Don Cherry gave Toronto Maple Leafs management an earful Thursday night as the outspoken hockey commentator critiqued all six Canadian teams on CBC’s first Coach’s Corner segment of the season.
Cherry lambasted the Leafs brass for lowering expectations for the team when talking to the media. He took specific aim at general manager Cliff Fletcher’s assertion that the Leafs only had one top-six forward in Nik Antropov, and coach Ron Wilson’s comment that “wins and losses don’t matter” while the team rebuilds.
“I’ll tell you what they’re doing, they’re saying ‘Don’t blame me, blame (former Leafs GM) John Ferguson Jr.,”‘ Cherry said. “I’m glad he wasn’t around for the crucifixion.
“All management was doing when they did that stuff was covering their own ass,” Cherry added.
Cherry said he thought this edition of the Leafs was a good team, but stopped short of predicting a playoffs berth.
He also reiterated his dislike of the Vancouver Canucks’ decision to name goaltender Roberto Luongo team captain – a move he had previously called “silly”.
Cherry said goaltenders are silent types who don’t have the oratory skills to inspire players in the dressing room.
“You ever hear of a goalie getting up in a dressing room? (It would) never happen,” Cherry said.
“Goalies have enough pressure on them as it is.”
Cherry had a lot of praise for Montreal GM Bob Gainey for making moves to toughen up the Canadiens lineup after they were bounced from the playoffs last season by the rugged Philadelphia Flyers.
“When you go in the Bell Centre now, you’re not going to run them out of the league anymore,” Cherry said.
Cherry called the Edmonton Oilers “the most exciting team in hockey” and hoped promising young forwards Sam Gagner and Andrew Cogliano would avoid a sophomore slump.
He said the Calgary Flames have the best all-around hockey player in captain Jarome Iginla, but goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff needs to rebound from a somewhat disappointing season.
He also said the Ottawa Senators have a new attitude with coach Craig Hartsburg and lauded offensive powerhouse Dany Heatley’s willingness to block shots.