The Leafs Are Still Soul–less

TORONTO (July 22) — It’s going to require a maverick… a general manager with gonads the size of medicine balls… an executive possessing unlimited belief and self–esteem… one that doesn’t give a flying fu** what others think and say about him… and, of course, has the full support of ownership. Kind of a Lou Lamoriello type.

It’s difficult to say when, and it sure as hell won’t happen tomorrow. At some point, however, a GM in the National Hockey League will put down his foot and keep it there. He will courageously end the lamentable custom of doling out no–trade and no–movement clauses for players negotiating new contracts — either those being retained or acquired via free agency. The NHL Players Association will lose its collective mind. But, someone, somewhere, will ultimately discontinue the trend of employers ceding full command of club management to employees. Which is exclusive to the hifalutin world of sports and entertainment. The message from that GM will be simple and straightforward: “Come sign (or stay) with us. We will look after you and your family with market–value compensation. You will be part of a team legitimately vying for a Stanley Cup. But, we will not allow you to run the show.”

Were, hypothetically, the Toronto Maple Leafs in such a posture, the club, today, would have a bit of soul. And, some authentic hope. Instead, the weak–kneed Leafs are among the torch–bearers for allowing inmates to run the asylum. By providing Auston Matthews and Mitch Marner full control over their contracts at the first opportunity (in a player’s seventh NHL season), the Leafs are beholden to a pair of gifted regular season performers that demonstrably (and irrefutably) lack playoff character. Which always prevails over the superfluous additions made to the team under its annual salary cap quandary… and will, again, even amid the procurements of Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi and John Klingberg: all of whom, to no one’s surprise, were accorded full, no–movement clauses upon signing with the club as free agents. It’s also the lone reason there is so much chatter involving forward William Nylander. He’s the last of the Mohicans; the only skater worth acquiring that can still be moved, save for the 10–team no–trade list submitted as of July 1. Matthews, Marner, John Tavares and Morgan Rielly — the other movable assets — are enmeshed with complete contract authority, thereby usurping, from management, its capacity to alter a perennial playoff flop. The Maple Leafs likely had no choice but to retain Matthews and Marner beyond the start of this month, when their movement restrictions became functional. After all, what practical GM would assume more than $11 million of salary and cap space for players that are a woeful 1–for–8 in Stanley Cup rounds?

So, the Leafs will again move forward with enviable top–end talent, but the incurable lack of vitality and inspiration that allows for a Stanley Cup threat. Only the most–optimistic and delusional followers of the club — a once–massive group that is steadily dwindling — adhere to the notion that the same, fruitless pattern will lead to a different result. In our society, it’s the colloquial definition of “insanity”. And, the Leafs have been “deranged” for more than half a decade. In order to accumulate some playoff soul, the Toronto core must be disassembled. This has been proven beyond reasonable doubt. But, neither Brad Treliving, nor God, has the ability to counterbalance a roster that contractually manages itself. The upper–echelon Leaf players have their “bosses” on puppet strings. I challenge anyone to show me a such an enterprise that works efficiently. This calamitous blueprint evolves solely from the endowment of no–trade and no–movement clauses. In that regard, owners and GMs in the NHL are, figuratively, suicidal. None more so than the posse that routinely handcuffs itself in the high offices of Scotiabank Arena.

The cataclysmic custom can be changed only by a daring, dauntless manager with boundless audacity and support. Neither is the notion implausible. In the annals of professional sport, it wasn’t all that long ago when players were bound to their teams in perpetuity. That a Philadelphia–based judge would one day abolish the silly Reserve Clause could not have been imagined. More than half–a–century later, the concept of a GM refusing to surrender contractual control is just as farfetched and full of holes. Someone needs to manufacture a detour.

Only then could the Maple Leafs truly begin to envision an end to the longest–ever Stanley Cup drought.


11 comments on “The Leafs Are Still Soul–less

  1. You are absolutely correct Howard. Dubas and Keefe should have been fired, and the core should have been rejigged, after the Montreal Series.

  2. Howie. I am disgusted with what has happened here under Shanahan’s watch. And by extension Dubas.
    When Lou arrived it was supposed to be the end of Blue and White disease, and it lasted for a little while. I’m no fan of Babcock the person but Babcock the coach knows more about hockey than Kyle and Brendan ever will. K+B took what was a young team with limitless potential and destroyed it. All Shanahan is doing now is hanging on to a core that will put up 100 point seasons so that he can pad his regular season record. It will go down as the most consecutive 100 point seasons in history. Congratulations Shanny. The last monumental mistake was giving JT an $11 million contract. The next one will be giving Auston $14 million. He and Marner are not value on their current contracts, much less the increases they are about to get. Trade them both and be done with it. Let someone else start over. I’m running out of time.

  3. Nylander is a player with an elite set of skills that is incomplete. His unwillingness to work as hard to defend as he does to score indicates he is not worthy of $10M. He has proven again, that Willy only cares about Willy. Shop the other 3. They don’t have what it takes to win. Remember, they can still be traded. The team just needs the player’s permission.

  4. So I have a question, outside of Treliving and seeing Shanahan has two years left on his deal, who do you think, propose, consider to be the best fit “at that time” GM for things to turn around? Who would be available, contract status wise, who would want it and who do think could come in when Shanahan is done, assuming he is not retained? OR, would the board even “allow” someone with this type of power at the top? In my generation, the last GM to even come close was Cliff Fletcher, and we all know what happened there…..

  5. Good management puts winning teams together. The Leafs don’t have good management. Not since Conn Smythe.

  6. Kyle Dubas used too much appeasement when signing players, going all in with salaries, bonuses, terms, and clauses. Big trouble that was. Wrong. All wrong.

  7. Could not agree more and have written just as much IN REAL TME 3-4-5 years back. The Dubas blueprint of trying to win with skill, skill and skill and being every players friend has been shown to be a complete travesty. This assembly of talent will go down as the most talented bunch of Leafs to ever win NOTHING and its a terrible shame. They were a better team (IMO) when they played Wash & Boston than have been the past 3 years. After losing character & grit players like Kadri, Brown they couldn’t even beat gift matchups against CBJ & Habs. Why? Because of Dubas dismantling the mid level talent (depth) to pay the entitled ones….Absolute gross negligence.

Leave a Reply

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

This site is protected by Comment SPAM Wiper.