When I started this column I said I would just let it go wherever it took me and this week I’m thinking about ingredients and to tie it to a bit of pop culture nostalgia maybe you think back to when the Seinfeld gang were eating that delicious apparently non-fat but ultimately fattening yogurt.
Note: I could have just said the devil will forever remain in the details but that’s just not my way.
It’s never just about the water you left on the bathroom floor:
quite the week for Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs; and admittedly the fortunes of the Leafs and Canadiens will always be a spectator sport for everyone in Canada. The Leafs fired Ron Wilson a week ago from this past Friday but an equally large tremor rolled through Burke’s offices the following evening. On Saturday night Don Cherry’s Coaches Corner edition consisted mainly of wondering aloud why Burke was more prone to populate his team with Americans rather than attempt to mine the vast bounty of Ontario. Now, I’m not here to say Cherry isn’t an avowed patriot but he’s also an unabashed Leafs fan and he would be happy just as long as the team was winning. The vitriol and anger expressed by Cherry had more to do with the information he emitted just prior to the rant: Brian Burke had tried to have him fired after having first complained to the NHL board of govenors and later to the CBC. In the wake of the explosion versus Burke people hurried to their computers to either A: show their displeasure in Cherry’s anti-american sentiment or B: dig up the Leafs drafting records to ultimately show that while Burke hasn’t been able to bring in established players from Ontario, they are certainly more than open to drafting from this region. All along most fans I saw missed the point: once again, as he’d done in Vancouver, Brian Burke was trying to censor the media.
By the time the Monday papers were online I could see that a couple of journalists – no surprise there obviously – had defended Cherry and had parsed through the noise to get to the melody. But, still, that doesn’t seem to be enough support. I don’t follow all that many people on twitter but you still get exposed to enough of the masses to get the overlying reaction and what I saw were people more than willing to chalk this up to just another one of Canada’s favourite crazy uncle’s rants. Now, maybe I have more respect – and more expectations – for the media than most but I thought I wouldn’t be alone in considering Burke’s boardroom actions the true motivation for Cherry’s rant and also as a cause for more than just the usual post-Coaches Corner reaction. I will leave this topic with a brief illustration of the latest example of how Burke wants to be in the spotlight but not the accompanying crosshairs. In the pregame show Ron Maclean asked him about the challenges of trying to win in Toronto and, unsolicited, Burke listed as a reason how visiting players from Ontario always seem to play their best at the ACC. Maclean seized this declaration and asked if that was the case why not try and get more of those guys on the Leafs. Burke’s back went up – and again I’m not sure if it’s ever down – and here was a guy defiant even when having baited his own trap. There’s just no way to win with a guy like that; but, credit to Cherry for not getting worn down from the battle and for bringing the behind-the-scenes machinations to light. It might be beneficial for future young journalists to acknowledge a future adversary before they having to step into the ring with him.
Oilers management may also like to see Obama’s birth certificate:
The Birther movement seems to have run out of steam as of late; what with Tea Party candidates finding that politics in reality is far more difficult than in theory and high profile champion Donald Trump long having decided not to run after perhaps not so coincidentally uncovering no damning evidence while searching through the president’s birth records. Still, an old regionalism bias seems to have found new fuel with the Oilers; how else do we explain Gilbert for Schultz with the early returns being so damning? Schultz has been a decidely third pairing defenseman and on some occasions has played less than four min a game then Corey Potter. So, what are we missing? Or, what’s Schultz missing?
I hardly ever try to defend moves by the Oilers but maybe there are conditioning issues. All things mentioned of tangible value associated with Schultz seem to have happened during the Jacques Lemaire and heading into his Oilers tenure we could see the Saskatchewan native being trusted less and less by new coach Mike Yeo; that approach seems to have been aped by Renney who right now considers Schultz to be his fifth best defenseman at even strenght. But of course he’s from Saskatchewan and though the importance of that fact cannot be quantified the Oilers truly believe it has value. Why would I mention that? Well, I’ve always been sensitive to the Oilers leanings on this matter and considering how it’s been a recurring talking point in reference to why Schultz fits the Oilers better than an obviously superior player in Gilbert it must be something the Oilers are once again holding onto. What the Oilers say and tell you about the possible merits of this trade has nothing to do with the reality presented by the hard numbers. If Schultz is a third pairing defenseman or he’s a top four defenseman with failing grades then this trade was a massive failure; because Tom Gilbert could damn near keep his head above water playing on the club’s top pairing.
Let’s look at the age and point production of your top players first, shall we?:
I think this deserves much more of a broader stroke and it’s something I may explore in the near future. In the sell job that is any rebuilding project the team in question will point to clubs of recent memory and success who’ve torn down and built up. Some days the Oilers are emulating the Penguins; other days it’s the Hawks. Still other days have them signing the praises of a new management model and crediting the Wings with said inspriation. The Oilers contract bargaining and pro scouting skills are so questionable that I won’t even tackle the last comparison. Truth be told I won’t really get into the on-ice comparisions with either Pittsburgh or Chicago either. What I will say is just because your AHL team has taken a huge leap forward it doesn’t portend big league success; in fact it’s arguably not even worth mentioning if the small club’s success is driven by players past the age of 25 – and probably even younger – and at a point in their careers when they will never impact an NHL game. The OKC Barons have had a great year but a look at the team’s scoring leaders show that only second year pro and soon-to-be 22 year old Teemu Hartikainen could be considered any future help. Note: his numbers from first to second year are remarkably similar and for a full 82 game season you could expect him to score 23 goals and 29 assists. Nice numbers, sure, but nothing that will make a big difference. Kids like Pitlick and Hamilton have had differing degrees of disappointing rookie pro campaigns, the netminding’s at an age as to preclude any reliance and the defense is older and NHL suspect with the crown jewel of the top six – and lord knows I didn’t say that in a serious manner – the just-turned 22 year old Colton Teubert who’s potential does not go beyond a bottom pairing defenseman and who could very well become the next Theo Peckham.
This of course brings me to a point everyone already knew: these days most kids who will make a difference never step foot in the AHL in the first place. A look at the players that drive the engines of the Pens and Hawks reveal the same thing. The lesson is AHL standings don’t mean a damn thing if the birth certificates of the results-drivers are beginning to yellow just the tiniest bit.