Some Monday musings for your dining and dancing pleasure:
When faced with a decision, the Toronto Maple Leafs have historically been a franchise that has been uncannily consistent in pursuing the path of least resistance. And that won’t change when it comes to Mats Sundin.
Sundin is currently working out in Los Angeles with an eye toward returning to the NHL and there are those in the industry who still maintain that Sundin will end up this season where he has been for more than a decade – with the Leafs.
The Leafs, of course, are more than happy to take him back with open arms and have expressly left the salary cap room available to make it happen. GM Cliff Fletcher has never backed away from the notion Sundin would be welcomed back to the team on his own terms.
It reminds one of the 2002 playoffs when Sundin and Darcy Tucker were hurt and the Leafs powered their way to the Eastern Conference final with the likes of Gary Roberts and Alyn McCauley, only to have Sundin and Tucker return to lead the Leafs to an ouster to the Carolina Hurricanes.
The Leafs have a great thing going. They’re infinitely better than anyone thought they would be. They play with a youthful energy and enthusiasm that hasn’t been seen in years and Ron Wilson, a terrific coach, has made players accountable all the way through the lineup and has made it crystal clear the country club is now closed.
Why on earth would the Leafs want to mess with that by signing Sundin? It’s time the Leafs cut ties with their former captain.
But, of course, that would require them to make a difficult decision, one that might be unpopular with some people, but one that would almost certainly benefit the franchise in the long run.
Don’t count on them making the right one.
An astute NHL executive once told me that losing often makes otherwise solid character players get out of character and it looks as though exactly that is happening to the Dallas Stars.
Entering games in Anaheim and San Jose this weekend, the Stars are reeling and their stars are speaking out. First, Marty Turco, who has been abysmal so far this season, publicly blamed his defensemen for screening him too much. But at least he admitted it probably came down to his teammates not trusting him to make a save.
But even more damning was what Mike Modano had to say after the Stars lost 5-1 in Boston Saturday night, a game where Sean Avery and Steve Ott were running around like idiots.
“It was idiotic and stupid,” Modano told the Dallas Morning News. “It was one of the most embarrassing things I’ve seen. If that’s what we’re going for, then they need to find me an office job.”
The fact of the matter is the Stars leadership core – Modano, Turco and Brenden Morrow – have no time for Avery, who has proved this season that the Rangers’ great record when he was in the lineup was an anomaly.
Avery has become a distraction in Dallas, a player who has quickly become more of a headache than he’s worth. And now Brett Hull, who was the one who brought Avery in and signed him to a four-year deal with a no-trade clause, is coming under considerable heat for the decision. After a strong start, Hull has proven to be an impetuous and overly emotional GM, which is the direct opposite of co-GM Les Jackson.
Signing Avery could turn out to be a disaster. To be fair, Avery isn’t responsible for Turco’s poor play or the fact neither Sergei Zubov nor Jere Lehtinen has played this season, but he has taken up far too much of their energy.
I find it hard to believe that Igor Larionov, one of the classiest people ever in the game, is finding an ally in the Kontinental League with president Alexander Medvedev.
Larionov was always all about principle. Instead of defecting from Russia to play in the NHL in his prime, he bided his time and went through the proper channels before coming to the NHL. Once he got here, he proved to be a great teammate and person and was part of the success of several teams along the way.
Now he’s working with a man who has no respect for the sanctity of a contract, as evidenced by the KHL’s poaching of Pavel Valentenko and Matt Murley recently by teams in Russia. Despite being under contract to NHL teams and Medvedev agreeing to a mutual respect of contracts, his league continues to allow players to flout the rules.
The Murley case is an interesting one. USA Hockey, not the NHL, blocked his transfer to the KHL, which is its legal right because it holds his transfer card. Undeterred, the KHL added him from the Albany River Rats, a clear violation of the international transfer agreement, which has nothing to do with the International Ice Hockey Federation and the NHL.
Making matters worse is that Medvedev is a council member of the IIHF and the international body is powerless to do anything about him. The only people who can oust him is the general council, which consists of 66 countries ranging from Canada to the United Arab Emirates, about half of whom couldn’t care less about people such as Alexander Radulov, Valentenko and Murley.
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesday and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
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