This week’s mailbag is the final regular one for a couple weeks, as I’m taking the next five workdays off for one massive power nap before the trade deadline kookery really gets underway. Next week’s mailbag will feature responses from various members of THN’s staff, so keep those questions coming.
With Brian Burke sending off Staffan Kronwall via waivers because he wanted to increase the reputation of the Leafs as being a place where players are respected, I cannot help but think his recent comments about Nik Antropov and how he believes that the players in Toronto have been protected from the media are sending the opposite message.
Did Burke send off an asset to increase the reputation of the club only to damage it the following week?
Eric H., Mississauga, Ont.
I don’t think Burke did anything wrong when he very gently ripped Antropov. In fact, if you listened to exactly what he said on XM Radio – that he had no reason to tender a contract extension to a player who by his own admission isn’t playing well – it’s impossible to argue otherwise.
Now, Burke’s ultimate intent likely was to challenge the big winger to play better so the GM can deal him prior to the trade deadline. But to say telling the truth might scare away future potential Leafs is a bit of a stretch.
Burke and coach Ron Wilson are absolutely correct to target a Maple Leafs culture that has shielded players from virtually any criticism over the past decade or so. Players can know they’ll be treated fairly by management, while also understanding the country club atmosphere that got Toronto fans zilch in return has to change and that everyone will be publicly accountable.
If players have a problem with that, you have to ask yourself if you really want them playing for your team.
As the NHL trading deadline is quickly coming, I was wondering, is it all talk when hockey people say that chemistry is so important to the team? If so, then why are there so many trades that happen on trade deadline day?
Not that I have done an actual statistical analysis or anything, but it seems like the NHL more than any other league, has the greatest number of trades on trade deadline day. If chemistry was really that important, you would think it would be more essential to maintain and build your team from within, rather than trying to find a hired gun or trying to trade an upcoming unrestricted free agent rather than getting nothing for him.
Sam Kim, Edmonton
I spoke to a pair of GMs this week about the upcoming deadline and they both feel much as you do in that they prefer to make addition(s) well in advance of the final day of swapping, in order to provide their team with more time to gel.
That said, they also understand why most deals don’t go down until the last minute. Much of it has to do with simple economics – meaning that, under the current uncertain worldwide crisis, there is great pressure from ownership to wait until the last moment possible before adding to the payroll.
As for chemistry, every team’s goal is to acquire a player whose ego won’t upset the egos in the dressing room he’s moving to. And if that player’s on-ice abilities are anywhere close to his willingness to assimilate into his new team, those teammates will have no problem welcoming a newbie.
A few years ago baseball was also struggling with the relevance of its All-Star Game and it came to a head when Commissioner Bud Selig (the Montreal Expo-killer) allowed a game to end in a tie in the 10th inning. So Major League Baseball introduced an interesting wrinkle – the league that wins the All-Star Game gets home field advantage for the World Series. This gives the players a little something-something to play for and identifies them more closely with their league.
I would be really disappointed if hockey tried to learn too much from baseball, but what do you think of this one?
Mike Bradley, Cole Harbour, N.S.
Depends what you mean by “learn.” If you mean, “adopt similar structural concepts,” then let me say I would be VERY disappointed – disappointed enough to use the Kanye West-copyrighted ALL CAPS FORMAT – if the NHL tried to borrow too much from anything Major League Baseball has done.
We’re talking about a league that still allows a handful of big-market franchises to run roughshod over middle-tier and small-market franchises and basically snuff out hope in many of its marketplaces before each season even begins.
We’re talking about a league that is currently embroiled in a scandal of unprecedented proportions, because both its commissioner and players’ association chief have played hide-and-seek with the truth about performance enhancing drugs for as long as that issue has been debated.
Now, if you mean, “learn” as in “do the opposite of after recognizing the example as a cautionary tale to be avoided at all costs”, then, yes, I think hockey has much to learn from baseball.
Most NHL GMs have played pro hockey for the organization they manage. How does one go about climbing the ranks without having played professional hockey?
Alan Bass, Allentown, Pa.
I’d look to the examples set by Avalanche GM Francois Giguere and former Lightning colleague Jay Feaster for inspiration.
Neither of those men played the game at a high level, yet both were able to parlay other important business skills, along with a steely determination and willingness to learn, into trust and responsibility at the highest levels of pro hockey.
Even Canadiens director of player recruitment Trevor Timmins (who did play at a high amateur level in Ontario as a youth) started his hockey management career as an “employee without a title”-type person within the Ottawa Senators organization before he worked his way through the ranks to become one of the league’s top talent evaluators.
I wrote to you in June 2008, and told you I was permanently moving to Perth, Australia. So I thought I better give you the latest. As I am writing this, it’s 40 degrees Celsius outside. Yes, very warm.
I came home for the holiday season, but now I’m back in Perth. Anyway, about hockey: my Washington Capitals are still on fire. I don’t think we can catch the Bruins, but we should be in a good position come playoffs.
If Chris Pronger becomes available do you think the Caps should have a look? I think he can be a major cog come playoff time. He would help Mike Green and the other D-men with his toughness and experience.
That’s all for now. Being here for summer sure beats blowing snow and shoveling the driveway.
Antonio Sujeevan, Perth, Australia
Rub it in a little more, why don’t you. Maybe next time include a shot of the outstanding Australian women walking around Perth or something.
No, seriously. There is no preponderance of exposed female skin at the arenas I frequent.
Should the Caps look at Pronger? Not if it means forking over a crapload of prospects and/or talent from the NHL roster to get a player who has a notable recent history of getting suspended toward the end of the season and in the playoffs.
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Adam Proteau is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Mondays, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.
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