Fletcher’s Moves

O calm down, I’m making a point here. There are some wonderful stories in this photo. Lanny McDonald is my father-in-law’s favorite player and my father-in-law is a great guy so Lanny winning was a good thing.

Brad McCrimmon was on this team and that guy was a terrific hockey player so that was a good thing.

And the team was built one brick at a time by one Cliff Fletcher. He started building it by selecting Daniel Bouchard and Phil Myre in the 1972 expansion draft, effectively giving his team a better goaltending tandem than the Stanley Cup champions at the time.

Fletcher made good decisions for a long, long time and finally won it all in Helltown. I’d buy the book that told that story with my own money.

If you ever own an NHL team (and I say this seriously, I don’t think you need much money down anymore) and want to know how to build it I suggest a trip to the local library and a few hours spent looking at the 1972 sports sections of the nation’s newspapers. Watching how the Atlanta Flames and New York Islanders went about talent procurement in the first 6 months of their existence is a textbook study in how to build a winner.

After leaving the Flames, Fletcher took on various jobs around the league and had varying degrees of success. Many of his trades in Toronto (the first time) are also excellent examples of how you build a winner and every once in awhile something would happen on the team he was working for and one would suspect Fletcher had something to do with it.

Hard worker. Smart, smart man, so smart in fact that (unlike Sather, who agents hated and many GMs resented) Fletcher was well liked by pretty much everyone in the business. Even guys he fleeced would say nice things about the guy.

When he arrived in Toronto this time I listed 5 things he needed to address. Let’s see how he’s doing.

  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’s team did a nice job at the draft and Schenn is a perfect line in the sand. Many years from now he might represent to the Toronto Maple Leafs what Kevin Lowe represents to the Edmonton Oilers tradition. Take that whichever way you wish, but 5 Stanley’s for Toronto in the next 15 years would mean utopia for Godtropolis.
  2. Too many first round picks were traded for too many goaltenders. He bought out Raycroft and told Vesa Toskala to get his rest. Solid moves both.
  3. They are top heavy in $5M defensemen. TSN is reporting tonight that McCabe is on his way to Florida (with a pick) in exchange for Mike Van Ryn. I don’t really get this move, as they signed a $3.5M Jeff Finger and acquired Van Ryn ($3.35M) and I’d rather have McCabe than either of them. There must be something about McCabe that made the organization decide to get rid of him at any cost. I can only imagine what the real problem is, but the exchange on defense this summer is a mystery to me.
  4. They have mortgaged the future for so long there isn’t one. I think the Schenn selection sends a clear indication that a new leaf has been turned in the Toronto war room.
  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. Fletcher tried to deal him and Sundin blocked a deal which is his right. I have no argument with how this rolled out.

So it’s an uneven report card for the Silver Fox. Fletcher has added some nice things for the future and bought out Raycroft which was a positive. On the other hand, I don’t really see the hurry in getting rid of McCabe (and Tucker) and replacing him with Finger and VanRyn. Fletcher seems to be sending mixed messages. It’s almost like he does one thing for the future but must appease another part of the MLG group and improve the present.

What’s next? Signing Sundin? I’ll tell you one thing: he built the Flames quicker, smarter and (probably) better.

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18 Responses to "Fletcher’s Moves"

  1. raventalon40 says:

    Fletcher is indeed to Maple Leaf nation what Lowe was for the Oilers and Sutter was to Calgary (even though I don’t like the whole thing about hiring Keenan).

    However, I don’t see why everyone thinks Finger is to the “Fletcher’s Meat” what listeriosis is to “Maple Leaf Foods.” (I’m sure some people will find that in bad taste.)

    Sure, 3.5 million is a slight overpayment. But they need some role players in Toronto and I think McCabe is not that guy anymore. It’s probably not a slight against McCabe in particular but perhaps both the organization and the player at the same time. And I think, this is one of those situations where you just have to admit something is not working out for the player and the team.

    I think we benefited from Jason Smith coming to Edmonton from Toronto and his becoming a force to lean on. Jeff Finger is no Jason Smith, but it’s a start, I think. Kubina is a hardened warrior but he can’t hold the fort alone. Colaiacovo, Kaberle, White, and Stralman are all offensive guys. They need a guy like Finger.

    And for teams are paying for Ron Hainsey, Mike Commodore, Bryce Salvador… etc., it might just be the market dictating what a Jeff Finger would cost to a team like Toronto. I think Toronto needs those pillars of strength.

    Kubina – Finger

    Approximately equals…

    Hamrlik – Regehr
    Regehr – Phaneuf
    Smith – Staios
    Pronger – Smith
    Greene – Staios
    Souray – Staios

    Do you agree/disagree?

  2. Lowetide says:

    raven: I was comparing Schenn’s being drafted to 1979′s selection of Lowe as a player. No biggie, just wanted to make sure that got across.

    As for the title, I sincerely hope no one is offended and that was certainly not my intent.

  3. raventalon40 says:

    Oh, and I here I was thinking you were comparing the situation where Lowe coming in to fix the team in ’99. My bad.

    And don’t mind me, I draw my own conclusions.

    The Leafs have a lot of good prospects, but as you said they shouldn’t rush them along. And that being the case, they should bring them along at a snail’s pace and stock up like the Penguins did. They still need to field a “competitive team,” but at this point in time it might be more important for those “young guns” to achieve some AHL success while the Maple Leafs rediscover some team identity.

    I still think a guy like Finger is useful (or plays a useful role) on a rebuilding team.

  4. PDO says:

    Tarana sucks.

    Calgary sucks more.

    That is all.

  5. Lowetide says:

    My questions re:Finger are that if indeed your point about him being useful as they build is correct (and we have every reason to believe it is), then:

    1. Why Finger at that price?
    2. Why not McCabe at his price?

    Ny guesses are that someone in the Leaf organization really liked Finger and that McCabe was becoming a grumpy veteran with regard to the rebuild.

    But as a pure hockey move? It isn’t clear to me that Finger and VanRyn are an upgrade on McCabe and whoever else (Cola?) woud be playing in the top 4D this winter.

  6. Marc says:

    As an Oil fan who’s stuck living near Toronto and listening to local sports radio, there are repeated rumours that the “Muskoka Five” ruled the Leaf room (which included McCabe and Tucker) and as a result, the team lacked a lot of chemistry. Of course, no idea if it’s true. Just trying to offer a possible explanation as to dumping McCabe.

  7. Vic Ferrari says:

    Have you read this article by Daniel Tolensky regarding Jeff Finger, LT? I’ve never read a Hockeybuzz article before, but this is well written, well supported and just scathing.

    Those quotes from Fletcher and Ron Wilson in the papers, they really are indefensible.

    I was a Fletcher fan as well, but I have to wonder if he’s losing some of his game. Sheehy is Finger’s agent, no? Him and Cliff go back a long ways, and I think Neil sold him a bill of goods.

  8. Black Dog says:

    I think that they got Finger and Sauer confused, seriously.

    Sauer is a terrific player (how Phoenix got him for that amount is beyond me) while Finger, as noted, was benched in the playoffs.

    Just a big mess here in T.O. as long as MLSE (and notably Peddie and Tanenbaum) are in charge.

  9. Vic Ferrari says:

    That may be, Pat. It just seems hard to imagine an NHL team making such an egregious error. Beyond that it all fits, though.

    And they traded away Hal Gill, who I think is a really underrated defensemen. Slow footed giants aren’t in vogue any more, but the guy played tough minutes and got results. I used to find quite a few links to articles and commentary to this effect, from the H2H minutes website. Then around November or so the Leafs stopped publishing TOI data real time from the ACC, so it died off a bit. Still, I would imagine that he had that gig through to the time he was traded to Pittsburgh. And he certainly did afterwards.

  10. Alice says:

    Ok, I’ve got a question then: This stud defenceman Sauer, taking down big 5v5 etc. etc. – how do they let him play his way into UFA status (supposedly to decline a big payday) then his agent farms him out for 1.75 when ALL the other RFA/UFA dmen are all signing at 3+? Nevermind the Finger angle, what’s up with Sauer? That can’t be on the level unless we’re missing a part of the story.

  11. Suneil Parmar says:

    Hey Lowetide. I just started a new Oilers blog, and I was hoping you could add it to your links section. I was also hoping to add your blog to my links section. I’ve only got one post up right now, but have a number of posts ready to go over the next couple of weeks leading up to the season. The url is http://addicted-to-oil.blogspot.com/

  12. Jonathan says:

    Nevermind the Finger angle, what’s up with Sauer? That can’t be on the level unless we’re missing a part of the story.

    That is my second big question about UFA defensemen. My first is why can’t Marek Malik get a job?

  13. doritogrande says:

    So the official trade is out now. McCabe and a 2010 4th rounder to Florida for Mike Van Ryn.

    Great news for my hockey pool. McCabe’s going to be getting cherry minutes in Floriday with J-bow and should rack up some points. Thanks Fletcher!

  14. Chemmy says:

    doritogrande: McCabe got “cherry minutes” in Toronto playing with better offensive d partners than Bouwmeester.

  15. Vic Ferrari says:

    Bouwmeester plays really tough minutes. I think that McCabe would probably play behind him.

  16. MattM says:

    The worst thing for Toronto fans has to be that if it hadn’t been for the scapegoating and media shenanigans, they probably could have dealt McCabe for value sometime this season or next offseason. His actual dollars going forward are getting to be pretty reasonable, as long as you aren’t too concerned about the cap hit. It’s not like the 2 million bucks in cap room they saved from McCabe to Van Ryn is going to do them a lot of good this year.

  17. MF37 says:

    I think this is a very fair analysis of Fletcher’s moves to date.

    As a big Leafs fan, I’ve been rather cool towards Fletcher ver 2.0

    Every good thing he does (Raycroft) is immediately counterbalanced by a move I just don’t understand.

    Why waive Wellwood and then blow a 2nd round pick on a soft, small, unproven 2nd line centre in Grabovsky?

    Why the rush to deal McCabe? To your point, I’d rather have McCabe than Finger and Van Ryn and I’d rather keep that 4th round pick too.

    One of my favourite Robert B. Parker/Spenser quotes is, “A man’s no better than his dreams.” It used to be I dreamed of the Leafs winning the Stanley Cup (or even a string of them). Now I dream of managerial competence down at MLSE. Next, in these daydreams of diminishing returns, I’ll be happy with a 30 win season.

  18. walkinvisible says:

    As a big Leafs fan, I’ve been rather cool towards Fletcher ver 2.0
    Every good thing he does (Raycroft) is immediately counterbalanced by a move I just don’t understand.

    wow. welcome to flamesville !!!
    1. sutter re-inks the franchise cornerstones, then signs bertuzzi. 2. he waives the three roster duds (warrener, erkisson, nilson) but doesn’t buy any of them out.
    3. he picks up some interesting young talent (cammalleri, bourque, glenX) and then signs… uh… jamie effin LUNDMARK ???

    *sigh

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