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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.