agency. Everyone overpays. There is nothing free about free agency.

Before I go on, I've got to get something off my chest. It's really bothering me. In all seriousness, how is it possible that Andrew Raycroft was signed by the Colorado Avalanche? How!? Am I dreaming? How could they give him a contract? How could they agree to pay him $800,000? Did they not see him in action last year? Did they not see any videotape? Did they not check out YouTube? Do the Colorado Avalanche have scouts? No, really, does Colorado have scouts? Unbelievable. All I know is that whatever they are smoking down in Colorado, I want a sample. Please. It has got to be some unbelievable, "holy-shit-let's-sign-Andrew-fucking-Raycroft" type shit.

Back to Finger. Like I said, forget about the terms of the deal. Block it out of your mind. Forever. It's easier that way. Finger is a good signing because a defensive defenceman cannot, in any way, shape, or form, hurt the Toronto Maple Leafs. Think about it. A shutdown guy who loves to take the body and block shots. How can that be a bad thing?

The Leafs currently employ two defencemen who are allergic to playing the body, sort of like how seven-foot tall Andrea Bargnani is allergic to rebounding. They could do it. They just don't want to. I'm not going to name names, but playing the body is simply not part of Tomas Kaberle and Anton Stralman's game. Not that there's anything wrong with that. They're great defencemen, and huge parts of the team going forward.

The Leafs also currently employ a defenceman who loves playing the body, but who when he does so, costs himself about half or two-thirds of his season. Again, I'm not going to name names, but if Carlo Colaiacovo injures himself trying to body check an opponent this season, I'm not going to be pleased.

If you're counting, that's two defencemen who don't take the body, and one who injures himself in the process. Three out of six. That's why Jeff Finger cannot hurt being on the Leafs' blue line. Sure, we overpaid, but look at the coin Brook Orpiks got, and he's a shutdown guy who's -29 over his career. I know, he's got more experience, but, well, that -29 isn't exactly a good "shutting down" track record.

And don't tell me about Hal Gill, either. He's gone. I know, he was a shut down defenceman too, and now we're paying Finger more than Gill, but he's gone. We must turn the page. Like I said, I've justified Finger's presence on our blue line, and I'm at peace with my decision.

Niklas Hagman was Grandpa's other signing on July 1st. The money - $12 million over four years - is fair, and he brings speed, decent finish, and solid penalty killing ability to the squad. Welcome to hell, Hagman. Enjoy your stay. We expect nothing less than 27 goals you scored for the Dallas Stars last season.

Grandpa Fletcher also made a trade yesterday with the Montreal Canadiens, sending some dude we just drafted and a second-round pick in 2010 the Habs' way. In return, the Leafs get Mikhail Grabovski, a flashy, 24-year-old centre with tons of potential and who's been successful in the AHL. Grabovski's a free agent and the next order of business will be for Fletcher to get his name on a contract. All signs point to Grabovski being a big part of next year's Leafs squad. He'll get every opportunity to play a big role, and here's calling him pushing Matt Stajan further down the depth chart, where he belongs (Stajan will never be more than a third-line player).

Expect Damiex Cox, among others I'm sure, to be bitching about how the Leafs gave up yet another prospect and draft choice in a trade, but we're not getting a veteran in return here. We're getting a young player who's already had a taste of the NHL and who knows what it's going to take in order to belong. There's a big, big difference between trading a second-round draft choice for an aging Yanic Perreault and trading a second-round draft choice for a guy like Grabovski. Keep that in mind when you read your regular dose of Leafs/Fletcher bashage today, tomorrow, and in the days to come.


Anonymous said...

Grabovski is shit....i know the hatred you have for Stajan, but this dude aint any better.....i have beed dissing this fuck since he got drafted the same year Loic Lacasse (name is funny)...anyway, he is shit, won't be shit, and will be gone by next year....sorry to bust dreams....you we all know he is going to be crap....not like Greg Pateryn is going to be any better.....

Lottery Cup....we have it locked...


eyebleaf said...

don't be an asshole, bhatti boy. have some god damn faith!!!

tbot said...

If Finger doesn't have a no-movement then he can be put back down to the minors if he doesn't perform and that cap hit disappears. And since he was a career AHLer anyway then it has less of a chance of hurting the team as far as future free agents go.

If the Leafs start using their money this way then I for one will be happy.

On the other hand, I am looking forward to seeing Finger succeed.