Nylander For Chychrun Is Too Easy

TORONTO (July 9) — It almost makes too much sense. The Arizona Coyotes, who couldn’t score in a brothel last season and are swimming in cap space ($29,994,166), acquire a fairly prolific shooter with two years remaining on his contract. Perhaps bettering the opportunity to sell all 5,000 seats for home games in Tempe. The Toronto Maple Leafs, hunting stability on the blue line for more than half a century, obtain a young, burgeoning defenseman still with three years of control… and save another $2,362,366 in cap room. For the extra year and the slight cap inconvenience, the Leafs throw in a draft choice (which they never use, anyway). Say a third–rounder.

Voila! You’ve got a “hockey” trade and a “money” swap all in one. Quite the rarity since 2005–06.

Yes, Kyle Dubas would be sent to his room after breaking the solemn vow of December 2018 that William Nylander is never to be unloaded on his watch. But, the Toronto general manager, in securing Jakob Chychrun, would pull off the most–strategic trade of his four seasons in the big chair… and maybe improve the club’s likelihood of finally emerging from the opening playoff round (if one can imagine such a feat after 19 years). Clearly, Nylander hasn’t contributed much toward that goal. Though gifted with the puck, he too often becomes “Peripheral Willie” at crunch time. Perhaps assuming a role beyond the shadows cast by Auston Matthews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner would bring out the best in Nylander. Likewise, the 6–foot–2, 220–pound Chychrun, having just turned 24, could take an enormous step with a team that generated a franchise–record 115 points last season, more than double the 57 accrued by the Coyotes. Though still lacking the Norris Trophy type (Cale Makar, Victor Hedman), a blue line with Morgan Rielly, Chychrun, T.J. Brodie, Jake Muzzin, Mark Giordano and Tim Liljegren would offer mobility, youth and veteran savvy, representing the best group Toronto has iced in many a year.


For whatever reason, Dubas is still apparently petrified about tinkering with his Core 4, even after six consecutive first–round playoff defeats. As previously written, it’s almost certain that no team in North American professional sport has ever provided its nucleus a seventh chance to achieve the playoff minimum. What evidence, other than blind hope, exists that next spring will be any different than the previous half–dozen? The dormant, fractured and easily contented ownership at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (Rogers, Bell, Larry Tanenbaum) has shown no compunction to flex its might since ousting Brian Burke just before the abbreviated schedule of January to May 2013. The Shanaplan has since taken hold… with lots of marvelous window dressing between October and April. Until a bold move is made that alters the losing playoff culture of the Maple Leafs, nothing significant will change.

Offering the Coyotes the skill of Nylander would surely tempt Arizona GM Bill Armstrong, whose club struck for a league–low 207 goals last season (or a measly 2.52 per game), while yielding 313 goals (3.82 per match), only six fewer than 32nd–place Montreal. Beyond choosing American–born center Logan Cooley third overall in this week’s National Hockey League draft, there isn’t much to get excited about in the desert. Clayton Keller paced the Coyotes with 28 goals and a mere 63 points last season. Six Toronto players — Matthews, Marner, Nylander, Tavares, Rielly and Michael Bunting — equaled or surpassed Keller’s total. Only Keller, Nick Schmaltz and Lawson Crouse hit the 20–goal mark. Clearly, Nylander would be a welcomed addition to such a impotent club.

As for Dubas, he’s potentially gun–shy after pulling off a similar trade in July 2019. The Nazem Kadri–for–Tyson Barrie swap, enlightening and sensible at the time, turned into a disaster for the Leafs. But, keeping hands off the apex of the roster, while shuffling interchangeable deck chairs, is a losing proposition. It has counted for nothing at Stanley Cup time; nor will it magically evolve next spring. Who cares whether meek forwards Pierre Engvall and Ondrej Kase return, given a combined two goals and 11 assists in 48 playoff appearances? Rather than losing such–useful skaters as Connor Brown, Zach Hyman and Ilya Mikheyev for no return, isn’t it time that Dubas altered the inefficient salary structure of the Leafs? Do you not honestly believe the club is overdue for a bold statement ala Masai Ujiri, who daringly operates the Raptors of the National Basketball Association for MLSE?

Or, is Toronto simply too apathetic a hockey market to inspire a courageous move?

Whatever the case, Dubas continues to travel the path of least resistance… with no apparent push–back from above. Even amid the inarguable and consistent playoff results. It remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery.

QUESTION OF THE DAY: Will the Leafs, before next week at this time, try to improve on Jack Campbell… or merely settle for whichever goalie is available after the open–market shakedown?


Just came across these two contentious blogs I wrote for hockeybuzz.com in late–2008. They prompted a delirious outcry that I be terminated by The FAN–590, Canada’s first all–sports radio station. Which didn’t happen… for another 2½ years. But, I survived… and, so, evidently, did this dagger–exchange with fans of the Maple Leafs, written in the midst of the club’s record, seven–year playoff absence (2006–07–08–09–10–11–12).

Is it any wonder that nerves were frayed?

Most Valuable Losers Once Again

TORONTO (Oct. 30, 2008) — Oh, how they must be chuckling in the ivory tower on Bay Street!

Arguably the worst team in the National Hockey League since the lockout continues to be the most lucrative commodity on skates. Even the tall foreheads at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment have seemingly thrown in the towel on their annual dissing of Forbes Magazines’ NHL value rankings. Normally, by the evening of the announcement, CEO Richard Peddie is on record suggesting that no person outside the hallowed halls of the Air Canada Centre could possibly have a line on the Leafs’ monetary worth. This is either an effort to keep the tax people at bay, or to avoid laughing out loud at the sheep that form the lifeblood of the company.

Yes, that is YOU, Leafs Nation.

An insatiable willingness to accept whatever garbage is tossed your way each year lines the pockets of the executives you purportedly “hate” [I see that word a lot in my e-mails]. No form of indignity is powerful enough to dissuade you from the love of your Blue & White. You bitch… moan… and go insane over the always-accurate appraisals of the team in the media. Depending on the hour of day, you either castigate or lionize members of the hockey club — often the same player. The familiar disappointment of missing the playoffs on April 8th is washed away with delusional fantasies by April 9th. And, always, you are there to buy every ticket; purchase every jersey; watch every game on TV; lose your mind over every word written and spoken about the team [the part I like best], and generally cradle the habit you have no power to temper, let alone break. You are, by any measure, the most easily placated fans in all of sport — rivaled only by the zombie-like baseball fanatics on the north side of Chicago.

And, boy, do you make money for people! Even media scrubs like me. I can’t begin to tell you what your devotion to these blogs is worth. I’m particularly thankful for the e-mailers that swear they will never again read my opinions, only to repeat that threat after the next blog…. and the next one… and the one after that. Probably the same folks that promise never to watch their blundering team after another home-ice embarrassment, only to count the hours until the puck drops again.

Knowledgeable? Where do I start? The celebration is already underway over the three-out-of-four games streak in October that may ultimately lift the team into its habitual 11th or 12th-place roosting in the Eastern Conference. What more could any devoted fan wish for?

Face it… you just can’t control yourselves. And, the folks on Bay Street love you for it… so much so, that they refused to budget for playoff dates next spring at the ACC. I mean, why go down the same path of futility for a fourth consecutive year? Season-ticket renewals are dispatched after the Stanley Cup tournament concludes, prompting a wild stampede to the mailbox — cheques faithfully enclosed; interest about to accrue. The extra kick in the wallet from 100 percent renewals in early summer surely takes the sting off lost playoff gates, don’t you think?

No wonder King Richard and Lucky Larry are indebted to you.

You ask for nothing, and give everything. What a perfect world some people live in.


TORONTO (Nov. 3, 2008) – Finally, I have something in common with Richard Peddie.

It has nothing to do with salary, or responsibility at Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment, as King Richard would never threaten his own job security by placing me in charge of hiring the next GM of the Leafs. Richard and I, however, are the disconsolate subjects of websites aimed solely at our demise. Yes, a helpful e-mailer sent me an attachment this evening – “firehowardberger.com” has joined cyberspace alongside the more entrenched “firerichardpeddie.com.” And, you thought Peddie was in a class by himself.

Anyhow, the preamble to the latter-day website – addressed to my boss, the general manager and program director at THE FAN-590, reads as such… “Dear Nelson Millman: We Leaf fans are sickened by the work of Howard Berger. We, the undersigned, demand that his services with FAN-590 be terminated immediately. We are the station’s loyal listeners. If Mr. Berger is not terminated immediately, we will cease supporting your advertisers until such a time as he is fired.”

I spoke to Nelson tonight and though I couldn’t get him to commit to a raise in salary, I’m still confident I can work on him… but only if the signature count on the petition surpasses 1,000. At the moment, it doesn’t appear too promising, as the paltry total sits at less than 40. Had the “firehowardberger” site been launched a bit sooner, I may have been able to capitalize on the momentum from my “Most Valuable Losers” blog last Thursday. Truth kills in Leafs Nation and, surely, the signature flow would have been greater by now. But, Nelson hasn’t given me a deadline, so I’m confident there is still plenty of opportunity for the count to surge upward.

In the meantime, I’ll  turn to King Richard for counseling. Only he knows how to weather such a storm.

I’m still learning… and hoping to view top-secret videotapes from the MLSE board meeting in the summer of 2007, when Richard and Larry Tanenbaum almost came to blows over the future of then-GM John Ferguson. Apparently, the anti-Ferguson forces – lead by Tanenbaum – executed a frontal assault on King Richard, only to be scattered by an unseen voice that reverberated through the meeting room: “WE, THE [ONTARIO] TEACHERS, SUPPORT RICHARD!!!” the voice boomed. I have no such advocate. In fact, I had to convince Nelson not to add HIS name to the petition. It might have inched me closer to the 1,000 mark. But, with lousy optics.

Oh yeah, the threat of boycotting advertisers from the “firehowardberger.com” folks had me mildly concerned. But, I checked the spot-log tonight and TOYS ‘R US isn’t part of our clientele. Whew!

To this day, I have no idea why I am, occasionally, the enemy of Leafs Nation. 😛


6 comments on “Nylander For Chychrun Is Too Easy

  1. Overalll you are right on point Howie. However I’d just as soon Kyle not pull the trigger on any major deals. He will inevitably make a wrong move and put he club further behind. He and Shanahan will be gone at the end of this year so let the next guy make that move. Is there no one at MLSE capable of hiring a proper management team? Tim Liewike hired Shanahan but he surely would have fired him by now if he were still here.

  2. With all due respect Howard, I’m not sure Arizona would make the deal you suggested. Nylander has two years left, and then he he will leave to a team with brighter lights (I see him in Los Angeles, the Rangers, or maybe Detroit. He’s not coming back in Toronto; for one thing they won’t be able to afford to sign him, barring some other drastic salary moves). Why would you give up an elite young player for someone who is a marginal talent at present, and who will gone in 2 years? I suspect Arizona will want a player who is younger and with whom they have control over the next 5 or 6 years. Maybe if Toronto offered two first round picks, Mathew Knies and Rasmus Sandin besides Nylander they might consider it. Then they could flip Nylander to another team for picks and prospects.

  3. That’s a decent trade proposal with both teams having a chance to benefit.

    A young D with term and cap flexibility would change my disdain for Kyle

  4. It appears that MLSE is setting the table for Dr. Wickenheiser to become either GM or President or both of the Toronto Maple Leafs. She does have the requisite fire burning inside her as she won 7 championships.

    The deck is stacked against the current incantation of the club as they lack an elite defender/puck-moving rearguard, the best goalie under contract is David Ayres, and development in the Marlies has stalled.

    Full credit to Dubas for keeping his gameface on. You’d never know the ship was sinking by listening to the words coming out of his mouth.

    The firehowardberger.com website is comedy gold. Thanks for posting it.

  5. Clearly Brendan made a huge and consequential miscalculation backing the wrong horse called Kyle. He (and the Board who he reports to) is culpable for this situation betting that a young and inexperienced (with an unproven analytics strategy) could take the reigns for an opportunity that had so much potential and upside after the “tank”. All for the fear of losing the “wunderkind”. Instead, Lou Lamoriello and Mark Hunter became expendable with the decades of experience Kyle could have, and should have continued to learn from. We don’t hear anything of late regarding Kyle’s analytics strategy because the results have shown a failing grade for each of the past six playoffs. Analytics do not evaluate intangibles like character, grit, determination, maturity or as Brian Burke once said (from the exact opposite perspective) pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. Obviously, you can’t win when you are all in on only one side of these strategies. There still is an opportunity to tweak this on the fly, but the apathy to stand pat on the core is turning a golden opportunity into a wasted one. Now, more than ever Brendan and Kyle should make a reservation at Harbour 60 with Masai. Order a good steak and a bottle of wine and let him review the story of what it’s like to roll the dice and take a risk, when you know that what you have is good, but not good enough.

  6. Dubas has pulled off a neat trick. After taking the reins of a franchise that was poised to become a legit Cup contender, he’s managed to set the bar so low that simply winning a playoff round will be deemed a major success and enough to get him a contract extension. Only in Leafland.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.