(Every Time You) Walk in the Room

This is Cliff Fletcher many years ago, probably the 1960s (the photo is taken from a Kansas City Blues stats site somewhere in the ether of the Gore-net).

The emotional pull of a famous name from the past is a powerful thing, like an old song (I haven’t heard “Time of the Season” in awhile, that would do it. Also “No Time” by the Guess Who or “Bell Bottom Blues” by Clapton) or a favorite move (12 Angry Men–the original and also Bridge on the River Kwai).

Cliff Fletcher is probably the last living Toronto General Manager of any quality and so it should come as no surprise that he was recalled to the electric chair.

I am completely baffled by the way the Leafs fired John Ferguson Jr, but do believe the hiring of Cliff Fletcher is a smart move. Fletcher has a proven track record of getting good value in trade and he should be able to move the center of the roster to a much earlier spot in the cycle and lay the groundwork for the new GM. When I first heard that Fletcher was rumored to be JFJ’s replacement, it made little sense to me since interim GMs being allowed to shape someone else’s team seems a bit off the mark in terms of sound team building.

However, as it was laid out today Fletcher is going to be in the organization for a time (sounds like at least summer 2009) as they transition to a new era in God’s Town.

The other day I listed the Toronto problems. Allow me to re-list them (in bold) and offer my suggestions:

  1. Many of their best prospects were traded (Boyes, Rask), injured early (Colaiacovo, Cereda) or are being pushed (for God sakes send Tlusty down and let him find the range). Fletcher will probably do little things like getting Tlusty sent out to see some AAA pitching right away, and I don’t really know if Cola can have a career based on his bad luck (his most recent injury has me thinking he truly is damned). He’s a fine talent evaluator so one would expect he’d have his keepers list by draft day.
  2. Too many first round picks were traded for too many goaltenders. He’ll get one or more back at the deadline and don’t be surprised if he plucks a 2009 pick or two in February. The Leafs will own this year’s draft I suspect, which will mean coverage of Draft Day will begin DURING the Stanley Cup finals.
  3. They are top heavy in $5M defensemen. That was a crazy damn move by Ferguson (adding a third 5M man on D to McCabe and Kaberle). Kubina’s contract is up in the summer of ’10 and I wouldn’t be surprised if Fletcher moves one of the three even if it’s Kaberle.
  4. They have mortgaged the future for so long there isn’t one. There’s still talent though, they had a beauty 2002 draft and Antropov is ready for a nice career after the longest developmental curve in the history of ever.
  5. They have held onto Mats Sundin like they should have held on to Frank Mahovlich and now they are left with dealing a guy at the deadline for picks and parts. Sundin’s value is probably still high because he’s never been on the market (that we know of) and he’s still certainly good enough to help a strong Cup contender. If I were Ottawa this is the guy I’d try to get although there’s no way Toronto deals him inside the province. A reasonable return imo would be a 1st rd pick, a solid current NHL player (or quality prospect who might be ready by fall) and then a recently drafted player who is couple of years away.
  6. They have been terribly arrogant AND mistaken about their ability to build a successful team since about 1965. I think we got some insight into how badly run this car crash is during the last week or so. Peddie appears to embody all the negative aspects of Leaf Nation and there’s really nothing you can say except he’s an assclown in a very nice suit.
  7. The Leafs have so many riches available to them and they treat it like trash. I think they might actually turn a bit of a corner on this one. The Leafs have gobs of cash they can no longer spend on mid-level forwards and the idea that all the Ontario boys were just waiting to come home and play for the Toronto’s has never happened. However, they can spend money on good leadership and that I believe will be a key element in attracting the right man. They need to find the best person available and that’s going to take some dollars. I think you need to look at the most confident and successful men in the game, the Brian Burke’s, the Ken Holland’s, that kind of guy. If none will take the job, take the best assistants, Wayne Thomas, Bob Murray.

We’ll know at the draft. If the Leafs plan on taking their medicine then they’ll keep their pick and draft Doughty or Stamkos. If they haven’t learned, they’ll deal the pick.

Probably for another goaltender. My bet is Fletcher will make the right move.

And now, another wonderful memory from the 1960s:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5JRv6iCCYQo&feature=related

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5 Responses to "(Every Time You) Walk in the Room"

  1. Doogie says:

    They have held onto Mats Sundin like they should have held on to Frank Mahovlich and now they are left with dealing a guy at the deadline for picks and parts.

    I thought the whole reason they ditched Mahovlich is because he couldn’t/wouldn’t play for Punch Imlach/in Toronto anymore. Sundin seems to have had no problems with any of his coaches or the Toronto media, at least not that he’s let on, and he’s still scoring at the same pace he was ten years ago. Not saying it’s a bad idea, just that doesn’t feel like the right analogy.

  2. Greener says:

    Great post. It’s nice to see a non Leafs blog post that actually talks hockey and not resort to super creative bon mots such as “Toronto Maple Laffs”.

  3. Bruce says:

    Maybe the biggest difference between then and now was that Punch Imlach ran the show in T.O., full stop. Whether he should have been doing so at that point was another question … he was fired a little over a year after the Mahovlich trade, a blockbuster that I wrote about in the “Norm Ullman” thread a while back in which seven significant players changed colours.

    I was a Leaf fan in those years (or as George Carlin puts it, “I was a Catholic until the age of reason”), and the Big M was my favourite player. He was a big man with the biggest number in the league, but he had a sensitive psyche. The relationship between Imlach and the man he always called “Mahallovitch” was strained at best. And the fans of Toronto were no help either. Remembering his TWO leaves of absence (in the autumns after the Leafs’ last two Cups) I googled “Frank Mahovlich nervous breakdown” and found one version of the story here:

    http://www.oldtimershockey.com/players/mahovlich.html

    The Leafs were defending champions at the time of the Mahovlich trade, which is soon hitting its 40th anniversary. Seems like they still haven’t recovered. Leaf fans, I no longer truly feel your pain, but I sure felt it the day my first hockey hero got sent stateside.

  4. Dennis says:

    Sudin for Ryan and the Oilers first rounder?

    Burke most likely wins another Cup and secures his legacy but it’s only a move Fletcher can make if the Leaves want to try at least a partial rebuild.

  5. MF37 says:

    That’s a really great post.

    JFJ’s tenure was being in a plane, taking off and then not being allowed to land. We’d just go around and around in circles – like some sort of random holding pattern.

    I remember Fletcher’s first go-round very well and am really hoping that some of that magic remains…I’m firmly in the cautiously optimistic camp.

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