with Alec Brownscombe.


Some great quotes and the great one-

"I love the shoot-out. It's exciting for the fans and we'll get to see players produce some moves that we would never see in a real game. It's entertaining."

-Mike Brophy

If it's all about fan entertainment, why not turn the entire game into one blown-up shootout? Or, as Howard Berger put it, bring each team's enforcer to the middle of the ice for a round of fisticuffs, after a regulation tie? After all, no fan turns away or walks out on a fight. Fans and pundits that like the shootout say its pure entertainment. So is WWE wrestling. Essentially, the shoot-out shouldn't be deciding games. There's a reason why we won't see a shoot-out become the deciding factor in the playoffs. I don't see why it should be deciding games during the regular season. After all, the first 82 supposed "meaningless" games are what ultimately decide your playoff eligibility. Brophy also argued that in some way the shoot-out does not resemble a skills competition. He later went on to say how excited he was that he would get to see some of Pavel Datsyuk's most fancy and skilled moves that he wouldn't dare to make during game action. Still sounds like a skills comp doesn't it?

"They've both got good size, good reach, they both skate well,"

-Pat Quinn, referring to Aki Berg and Wade Belak

If that's how the Leafs brass responds to the two reasons they lost Saturday night, Leafs Nation is in for a long season. Defensemen have a tough job with the new rules, and these two look totally lost. By no means does this spell the end of this disastrous duo, however- the two tie up a total $2 million dollars in salary expense and Quinn seems to detest the thought of giving Colaiacovo and Kronwall their ice time.

For it is all about money, Leafs fans. The trick is now to get a contract….if you under perform once you have one, no other team will take the chance of wasting cap room on you and you're set.

If you have the ability to be enthused about this team, don't be. At least until a Roman Abramovich or a Mike Ilitch comes along, and you get an owner who's more interested in winning than they are in making a high investment return.

"Scotty Bowman's record (1,244 wins) is pretty safe."

-Wayne Gretzky after his first win as head coach

Coaching a squad which is as weak as this one, Gretzky certainly has his work cut out for him. But as far as I recall he's succeeded at anything he's involved himself in- stretching from his iconic playing days to his successful run as Team Canada GM. But what I admire most about Gretzky is the fact that he will always involve himself in the scheme of things. He could've retired as a legend, easily being the best to ever grace the ice, and sat atop the hockey pedestal as the games almighty personage. He could've settled for managing a Canadian Olympic team to a gold medal. But now he has a new task, a new challenge. As long as he lives, Gretzky will always be in the center of hockey. For that very reason, whether it be this season or a few from now, Gretzky will bring this team to a level of success.

"You can't shut it down anymore, we got to get ahead by a couple and keep pressing. I think that's the new NHL."

-Brian Murray, Senators head coach

Teams can't defend anymore- at least at even strength. Attacking forwards have all the freedom in the world. Defensemen are too used to being able to hold up a forward, or slow him down with a stick. However with that aspect of the game completely eliminated by anti-obstruction regulations, as Maple Leafs defenseman Ken Klee complained, "You don't know how to play defense anymore." This had lead to a lot of offensive pressure, and because teams cannot defend against the cycle, a lot of scoring at both ends. Saturday night featured 7-6, 6-5, 5-4 type score-lines. An oddity is that penalty killing numbers remain as high as ever. It's proving that teams can still defend with a set system such as the box during a PK, but fail to defend the basic offensive cycle.

"Quotes of the Week" is also a feature at



Here are some interesting comments on the embryonic NHL season.

"Fighters aren't supposed to wear visors; I guess people might think you're weak. I've had to wear a visor because of getting a puck in the eye and as soon as you go on the ice, they look at you like, `Whoa, what's going on? Are you going European on us?'"

-Wade Belak

Is it "European" to drive a car without a seatbelt? Unfortunately, we've reached a point in the game where it's not about class; it's not about "manhood." It's about personal safety- the respect for one another out there is dismal. The reason why there wasn't a high death toll in the era of no helmet hockey is because there was respect for one another- no one was out there flailing their stick around- no one was pulling a Hossa on Berard, a Perezhogin on Stafford. As I am hearing that the NHL may be implementing a forced visor rule, I am not necessarily in support of it- players should make their own decision whether they wish to see out of both eyes or not, but if they are caught in the eye with a stray stick, they have nobody to blame but themselves.

"I have probably more metal plates in my face than he (Avery) has goals. That's why I wear a visor."

-Phillipe Boucher

Another lesson in the prejudice of generalization. Just because a player decides to wear some protection doesn't make him a coward - it's just as likely that he's trying to take a precaution to safeguard the rest of his career from re-injury of an old war wound.

"If there had been two guys ice fishing across the street, I would've been out of the ACC and watching them. There is no flow to the game."

-Sherry Bassin, Erie Otters GM

Many aren't happy with the new rules. Games that feature 40-50 minutes of odd man play are boring. Promised end to end flow is non-existent, and the strength aspect to the game has been neutered. Players used to need strength to power their way along their boards, but now almost anyone could do it. Steve Thomas was venting about this last week- a big part of his game was fighting through checks, and now that skill set is no longer involved in the game.

"Instead of the shootout, Mats Sundin and Daniel Alfredsson should've sat down in the face-off circle and had a game of Texas Hold 'em."

-Sherry Bassin

'nuff said…shoot-outs have about as much to do with the game as some random contest of chance. 4 v 4 is exciting, following it with a skills competition is deflating to many old school fans. A better option is to follow the 4 v4 with 3 v 3, 2 v 2, and ultimately 1v 1 if necessary. As anyone who's witnessed this in minor hockey tourneys will attest, the drama just keeps getting more intense and there's always an outcome that bears a resemblance to the team game.


Entering week one of regular season action, these four quotes sum up accurately the current state of the NHL.

"I think it was typical of most French guys in our league with a visor on, running around and playing tough and not back anything up."

-Sean Avery

There are some things you just don't say. As a generalization, there may be some truth in this statement. It's no secret that Quebec minor hockey is big on stick work - and low on fighting accountability. But with that being said, this is certainly something you have to keep to yourself. I think this is more a case which Roenick got his clock cleaned in another controversial hit, and Avery has jumped at the chance to use show some prejudice. Guys that don't want to be found accountable for their actions feel that they can take more liberty because less and less enforcers are around to make them pay for it. Teams no longer have time in the game to stick out their enforcers- between power plays, and penalty kills, coaches struggle to ice the teams best set lines, let alone 4th line dirt disturbers.

"I think I had more to offer than these rookies- I've made it to the Stanley Cup finals and I add the experience that these guys certainly don't have."

-Steve Thomas

Let's face it- the Leafs management has used the new CBA as a reason to give their youngsters a shot. I understand management's decision to give Stajan, Steen, and Colaiacovo (as well as Kronwall perhaps) a chance. If you could take contracts out of the situation, Thomas would be competing with players such as Chad Kilger, or even Tie Domi. In Kilger's case, he hasn't proven a thing or shown to be of any significance to this Leaf puzzle. What has he shown that Thomas hasn't? In Domi's case, he'll never be cut and he's suddenly decided that because he's a veteran now, he can play without that edge to his game. Guess what Domi? The Leafs don't need your play-making ability- they don't need you to be a point contributor. If that's what Domi thinks he now is, we all know who can fit that bill better- Stumpy Thomas. Four other teams were interested in Domi a month ago… get on the phone Fergie and see if their still interested.
In any case, we're seeing a lot more of this with the new CBA. Had this occurred before the lockout, we probably would've seen the Leafs pay Thomas a decent amount money to keep him content, and then they would've sent a youngster back down to make space. However, in this new landscape, it's not so easy as to just bring up and then send back down these players as veterans wear and tear throughout the season. There are may be other teams out there that which would jump at the chance to claim a Wellwood, or a Steen from waivers- the last thing Toronto needs is to lose their best up-and-coming talent.

"It's frustrating because it is no longer a man's game out there. If I can get a 220-pound guy to fall down just by putting my stick on him, it shouldn't happen."

-Steve Thomas

This is what's wrong with the new rules. Referees are interpreting the new era in the NHL that allows no player to put a stick on another. Another component of the new rules is severe diving penalties. However, so far the minor infraction penalty to dive ratio is somewhere north of 20 to 1. Soccer also has a diving penalty - so of course no player in that sport acts theatrical anymore….right?

"We want to return the association to its members."

-Chris Chelios

Nothing spells losing frustration better than this quip. The owners hit the ball out of the park with the CBA, and the players are pissed that the escrow is going to claw back their already reduced salaries. Meanwhile, Linden gave Saskin a fat raise without following due process. When the ship is sinking, the rioting crew is not a pretty sight.

Yes, Linden should have handled this better. Saskin's appointment should have been interim at best - with a proper search process for Goodenow's replacement undertaken.
But put yourself in Linden's position - he had a new CBA that nobody really understood, and the only player architect was Saskin. What if he said he was leaving too last July?

There'd be no hockey now in that case. Try walking in Trevor's shoes before you start going nuts.

Yes hockey fans, this is your NHL (just do what the marketing tells you). I hope it's yours- because it certainly isn't mine. Mine wouldn't be redirecting successful markets' profits to unsuccessful ones. Mine wouldn't feature 1230 games worth of special team play. And my NHL wouldn't have completely reconstructed this game many North Americans have grown to love over the past 50 years. There was a reason why we all loved it. "Pond Hockey" is a blast to play - but I won't pay to watch it.



It seems everyone is excited about a new-look NHL. The strong and skilled players are looking forward to establishing dominance over obstruction. Players like Jagr, and Allison are certainly going to thrive with this new crackdown. If the NHL is serious about the new rules, players that use their sticks for water-skiing rather than goal-scoring will be looking for new career opportunities- at least until the playoffs start. So let's start picking out some guys that should have some serious troubles adapting to a new NHL.

There are players drafted for their offensive talent. There are players who are drafted as positional sound, hard hitters. Then there are players drafted whose defensive game is based on using their stick to slow down their opposition. It's this third class of player that will struggle in the new NHL.

The use of the stick for purposes other than puck handling are as old as the game. Try watching some re-runs of games from the 40's, 50's, or 60's if you have difficulty remembering what "old time hockey" really was… the backhand on the goalie was always prefaced with a hook, hold, and the occasional elbow. Gordie Howe, with his concussion inducing elbows, would not have lasted long with these new rules. Neither would Jaques Lapiererre, who had trouble shooting or skating, but would select the longest stick he could find in order to extend the reach of his hooking arc.

I digress. Offence is great, and once we survive 40 or 50 minutes of power-play, we can all tune in to view the last 3 minutes of the game to see who might win…is it any wonder that the basketball commish has slain the Neanderthal player rep to re-imagine a game that will emulate a no-contact charade of hoops?

I digress again. I guarantee that the following players are going to have big trouble retaining employment (well not really, just will have some issues adapting) while the stripe shirts interpret the new Bettman universe. Be entertained dammit!

1. Chris Therien, Darien Hatcher, or Mike Rathje. Pick one - My feet won't move - but I remember how to swing my stick - it just ain't gonna work anymore.

2. Nik Antropov - I've got two knee braces. Please don't hit me because I need a paycheque.

3. Radek Bonk - Offensive moves are no problem. I can see the ice, and hit the open man. But damn I just love chopping with that stick!

4. Bryan McCabe - They made me stop separating the winger's legs with the "can opener". Now I can't trip, hold, or run around out of position.

5. Darius Kaspairitus - enough said.

6. Marian Hossa - I could score 50 goals, or, I could re-arrange your face with the end of this Easton.

7. ¾'s of Calgary's forwards. There's no way Detroit and Vancouver will go down again to Calgary unless Calgary forwards are allowed the 2 steamboat rule for hooking and holding.

8. Mike Peca - gritty competitor who belongs to the era where black and blue arms were the signature of the professional hockey masochist.

9. Mike Keenan - can he bring himself to even pick a player who doesn't obstruct?

10. Hal Gil - I'll hit you once I bring you closer with this $300 composite.

Of course, this top ten could be reversed once April rolls along, and suddenly games matter. Old GM Harry in Boston has already vented over the fact that he can't sell seats to a game that features 50 minutes of odd man play. Hockey's on the brink of unprecedented change, as it chases soccer moms with a sanitized new image. The question is - how long will the grass root fan stick with it?


Progressive Penalty System

Many hockey fans, including myself, are sickened by the number of penalties called so far this pre-season. The NHL is introducing this "no tolerance" policy to crack down on obstruction, that so far has proven to create 35, 40, 45 minutes of power plays in a single 60 minute game. The logic behind this is to ultimately drown out all obstruction from the game, for players will simply learn not to clutch, grab, hook, or hold, sooner or later. But it isn't as simple as that.

When, in all NHL history, have players ever adjusted to any sort of change? Multiple efforts in the past to introduce this no tolerance crack down have just resulted in the eventual cave-in from league. Let's face it- no one wants a game in which five/sixths of it is played with one of the teams short-handed. The coaches don't want to coach a game like that; general managers don't want it either. From my standpoint and certainly the owner's as well, fans don't want to watch a game like that. Gary Bettman seems to believe that its so simple- "we'll just not stop this time."

We all know where this really is leading- to the same place it has after the last half-dozen efforts.

Even if this crackdown survives late into the season, which is unlikely, what's going to happen come playoff time?

What I'm getting at is that a whole new system needs to be implemented. A system that cuts down on obstruction, but also plays the game the way it's supposed to be played- 5 on 5 (of course with the occasional penalty). What I'm suggesting is for the NHL to implement a progressive penalty system.

The basics of this system are that severity of the penalties increases as the game progresses or if the frequency of the infraction augments.

A few propositions of progressive system:

1) If a player accumulates his third minor of the game, he is ejected.

2) If a team as a whole accumulates over 5 minor penalties, a major - or if in the defensive zone a penalty shot - is awarded.


What this does is makes players think twice before clutching, grabbing, or hooking an opponent. That may be the same aim as the system the NHL is introducing now, however in this case successful penalty killing simply excuses the multiple infractions while degrading the product. Penalty killing is basically a science now. With the advent of the PK specialist, simply throwing players in the sin bin by the dozen doesn't do anything except disinterest fans.

The goal of this progressive system is to put some kind of rational limit on the amount of odd man time there can be in a game. A target of somewhere in the 20 minute mark of game time chewed up by power plays is a reasonable goal. Hockey is best showcased when there is end to end flow - not a static set piece which is the nature of power play exhibits.

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- Part 2

It's time for the second installment of the good, the bad and the ugly, western conference style.

The Good

The Vancouver Canucks- Most of all, GM Dave Nonis needs to be accredited for keeping together the core of this team. When the lockout finally concluded, the Canucks were in one of the worst situations- they had a lot of money tied up on very few players. But rookie GM Nonis took his time and approached each player individually and got the job done. Ohlund, Morrison, Cloutier, the Sedins, King, Allen, Ruttu and captain Markus Naslund were all in need of deals and all re-signed with the Canucks. The fact that Vancouver was then in the situation to shore up their right-wing with the signing of Anson Carter and ink a proven goaltender in Brent Johnson should have all Canucks fans smiling in satisfaction with the job done by Nonis. All this for 39 million- not too shabby.

The Phoenix Coyotes- Most media and fans have been critical of Barnett's inaction over the summer, but they've forgotten that the Coyotes were set well before August 1st. Before the 310-day lockout, Phoenix added crafty right-winger Brett Hull, who, even still at the age of 37, is one of the best in the game at finding the back of the net. GM Mike Barnett also addressed the situation at centre, which has been the Coyotes weakest point over the past few seasons, with the signings of Petr Nedved, a player coming off a very successful 16 game stint with the Edmonton Oilers (15 points in 16 games) and hard-nosed, two-way centreman, Mike Ricci. Barnett also added defenseman Sean O'Donnell to add toughness to a passive, but skilled Coyotes defense. It's important to mention the Coyotes did make one move since August 1st, which was signing goaltender Curtis Joseph. It's a roll of the dice, but all the same a welcomed addition to the Coyotes' goaltending core, as Joseph adds experience, (important if the team manages a playoff birth) being a goaltender who has had years of success at the NHL level.

The Calgary Flames- It was obvious that Daryl Sutter's plans were to shore up a few holes in a line-up that was already in tact. However, there were the unfortunate losses of Martin Gelinas and Craig Conroy that would put a kink in his plans. Craig Conroy was signed by the Kings very early last off-season, which robbed the Flames of the chance of bringing him back. However, Sutter turned around and worked a deal with the Coyotes to land Daymond Langkow. Langkow has two sides to his game, he is defensively sound while he also posts decent point totals- a similar package that Conroy had to offer. However, Langkow is 6 years younger. He fits well into the Flames group of forwards and should gel nicely. Then there was the loss of Martin Gelinas, who Panthers GM Mike Keenan nabbed before the Flames had the chance to get a deal done. But once again, Sutter managed to land an adequate replacement. Tony Amonte signed on later that day. Amonte was bought out by Philadelphia because it was thought that his career was winding down, which may be. However, Gelinas is no youngster at age 35 (the same age as Amonte mind you), and Amonte is still very capable of being a strong contributor. It was a tough loss for the Flames, however there was not a better replacement out there in terms of credentials. The Flames also added gritty right-winger Darren McCarty. McCarty fits well with this club - he's a team player who comes to play night in night out. McCarty also knows what it's like to win championships, having three Stanley Cup rings to show for himself. Then came the addition of the big, mean, Roman Hamrlik. He and Regehr will have no problems policing the ice- the two unite for a total size of 12 foot 5, 540 pounds. Finally, to put the icing on the cake, the Flames acquired young goaltender Phillipe Sauve. The Flames were in need of a replacement for Roman Turek, who announced his retirement early in August.

Honorable Mentions:

Columbus Blue Jackets- Signed defensemen Bryan Berard (47 pts, 57 games) and Adam Foote. Foote adds a great two-way game while Berard can quarterback the power play.

Nashville Predators- Paul Kariya means a lot to this organization. A cheap price for a fantastic player. There is something to be excited about in Nashville. The Predators also added defenseman Danny Markov.

Chicago Blackhawks. - Added Stanley Cup winning goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin. Finally have a true number one goaltender- the hottest netminder currently in the NHL. Also added defenseman Adrian Aucoin.

Anaheim Mighty Ducks- The signing of the best defenseman in the game (Neidermayer) has to be acknowledged. As for the signing of Teemu Selanne- we'll have to see if he can return to his old form.

Edmonton Oilers- The acquisition of Pronger is great for Edmonton- when healthy he is level with Niedermayer, except he has a physical element to his game. Also acquired Michael Peca, a nice defensive forward- may be in the downside of his career, but remains a tough centreman to play against.

The Bad

The Detroit Red Wings- Everyone knew things would be rough in Hockeytown- they had to cut their budget in half to get under the 39 million dollar hard cap. Away went Derian Hatcher, both goaltenders Hasek and Joseph, Ray Whitney, and fan-favourite Darren McCarty. Then there were troubles retaining both Zetterberg and Datsyuk. With the re-signing of Chris Chelios, the replacement ufa additions of Lilja, Osgood, and Delmore, there wasn't enough money left to keep them both, bearing the pair's salary demands. GM Ken Holland has to get his priorities straight- what's more important? Re-signing a 43-year-old defenseman or signing your top two up-and-coming superstars? I don't know how much clearer it could've been made that this was the time to finally let go of these guys and try to get younger. Most years when Detroit has a veteran-laden line-up they are expected to win.
Sadly this is no longer the case.

The Colorado Avalanche- Everyone expected the loss to be substantial in Colorado. The world's best player (Forsberg) found his way back to where he originally came from, Adam Foote stepped into Columbus, and Selanne and Kariya went their separate ways. These losses were mostly inevitable. However, when it came down to signing some cheaper replacements I can't help but criticize Lacroix's selections. Lacroix chose Turgeon as Forsberg's replacement, and Patrice Brisebois as Foote's, while also adding defenseman Curtis Leschychyn. Gross! Why chose dicey, old, useless, crap when names like Whitney, Berard and Valeri Bure (just a few examples) are available at very similar price tags?

The Ugly

The Minnesota Wild- There's a reason why this new CBA was implemented- to level the salary playing field. So you got your wish- it's leveled. This is the part of the game when you are supposed to start spending a little. Todd White isn't enough Mr. Naegele! Your team isn't exactly a contender yet! Sure, the Wild may have a good looking core of prospects and a group of young players- but it'll take some experienced veterans and players that can do something in the now to succeed in the next few years. I can't believe that this team still won't spend money- what more do you need to open the wallet a little?!

And so we reach the conclusion of this spaghetti western. We found that the Western Conference had quite a bit more good and less ugly than the East- and that out from under the old CBA, small market teams benefit greatly with the salary playing field now leveled.

Biggest Winner of '05 Off-Season:
Pittsburgh Penguins

-looks like an immediate improvement - the Panchoed Man with No Name will end up being called Ziggy.

Most ugly of '05 Off-Season:
Flip a coin between Buffalo Sabres or Washington Capitals

-Given the new economic landscape that both teams failed to act in … and both teams are in need of vast improvements to compete.


The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly- Part 1

With all the player movement during the month of August, it can only remind you of an old spaghetti western. There's the good, who swept in and wisely scooped up some quality UFA's the market had to offer, there's the bad, who backed into a corner and signed players nobody wanted, and the ugly, who either blew their cash on a few overpriced bums or did nothing at all. This edition will feature who won, who lost, and who just plain sucked in the Eastern Conference this off-season.

The Good

The Pittsburgh Penguins- What a turn around. This is a team that finished with 58 points during the 03-04 season, and is now considered a serious contender. Sidney Crosby really was a godsend, who not only will sell tickets, but also has proven to attract many of the best available UFA's. GM Craig Patrick did a fantastic job of adding experienced veterans (not to mention very good ones) to a core of blossoming, young players. Before the lockout was announced official, Patrick signed veteran Mark Reechi, a proven 60-70 point player. Then, after a dreaded 310-day lockout, Patrick made a big splash, signing offensive defenseman Sergei Gonchar to a five year contract. Gonchar, combined with Tarnstrom, will make a very effective power play unit, and also is a very quick and mobile defenseman, a mold which will only benefit from a faster-pace game. Soon after, the Pens inked enforcer Andre Roy, posterior to the Maple Leafs re-upping Tie Domi. Taking in to consideration the money, and the fact that Domi isn't the tyrant he once was, it turned out the better for Pittsburgh. A few days later, Patrick added Ziggy Palffy, one of the best (some would argue the best) forwards the free agent market had to offer. This is a more than a point-a-game player, who opens up a multitude of line combinations for head coach Ed Olczyk. How does Crosby-Lemieux-Palffy sound? Many coaches could only fantasize about lining up those three together. The Penguins also dealt for goaltender Jocelyn Thibault, to consolidate the situation between the posts. There are still high hopes for youngster Marc-Andre Fleury, however he got off to a shaky first season, and it's unsure if he will be a dependable goaltender- this gives the Pens a go-to guy if Fleury continues to be inconsistent. The later additions of veterans John LeClair and Lyle Odelein can only help the situation. The fact that Pittsburgh did this all and sit at a budget of $24 million is stupefying.

The Ottawa Senators- There wasn't a lot still needed for this Ottawa team to really succeed. It could very well be that they added that final ingredient in signing veteran goaltender Dominek "the Dominator" Hasek. However, Hossa's contract situation would complicate things in the nation's capital. GM John Muckler told Alfredsson he would remain their highest paid player- he was their captain, and valued as their greatest asset. But when Hossa denied every offer Muckler threw at him, there was reason to believe that the guarantee wasn't legitimate. It became clear the only place the two sides were headed was to arbitrary hearings- unless of course Muckler put forth the money Hossa wanted and probably deserved. Literally minutes before arbitration, a deal was struck- a deal which would no longer make Alfredsson Ottawa's highest paid player. At this point it had everybody saying "so what, what other choice did they have?" But crafty John Muckler stayed true to his word and what did he do? He dealt the bugger! He turned around and shocked not only Hossa and his agent, but the entire hockey world in a blockbuster deal which sent the 26-year-old Slovak to Atlanta in return for young superstar Dany Heatley. Not only did this show how wiley Muckler can be when backed into a corner, but it also put Ottawa in a much better situation to re-sign top defensemen Zdeno Chara and Wade Redden. It was about time to get some heart on this Ottawa team, and maybe a player who will actually show up come playoff time. Good job John Muckler.

The Philadelphia Flyers- The addition of the world's greatest player says enough. It's sad to see JR go- he was loved in Philly and his character in the dressing room will be missed. However, as JR reasoned, Forsberg's the best player in the world we're talking about here. Therien, Hatcher, and Rathje will certainly size up and strengthen the Flyers defense, but it's questionable whether these defensemen will be effective in the new NHL. Nevertheless, Bobby Clarke deserves his "props" for taking the risks and jumping at the opportunities in the UFA market. This team can definitely be considered a serious contender all the same.

Honorable Mentions:

-Boston Bruins: Kept key RFA's (Raycroft, Boynton still expected), signed defenseman Brian Leetch, a fantastic, puck-moving defenseman who will only benefit from a faster game, and also added Alexei Zhamnov, a great offensive player who will add to an already effective group of forwards.

-Carolina Hurricanes: Didn't expect a lot out of the Hurricanes, but they signed Cory Stillman (an 80 point player last season), Ray Whitney, brought defenseman Oleg Tverdosky back from Russia, and brought veteran defenseman Glen Wesley back. Also retained all RFA's (included Williams, Cole, Adams, Vasicek) and traded for defenseman Mike Commodore.

The Bad

The Toronto Maple Leafs- For years the Maple Leafs have been overpaying and overspending on players and, as we expected, it ended up biting them on the butt. The Leafs cornered themselves, and were forced to sign cheap players that nobody else wanted. They had to take great injury risks on Eric Lindros and Jason Allison. Then they added players off the radar screen in defenseman Alexander Khavanov and goaltender J-S Aubin (signed to pro-contract from minor-contract). There wasn't really another choice for GM John Ferguson Jr.and unfortunately he wasn't able to pull off a stunning sign, dump, and trade like Muckler. Who knows, if these players stay healthy and are as productive as they once have been, he could come up smelling like roses. But from the looks of it right now, it's more likely he'll end up smelling like non-playoff turd.

The New Jersey Devils- For once I can say GM Lou Lamoriello blew it. Not that he can be put to blame for the loss of Scott Niedermayer- nothing was preventing him from joining his brother in Anaheim, not even offering the top dollar. But what on earth was Lamoriello thinking when he signed Vladmir Malakov to a $3.6 million dollar contract? That's the reason why New Jersey will lose even more of their talent- they sit well over the salary cap because Lamoriello signed Malakov, a 37-year-old, over-the-hill defenseman to such a high price. Signing Alexander Mogilny at the figure he did failed to help either- $3 and a half million for a player who is constantly being nagged by an arthritic hip doesn't make a lot of sense. Had this been a healthy Mogilny of a couple years ago, maybe, but did Lamoriello forget we're operating in a new economic landscape? A landscape in which you aren't supposed to be spending 3 and a half million on these types of players? What's going on in Lou's head? It should be interesting to see what this supposed "trick" up his sleeve turns out to be.

Honorable Mention:

-New York Rangers: The alleged "re-building plan" excused the Rangers from "The Bad" column. But if you're going to re-build, re-build! Don't bring back Martin Rucinsky or bring in a bombing Martin Straka!

The Ugly

The Buffalo Sabres- With the exception of a few (Afinogenov, Drury, Briere, Connolly), look at these names- Numminen, Hecht, Lydman, Dumont, Jillson, Kotalik, Peters, Mair, Tallinder, Grier, Pyatt, Bartovic, Noronen, Taylor, Fitzpatrick. Is this an AHL team or an ECHL team? I'm shocked to discover it's neither- it's an NHL team. Buffalo's only move was signing expired defenseman Teppo Numminen.

The Washington Capitals- Somebody should get Mr. Leonsis on the phone and tell him he needs to spend some money! Not all of it's going to Jagr's make-up payment, and is the rest sitting in your back account Ted? Washington is in the situation where they actually have to spend money to reach the minimum salary cap requirement. But surely it will only be on more of their crap RFA's! And now it seems one of the few things they have going for themselves- defenseman Brendan Witt- is going to be shipped out. Witt wants out- and that's what you get if you don't even try to ice a decent product. Who would want to be in that mess?

Tune back in later when I do the sequel to this spaghetti western, Western Conference style.

CBA Not Fair to Fans

There's unfairness in the new CBA. A lot of fans are excited about new competitive balance and ushering in a new economic landscape. However the reality is fans in the major markets and many of the minor markets aren't going to be happy with it.

What the CBA is really doing is misallocating resources. Hot hockey markets like Philadelphia, Toronto, Detroit will be subsidizing weak markets, such as Buffalo, as teams which are ranked in the bottom half in league revenues will be eligible for payments from teams with higher revenues. In Toronto, fans will be to paying up to $300 a ticket. An hour and a half down the road in Buffalo, fans are paying up to $70 a ticket. Fans in Buffalo are getting to watch these higher payroll teams at a ticket discount, and then at the end of the year their owners will earn a subsidy! That carrot is going to come from ticket prices down in Toronto!

Supposedly of all this profit be given to teams with the intent of leveling the salary playing field….but what if the weaker markets don't put it in payroll? Already we're seeing clubs like Washington and Buffalo go the bargain basement route on players - so why should they be rewarded with a subsidy? In three years, when the Leafs have yet to win a Cup, Leaf fans are going to wonder exactly where their money went. Instead of assisting their own club in becoming cup competitive, the money will be redirected to failing markets. Where's the economic or moral sense in this?

Yaya, this sucks.

Owners that don't want to play in the big leagues - salary wise - should face the very real deterrent of relegation to a lower league. Keeping them on life support by picking the wallets of fans in successful markets will help no one in the long run. The CBA tries to make a level playing field with player salaries, which ignores the very real economic fact that revenue markets are nowhere near equitable.

Fans spend their entertainment dollars for value on the product - not some whacko social experiment designed to subsidize performance that is less than ordinary. The CBA with salary caps and equalization is a guarantee that fans in hot markets will be getting less than they paid for.

Doesn't it seem a little fishy that all of these capitalist owners came up with such a regulated, redistributed result?

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Latest Trade Rumours

With teams struggling to get beneath the $39 million dollar hard cap and clubs still looking to bolster up their line-up before training camp, trade rumours are beginning to heat up. Hours ago the hockey world was shook by biggest trade this year, which sent Ottawa's Marian Hossa to Atlanta in exchange for star youngster Danny Heatley. Later we then saw veteran centreman Steve Rucchin traded by the Mighty Ducks to the Rangers for youth and picks, which came quickly after the Ducks dealt Mike Leclerc to the Coyotes, both in attempts to open up space for the latest UFA insertions by GM Brian Burke. And now with arbitration hearings beginning, we can only anticipate even more activity via trade.

We'll begin with the situation in New Jersey. Lou Lamoreillo's team is currently sitting $5 million dollars above the $39 million dollar hard cap, after adding unrestricted free agent Alex Mogilny, and recently qualifying winger Patrik Elias. Likely candidates to on their way out are centreman John Madden, and left-winger Jeff Friesen. Combined, these players eat up $6.2 million dollars, a figure, if dropped, that would place the Devils comfortably under the cap. The Toronto Maple Leafs are rumoured to be interested in the services of Jeff Friesen, due to the lack of depth of the left-side. However, the Leafs are a team that are bordering the cap line, and would need to free up the room to bring in Friesen and his $2.3 million dollar salary. Rumours have the Leafs looking to move one of their considerably overpriced defenseman in Aki Berg or Ken Klee. If the Leafs can shift one of the two for youth and/or picks, the possibilities do open up. Also rumoured is that the San Jose Sharks, who, despite pursuing a number of top UFA's, have failed to sign a single free agent this off-season, are inquiring as to whether they could bring Friesen back to San Jose. The Sharks are in a great financial situation, having only $25 million tied up on twenty players.

The Zetterberg trade rumours have picked up once again. Apparently, Detroit is having a difficult time retaining both of Pavel Datsyuk and Henrik Zetterberg, due to their current cap situation and the pair's salary demands. Detroit appears to have prioritized Datsyuk above Zetterberg, making the 24-year-old Swedish star available for trade. According to sources, Zetterberg told Swedish papers that he expects to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. Once again, the Leafs would have to make some movement to open up the cap space first. However, Detroit's return demands seem a bit asking. The Leafs will have to cough up the little bit of quality youth they have, and draft picks. One proposal was rumoured to be Carlo Colaiacovo and a first round pick. Something, especially in the new NHL, John Ferguson Jr. surely wouldn't consider. Also, reports have suggested that the Buffalo Sabres have contacted Wings GM Ken Holland about the possibility of making a trade for Zetterberg, which would send Chris Drury back their way. However, Drury's salary is just under $3 million, a figure the Wings probably could re-sign Zetterberg with, so this wouldn't make a lot of sense for Detroit.

Brendan Witt trade rumours continue to circulate. Reports suggest that Phoenix is interested Witt's services. The Coyoes have overloaded themselves with forwards, having seventeen signed to pro contracts, so they certainly have a lot to offer. Phoenix also has interest in Leafs' defenseman Ken Klee, who Toronto has been rumoured to be moving due to his high-priced salary. Buffalo may also be interested in Ken Klee and Brendan Witt. According to the Buffalo News, the Sabres are interested in strengthening their blue-line, however they will do it via trade.

Something is also a Bruin in Boston (no pun intended, unless you think it's funny, then it's intended). According to Boston papers, the Bruins are looking to move one of their blue-liners in Hal Gill or Nick Boynton. Boston is sitting at $31 million over seventeen players, having still not signed goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Boynton and Gill are both in need of new contracts, and it appears only one will be returning. There are concerns that Gill won't be the same defenseman in the new NHL, as Gill is a hulking 6-7 and as is the case with most large men, his skating is his disadvantage. While Boynton is young, quick, puck-moving defenseman who should strive in the new NHL. It's expected that Hal Gill will be the one GM Mike O'Connell moves.

Time to reach an absurd Leafs rumour for a laugh.

If you read the Trade Rumours section here at Spector's, you would've seen it, but what the heck.

Source AM 570(Kitchener): Once again the Idiots of Sports Radio have to open their mouths.

Supposedly the most recent rumours have the Leafs trading:

Toronto Gets: G Roberto Luongo + D Jay Boumeester
Florida Gets: C Mats Sundin + First Round Pick

Then Toronto turning around

Tampa Bay Gets: G Ed Belfour + 3rd Round Pick
Toronto Gets: F Brad Richards

And Last but not least has

Toronto Gets: G Mathieu Biron or G Mika Noronen ( Most Likely Noronen)
Buffalo Gets: D Ken Klee

Somebody sat down with a scrap a paper and had a bit of fun. Mats Sundin will never be dealt. Luongo looked like he may be dealt, but recently got shafted by the arbitrator and awarded $3.2 million dollars this season (maybe he should've taken the 5year/$25 million offer?). Martin St. Louis got his $5.3 million dollar contract, so there isn't a lot left for Richards, so of course he's coming here. Khabibulin was lost so that means they want Belfour, his wonky back and his $4.6 million dollar salary. And Buffalo is going to deal one of their two, great young goaltenders for an aging Klee.

Thanks for tuning in.

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Debate- Bertuzzi: Re-Instated; Given Team Canada Tryout

Lyle Richardson; "Spector" vs. Alec Brownscombe; Author of "Five for Fighting"

Alec: Hockey Canada has now wasted both their breath and money on promoting sportsmanship in the game. After years of influencing this through dollars of advertising, Hockey Canada jumps at the chance to use Bertuzzi, despite it being the player who is recently coming off a suspension for committing one of the most unsportsmanlike, heinous acts in NHL history, to enhance their chances the slightest at the 2006 Olympics. I find this to be remarkably hypocritical. At least wait and see if Bertuzzi is indeed a changed man before giving him a tryout.

Lyle: There's no arguing that Bertuzzi's actions against Steve Moore were heinous, and if it were up to me, I'd suspend him for as long as Moore was sidelined. But it's not up to me, and the NHL saw fit to re-instate him. As Wayne Gretzky, the "GM" of Team Canada, recently noted, Bertuzzi is one of the top forwards in the league. Having served his punishment, which prevented him from playing for Team Canada at last fall's World Cup of Hockey and this spring's World Championships, Gretzky is within his right to invite Bertuzzi to training camp for a tryout.

Alec: I agree that Gretzky was well within his rights to ice the best team he can possibly muster. However, Hockey Canada represents more than just one series of hockey. They also are responsible in part for the development and promotion of the game for decades to come. Hockey Canada should've listened politely to what Gretzky had to say, and then asked him to wait until December. This would give them time to assess whether Bertuzzi is walking the walk, and no longer displaying thug-like behavior on the ice. If he's been a good boy, you can always add him to the last spot on the roster. This would at least show the nation that Hockey Canada has slightly higher-standards than the National Hockey League, which welcomes back thugs as soon as it can so they can place more butts in the seats.

Lyle: That's as may be, but let's face facts, Hockey Canada is about icing the best international teams Canada has to offer. If Wayne Gretzky says he wants Todd Bertuzzi to try out for the 2006 Canadian Olympic Hockey team, Wayne Gretzky will get Todd Bertuzzi trying out for the Canadian Olympic Hockey team. Hockey Canada isn't going to deny him anything. We may not like it, but that's the way it is.

Alec: That's the sad reality of why this game we all love is never going to be cleaned up. When the national association is powerless to do what's right in the face of competitive pressure from the coaches and managers, we might as well file this game as some sort of WWE sideshow. (Who knows, maybe Spike TV would pick up the games in that case instead of the "Tree hugger Network"?). It's the same kind of thinking that's pissing off fans in Denver - May was a villain in that market, and now their supposed to be buying tickets to cheer for him? Where's the integrity? Is anybody trying to do what's right?

This is not a new problem. Way back in the 70's, Dan Maloney beat Brian Glennie's head on the ice as if he was trying to mine a hole on the face off circle with his cranium. Maloney was charged by the local constabulary, he got off with a warning, and several years later the Leafs traded for him. Then they made him head coach!

The message to the fans and kids who adore these guys is that anything is okay as long as it helps you win, or don't get caught. More established sports that are secure in their economic universe (for example the Football Association in the UK), put the image of game as the highest priority. Even the perception of socially unacceptable conduct will lead to a national team snub there. Conn Smythe's quip "you won't beat 'em on the ice if you can't beat 'em in the alley" should be the new slogan from Hockey Canada in their next public relations campaign.

Lyle: I realize I'm supposed to take a contrary position in this debate, but I have to agree with you on these points. Still, if a player has served his punishment for deliberately injuring another, he should be entitled to return to action. As long as the guy has learned from the incident and doesn't become a repeat offender, there's nothing wrong with giving him another chance. Not every criminal who commits a crime is going to re-offend when he's released from prison. We must give Todd Bertuzzi the benefit of the doubt now that he's served his penalty, even if I believe it wasn't strong enough for the offence he committed.

There are plenty of other players young fans can look up to and idolize who are far better role models than Bertuzzi. One shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater on this one. As for the NHL as a whole, the best we can hope for is the league disciplinarians will take a stronger stance in handing out penalties for serious infractions in order to further discourage this kind of thing from taking place. We must also hope that the on-ice officials will also take a more active role in calling the game by the rulebook, as far too many questionable actions have been allowed to slip by in recent years.

Alec: First, let me name my top 13:

Jarome Iginla, Martin St. Louis, Brad Richards, Vincent Lecavalier, Simon Gagne, Joe Thornton, Rick Nash, Danny Heatley, Joe Sakic, Mario Lemieux, Steve Yzerman, Ryan Smyth, Shane Doan.

On that list are players that either are already named (e.g. Yzerman, if healthy) or expected to make the team. Apart from that, there are many other players capable of making the top thirteen which have also been invited to camp. They include Alex Tanguay, Patrick Marleau, Keith Primeau, and Brendan Morrow, among others.

There are seventeen players I would take above a thug like Bertuzzi, and also players that young fans can idolize and look up to. It's deplorable that Hockey Canada would let any of these seventeen sit out while a goon like Bertuzzi gets a spot on the team. As far as bringing premium physicality to the team, Keith Primeau is your best shot anyways, and as far as I know he hasn't maimed anybody recently.

Lyle: But remember, Alec, all he's getting is a tryout right now. He's not confirmed for the team. Only Lemieux, Yzerman and possibly Brodeur are locks to make the club. What will ultimately determine placing on Team Canada will be how those players perform in the upcoming first half of the season. Bertuzzi could suck big time, or could end up challenging for the scoring lead. If it's the latter, and he has proven to have cleaned up his act, why wouldn't he be deserving of a spot on Team Canada? Again, why punish the man if he's already done his time and proves that he's moved on?

Now if he coldcocks or sucker punches another player, then I'd have second thoughts about his being part of Team Canada no matter how well he's playing in the upcoming season.

Final Thought:

Alec: I don't think I'll ever convince you Lyle, although you did agree with some of my points which might mean something, however at the end of the day I don't think I hold Hockey Canada any higher than a commercial outfit like the National Hockey League.

Lyle: Although I certainly don't condone Bertuzzi's actions or believe the suspension was harsh enough, at the end of the day he's served his time. Gretzky is therefore within his right to invite him to Team Canada. We can only hope that Bertuzzi-Moore incident will serve as an example to the league and the players of how vigilante justice can get out of hand.


The Mailbag

I've been waiting to do an edition which features my responses to the thoughts of my readers, however until recently the only readers I've been contacted by were either remarkably biased, or relentless Leafs fans refusing to believe their team won't win this season. However, I recently came across a very au courant Leafs fan and a Flyers fan with a prudent argument against my latest article, both of which I'll respond to in this issue of "Five for Fighting."

My thanks to "Shayne," for his thoughts on the Leafs.

"The following is what I would do as the Leafs GM…

First, I would trade Tomas Kaberle to Washington for Brendan Witt."

More feasible than one would first think. Witt has made public his preference to get out of Washington… and I would be doing the same if I were a Capital. This is compatible for both sides. Lucidly, Washington won't want a player that has no desire to play for their club. Kaberle is a very mobile defenseman, and would be a great asset to any team. For the Leafs, this makes sense on all fronts. Financially, Kaberle makes .7 of a million more than Witt, opening much needed cap space for a winger. It also takes a great step forward in solving the always-on-going issues for the Leafs in their own zone. Witt is an aggressive, very defensive defenseman, one of the best currently in the game.

"I would then package Ed Belfour with Ken Klee and send them to Phoenix for Mike Ricci and Derek Morris (preferably, however Mara to a lesser extent). Then bring in Cujo. Don't get me wrong, I am a big Eddie fan, however if you can get Joseph to a lesser price why not."

The direction and principle of those moves is what the Leafs should be looking in to. Ken Klee's $1.9 mil under the new CBA is a bit over-the-top, while Belfour, a 39-year-old with a battered back, is also at a high $4.6 mil.

Ricci wouldn't be one of my targets, especially after Pat Quinn has said he'll be starting all three of Allison, Lindros, Sundin down the middle. I would go more towards a younger Sjorstrom, or a Kolanos. Morris and Mara appear both to be permanent fixtures in the Phoenix organization, however it's no secret the Coyotes are desperate for a proven number net-minder, which may be enough to swing them into dealing one of the two.

Joseph will come for much less than Belfour's $4.6, and is a younger and still has a lot left in him.

"With the money freed up, I would then sign Anson Carter for around $1.5 million."

Carter is suitable option, amongst many others. If you are going to risk it with Lindros, Allison, and O'Neill, why not go the whole nine yards and bring in Deadmarsh at a cheap price. Just some of the many options, however there is no doubt with the freed up money, a winger should be acquired.

I later spoke to Woody, an opinionated Flyers fan.

"(In response to my last article about the Flyers). Or you could be way off base and very wrong, Johnnson played the most minutes the previous year for the Flyers and should still log the most as he is still the flyers best D man even with the signings, Everyone want to talk about how beat up that Forsberg is now that he is not on the team they are a fan of, that is really getting old. These signings are nothing like Ranger signings, that team is run by Morons, they just try to fit every possible piece into the mix and don't bring in the young guys. The Flyers are a really good mix of young and old, big and small, they are builkt for the long run not the short haul like the Rangers always are, the Av's had an unfortunate injury riddled year, and no longer have the franchise goalie to save them."

It could be that Johnsson ends up with the most minutes, which I find to be unlikely, however even so, with the depth on the Flyers' defence, Johnsson will not be logging the kind of minutes he has in the past… not anywhere near it.

Therien, Hatcher, Rathje will all be flops in the new NHL. The game will be too fast for these types of hulking, slow players.

There is absolutely no reason why Forsberg will suddenly be re-vitalized and have an injury-free season. His injuries have been very consistent over the past few seasons, and as I noted in my article, it isn't as though he has had a year off, playing only 33 games for MoDo, even less then his '03-'04 total of 39.

The Flyers have some exciting young players coming up, of course most notably Richards and Carter. However both have limited AHL experience, playing only in the Phantoms Calder Cup run. Even if these two can be regular starters, it's most likely they won't have the impact that everyone is expecting for a few seasons.

Thanks for tuning in.

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Not So Fast…

So it's about time to announce the Philadelphia Flyers as the 2005-2006 Stanley Cup Champions. After all, a few big name signings is all a team needs to be successful these days, clearly exemplified by both the Rangers and the Avalanche of just over a year ago. All Colorado needed to do was add Selanne and Kariya to the mix, and that won them their championship, right?

Oh wait, that's wrong.

And so is the assumption that the Flyers will win this season exclusively based on the fact that GM Bobby Clarke made some celebrity signings.

Many fans are currently under the belief that the corralling of heavyweight blue liners Mike Rathje, Derian Hatcher and Chris Therien will constitute an indomitable defense.

However, with the aim of the expected rule changes being to cut down obstruction and furthermore create a faster paced game, these acquisitions don't turn out looking so sensational.

Sure, Philadelphia does have youngster Joni Pitkanen and 29-year-old Kim Johnsson who will benefit from a more open game with less physicality. However neither will be logging the kind of minutes Hatcher will.

These three hulking 6'5 giants may be useful for out muscling players in the corners; however they are going to find themselves frequently beaten or penalized anywhere else on the ice.

As for the player who is considered to be, when healthy, the best in the world… Peter Forsberg. The key words of course being "when healthy." Injuries have been an ongoing issue for Forsberg, who hasn't played a complete season since 95-96. During the '03-'04 season, he didn't even manage to play for half of it. It also isn't like he's had a years rest… Forsberg's injury woes had him play only 33 games for MoDo in the Swedish Elite League during the '04-'05 season.

Nagging hip and groin injuries supplementary to his senescence, Forsberg comes with risks.

There are also great expectations out of youngsters Jeff Carter and Mike Richards. However, both have limited AHL experience, and will need a few more years until they will have the impact many are anticipating.

As far as the most important position is concerned, all you can conclude is serious problems. Would you like to hitch your play-off wagon to Esche or Nittymaki? This situation is almost identical to the Senator scenario of the last few years - and we all know how successful that was.

So don't start crating the cup for Philly quite yet. Flyer fans may have dreams of a Lighting like dream season, but they should also be worrying about Ranger-land nightmare.

Thanks for tuning in.


A New Partnership?

Toronto's all a buzz over Tie Domi's radio interview Friday afternoon. Just minutes after stating a better player-media relationship is going to be a feature of the new CBA, Domi's brain short-circuited. Referring back to an interview done earlier in the day, Domi interrupted his interviewer with a tirade against ex- Leafs assistant GM (now hockey analyst) Bill Watters. Domi ranted that he and his wife were both insulted by the suggestion that he manipulated market forces, and the Leafs inability to sign potential players, to lever a more lucrative contract. Domi continued a fusillade against the reporters of Leafs TV, saying "they don't know what they're talking about." He insisted that his decision had nothing to do with finances- he loves the Leafs, and he could've got more money elsewhere. He claims both Pittsburgh and Colorado would've given him better money on a longer contract. Domi then tore of his head set, refusing to finish the interview.

"So much for new player-media relationship!"- Interviewer Jeff Marek.

You can interpret this in a few different ways. You could jump on the band wagon like most callers did and slam Domi for being disrespectful to the fans- after all, we do pay his salary and not being able to finish an interview seems a bit hypocritical to the collaboration required in the CBA. Domi couldn't last a day without insulting the media.

Or, you could say this is refreshing candor from one of the most colourful characters in the game. If you want access to players, you should be willing to hear what they have to say, not listen to the usual platitudes. I rather be listening to Domi slam Watters than watch Crosby fill up a dryer with hockey pucks. Like it or not, hockey players are passionate. Sometimes you are not going to like what they have to say, but I'll take honesty over scripted responses anytime.

Watters is a big boy, and used to be Domi's agent. A little spice and conflict can only help the new NHL market itself, not hurt it.

Scattered Leafs Thoughts

-Leafs After Lindros… as a defenseman?

Reports out of the Fan 590 suggest that the Toronto Maple Leafs are inching closer to signing the "Big E"…. as a defenseman.

It seems rather atypical, Lindros playing defense. But he certainly has all the tools. Lindros has an effective combination of size and skating ability, and played some defense in his junior years. As Lindros reaches the later stages of his career, converting him to a defenseman sounds a little audacious, but also adventuresome. After all he is the type of defenseman the Leafs need, but cannot get for the right price off the UFA market. Lindros' price has been named at a very reasonable figure, and with the expected signing announcement of Jason Allison, he is better off on the blue line then centering our third line.

But I still believe our best use of resources is to do some position juggling up front. If Sundin is willing to play the wing, we could see a very offensive top line of Sundin-Lindros-O'Neill. While Allison should have no troubles centering the second line, with Stajan falling in behind on the 3rd.

-Brad May Rumours Heat Up

According to numerous sources, the Toronto Maple Leafs are interested in the services of 33-year old Brady May.

I do not expect a lot of competition in the "Brad May sweepstakes," so the Leafs should be able to sign him quite inexpensively. May's career is winding down, however this is the type of player the Leafs will have to look at. If we plan on positioning ourselves for next years slew of free agents, it looks like we'll be bringing in fillers. But that's not to say we are simply choosing to wait until next year. We don't have much of an option. But expect May to come to Toronto on a one-year deal, as GM Ferguson will not be committing any further than that.

-Antropov gone to Russia

It looks to be almost a certainty that forward Nik Antropov will not be returning to the Leafs this season, despite receiving a qualifying offer. Antropov is prepared to accept an offer from a Russian club, where he will receive over two times the one million-dollar contract the Leafs offered him.

Under the new collective bargaining agreement, it's not in my opinion that Antropov deserves a million dollars. Antropov could reject the offer and take the Leafs into salary arbitration, but I cannot see him having much of a case, considering he would've been scheduled to make $1 million after the 24% rollback, had he been under contract anyway. It'll come down to whether Antropov wishes to remain a Leaf and a NHL player, which he has preferences to, or go to money in Russia, a tough choice many Europeans are having to make.

-Prusek Signs Mystery Deal… With the Leafs?

Goaltender Martin Prusek has agreed to terms with a team unknown. Reports have Prusek's agent quoting "he has a deal in place with a team, but I cannot comment on who that team is." The team is expected to be announced within the next two or three days.

It may be a possibility that the Leafs have found their back-up net-minder in Martin Prusek.

This may be more likely than you think. It's been no secret that Leafs management has serious doubts over Tellqvist's readiness to be a back-up goaltender at NHL level. And with Belfour's battered back, the risk is great if Tellqvist steps in and falls apart. Besides, the Leafs don't have a goaltender in a position to step up in behind Tellqvist if Belfour does fall to an injury.

Ferguson shouldn't have troubles committing to Prusek either. He'll be needed for the next couple seasons while Tellqvist and Justin Pogge develop. Plus, his statistics are also quite impressive. With a winning record (29GP-16W-6L-3T), as well as a save percentage of .917, which matches Brodeur's and beats Khabibulins, Prusek may be quite the bargain.

-Selanne offered a contract?

Rumours have it that Teemu Selanne has received a contract offer from the Toronto Maple Leafs.

At first he comes off as a bit pricey, however due to the season Selanne had two years ago, or should I say lack of season, his value has certainly been reduced. It's also been suggested that Selanne and Paul Kariya will once again come as a package deal to whoever will welcome them. Selanne alone may be stretching it, and if Selanne only goes where Kariya goes, then this rumour is simply wishful thinking.

Leafs No Buyers- Ferguson has other plans

While Leafs fans are chopping at the bit for a big UFA signing out of Toronto, general manager John Ferguson Jr. clearly has other plans. Despite rumour mills telling us otherwise, this off-season the Leafs will not and can not be buyers. Yes, this does mean we won't see the likes of Zigmund Palffy, Miro Satan, or Paul Kariya donning the Blue and White this season. In fact, don't expect to see anything close to that.

When it comes right down to it, the Leafs have $8 million dollars to sign seven more players.

Does it sound like a Niedermayer or a Forsberg will be making a move here anytime soon? Don't think so.

Nor will the Leafs be able to enter any bidding wars over Miroslav Satan or Zigmund Palffy.

Think about it.

The Leafs weren't even able to put forth a $4 million dollar offer for Adrian Aucoin, so what makes you think Palffy or Satan are at all possible. Both players will be looking for something between $4-5 million (Palffy may even go higher), long term contracts and the Leafs cannot supply that for them. From what's available, Ferguson is going to have one tough time putting together a post-season team.

So be prepared to finally bite-the-bullet and have a bummer year Leafs fans.

Many hockey analysts believe you simply cannot "sit out" a season when there is such high demands for success in the city of Toronto.

But that's very incorrect. We still won't have a problem selling our seats.

Remember the dark days Leafs fans. The team may have sucked but we still sold out our building. I wouldn't expect anything to change this time around.

Plus, Leafs fans may still have something to be excited about. Just look at how heated Leafs fans get about middle of the road prospects such as Matt Stajan and Alexander Steen, imagine if they got a top 5 or top 10 pick.

Or, if you're like me, spend this year looking forward to the off-season.

Next off-season the Leafs will have very few players under contract, which will put themselves in a good position to make a strike at a Lecavalier, a Eric Brewer, a Joe Thornton and loads of other young, talented players entering the market.

Just out of Boston there is Nick Boynton, Sergei Samsonov and Thornton, all of which would be much better to sign next year rather than to have committed to Palffy's or Satan's hefty contracts over 4 years.

So, what might we see out of Toronto next off-season?

We could see the whole package of Samsonov, Thornton and Boynton headed to Toronto, as Thornton and Boynton are Toronto boys and Samsonov loves playing with Big Joe. That wouldn't look too bad with Allison, as they have all played together in Boston.

Bringing in those four, then retaining Matt Stajan, Carlo Colaiacovo, Alexander Steen, Ian White etc. would give the Leafs a strong, young core of players.

With the almost certain exit of Belfour after this season, could we also see Marty Turco make a move to Toronto?

These are just some of the endless possibilities next off-season.

Although we cannot expect the Leafs to be major players in the upcoming weeks - wait until next year. We know we have to get younger, and this wasn't the year to do it. The majority of the top UFA's are all into their 30's and reaching the end of their prime.

We can now look forward to a new, younger Leafs team within the next few seasons.

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For Better or For Worse?

It looks like John Ferguson doesn't fear change after all. It appears he has finally decided to take a different path rather than stumbling down the same old one that the Leafs management has been for years. Pretty risky for someone whom I had taken as a rather conservative general manager. However a new CBA brings new opportunities, and Ferguson must see his chance to make his mark in the Leafs organization.

Amongst all these question marks, one thing is for sure. We will see a different looking Leafs team this season. Ferguson first acquires Jeff O'Neill on draft day and just a few hours after the UFA market opens, Nieuwendyk and Roberts are heading south. So what does this tell us?

It tells us Ferguson is putting his foot down. He must have named the price he was willing to go to retain these two aging veterans, and when the offers were negated, so was the possibility of them returning to Toronto.

For better or for worse?

Definitely for the better. Yes, we'll miss the electricity, the grit, and the pure determination of both Nieuwendyk and Roberts. But in reality, you've got two 39-year-old forwards who are not going to give you a full season. This was the opportunity to exit this groove we've been stuck in for years now, and Ferguson took it.

We've now got room to bring in younger, more skilled players and there is no better time to do so. This off-season will host many players in the middle of their prime, while next year will include many just entering
it. In the off-season of 2006, players scheduled to become UFA's include Eric Brewer, Jarome Iginla, Joe Thornton, and many other talented youngsters. Under the new collective bargaining agreement it has become much more of a challenge to keep your top players, so making the assumption that these teams will simply re-sign them is irrational.

Whether the addition of Jeff O'Neill was for better or for worse is unfathomable to me. We could be getting the O'Neill of 2000-01, and if so great, we've got our scoring back on the right side. If we get the O'Neill that we have seen most recently then this could be disastrous. But I cannot blame Ferguson for giving him a shot. For only a conditional fourth round draft pick, and for the qualification price of $1.5 million, he deserves his chance. However this could be feast or famine for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

It also appears Tie Domi is on his way out. Domi was offered a $850 000, 1-year deal from Ferguson, however Domi's agent believes that a one million-dollar offer is what his client deserves and that it is feasible for the Leafs. On these conditions this decision was definitely for the better. A 6 or 7 minute a game player doesn't deserve a million dollars a year. Isn't that the point of this new CBA? Good job again Ferguson.

According to sources, the Leafs made six qualification offers that are still outstanding. Forwards Chad Kilger, Nik Antropov and Nathan Perrott and defenceman Wade Belak, Aki Berg and Karel Pilar were all given qualification offers. More wise moves on Ferguson's part, as depth was obviously an issue and all will likely return inexpensively. One concern is that I do not see Ponikarovsky there. I would assume if you are re-signing Antropov, Ponikarovsky stays too. As we have seen, the "Twin Towers," with an experienced centreman between them, can be quite effective.

It'll be interesting to see what Ferguson's next moves will be. We can expect a different looking Leafs side this season, and I have to say its about time.

Let's get to a few juicy rumours to quench the thirst of all you mad Leafs fans:

Reports suggest that with all the cap room the Leafs have been opening up, they are quite interested in bringing in defensemen Sergei Gonchar and Adam Foote. Gonchar is considered to be the best offensive defenseman currently in the NHL, while Foote is your reliable and consistent defensive defenseman who has a great breakout pass.

Opinion: I could see Toronto bringing in Adam Foote, who has expressed interest in becoming a Leaf and is a Toronto native, however Sergei Gonchar is a bit pricey and not exactly what the Leafs should be looking for. Kaberle and McCabe supply enough offense from the blue-line and the real problems lie in defensive zone.

Also rumoured is that the Toronto Maple Leafs interest in Paul Kariya has increased after the departure of Gary Roberts and the expected absence of winger Alexander Mogilny. Captain Mats Sundin will need a new forward to feed passes through to, and Kariya can supply the quick release shot the Leafs need.

Opinion: Kariya would be a great asset to have and a fantastic addition. However, Kariya hasn't revealed any preferences to go to Toronto, so in order to ink the 30-year-old the Leafs will need to pay up.

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