What I have learned…..


    I have always believed that a persons real intelligence level is a sum of what they allow themselves to learn from others.  Book smarts, education, degrees, etc are all an indication of knowledge – but, nothing adds to a persons real world IQ more then lessons learned.  Real intelligent people are able to learn by watching and listening to others rather then needing to learn everything themselves – you know, the hard way (sadly, the path I usually end up taking).  I am continually striving to get better at learning from others and gather as much IQ as I can from the experiences, observations and hard knocks others are willing to share with me.  As this pertains to hockey specifically, I had an opportunity to watch a Leafs game with Gus Katsaros last week and also the opportunity to meet with and speak to Garrett Bauman.  Gus and I had some nice seats for the New York Islanders game sitting at the face off circle in the offensive zone where the Leafs tallied some 50 of their 61 total shots.  I had meant to do a post game blog at the time, but, life got busy and I guess it is too late for that now.  However, that day yielded several interesting hockey learning opportunities for me personally and I decided that these lessons alone would make great blog material.

    From Gus Katsaros, I learned that Jason Blake simply cannot be demoted – and he is right.  This is not any inside knowledge shared or spilled by Gus, this was simply a very intelligent analysis of the situation and of the reality of cap economics. Bottom line though – and something Gus expressed to me and something Burke said himself shortly there after in the media – a player like Jason Blake who works so hard night in and night out and overcame so much – sending a player like this down would be sending the wrong message to everyone within that organization.  The man still has value, and once the cap reality comes more in line with his value, there will be options available to both parties and they can both work on a desirable outcome at that time – and if Jason Blake can ever find his scoring touch again, along with his work ethic, he may be a useful piece moving forward.  Gus also provided a glimpse of what scouts look for in certain players and why.  I do not always agree with scouts assessments, but I now understand why so many players come out of nowhere and simultaneously why so many players are so accurately scouted.  Some very simple fundamentals are used as key indicators to translate into NHL success.  Which battles are won and where, which tendencies certain players have for which passes and where, etc.  Some very specific criteria – which although sometimes leads to fundamental skill sets being overlooked has proven to be a very effective overall measuring stick to project NHL success.

    From Garrett Bauman I learned that it is probably a smart move to alleviate that Campbell contract from Chicago.  It would simply be the best way to replace Kaberle long term, garner a return for Kaberle that would include a top6 young forward and a 1st round pick and only marginally increase your cap number.  To resign Kaberle is going to cost in the $6M-$6.5M per season range – and even though Campbell is not worth his contract, I would say his real value is closer to that contract then Kaberle would be at $6.5M per season.  I must admit, I laughed when Garrett first proposed this, but, I since learned that there is opportunity in someone elses mistake.  Much like McCabe and Florida.  I also learned, all be it indirectly, that Garrett may finally be coming around on my analysis of Stralman and he probably now feels that Kaberle should have been moved and Stralman kept.  However, since this opportunity was indeed missed, I am in complete agreement now that Campbell would probably be a great fit here as long as it means acquiring a top6 forward and a 1st round pick back and moving Kaberles contract out along with another expiring contract out.

    Listening to the Bill Watters and Greg Brady show driving down to the game I learned that trading Stralman was not a mistake.  Apparently Mr Watters and Mr Brady felt that he is only succeeding because he is receiving ice time and an opportunity – and since he is not the second coming of Lindstrom, we should not be concerned.  Though, while listening to Mr Watters analysis of the situation, I quickly began to realize why the Leafs were never able to get over the hump while Mr Watters was part of the management team.  The philosophy is completely backwards.  Instead of trading the veteran (ie Kaberle) at the right time for the right return and maintaining the youngster with the similar skill sets (ie Stralman) who is younger, who is cheaper and who potentially could be equivalent or better talent wise  – and who you hold the contractual hammer on – Instead you give away the youngster and maintain the veteran on the favourable, yet, soon to be expiring contract who now holds the contractual hammer over the organization?  I guess it is of no surprise considering Mr Watters was part of the management team when the Leafs put Steve Sullivan on waivers (620 Points in 787 games and a + 96 overall in his career having totalled 60 or more points 6 times since the Leafs placed him on waivers) in order to make room for a veteran. Or the trading of Jason Smith for a bag of pucks (who went on to be the captain of the Oilers for over half a decade and was EXACTLY the type of D the Leafs sorely missed in every single playoff series) because they were too deep on the back end and did not need him.  Trading Modin for Cross (Modin went on to be a very reliable and effective scoring winger and won a cup in Tampa) because apparently we needed size on our back end (who would have thought keeping Jason Smith might be the answer) and Modin needed to be replaced with a veteran who could perform in the playoffs.  Ironically enough, except for brief stints by an aging Mogilny and Roberts, Modin would have likely been the best winger to suit up alongside Sundin and he ended up proving he was quite a bit more reliable come playoff time then any of the veterans the Leafs acquired in his place.  From Mr Watters I learned the the Leafs organization is fundamentally flawed in their thinking and their strategy and that it has been this way for quite awhile.  I also learned that seemingly brilliant men can get afflicted with this syndrome and completely forget the notion that winning organizations are built via growing and developing youth (however they are acquired), and trading veterans at key times for key returns – not by trading away your youth for marginal returns because they were never given real opportunities and then overpaying for veterans that others developed and capitalized on.

    Lastly, from my brother Phil, who is a lifelong Leaf fan like myself, who I spend considerable time with on the phone, hockey change rooms before and after games and at each others houses chatting about the Leafs and hockey in general.  On the night of the game, while waiting to meet up with Gus downtown, I received a phone call from Phil.  Similar to myself who has become a Columbus fan this year, Phil has become an Atlanta fan.  Now, as frustrated as both of us are with the Leafs, and as much as we tried to claim allegiances to other teams (Columbus in my case, Atlanta in Phil’s case), it has become obvious that we are both full of it, as when push comes to shove, we are still watching the Leafs first, and only watching our “new teams”, when the Leafs are not playing.  Having said this, I learned from Phil that Kubina and Antropov are indeed the real deal.  When Toronto could not run Kubina out of town fast enough and Phil was insisting he was one of the better Defensemen to play in Toronto in a LONG time, I simply mocked him.  So, on the night in question, I learned from Phil that Kubina had 10 points in 20 games and was a + 11 and Antropov has 21 Points in 21 Games and is also a +11.  Kubina and Antropov are currently tied for 11th best +/- in the league.  Interesting note on Antropov.  In Toronto, they needed him to be a big bodied winger that scored, and he delivered that.  In Atlanta, they needed him to be a big body up the middle and setup Kovulchuk and be defensively responsible to allow Kovulchuk to play his game – again, he is delivering that.  From Phil I learned that the Leafs made a huge mistake letting these players go and that these 2 players could be largely responsible for Atlanta turning their program around this year and making the playoffs for only the 2nd time in their history.  The total return for Kubina and Antropov?  a 2nd round pick and Exelby.