Breaking Down the Cox

Okay, it's a Monday morning, and I believe I have set a new personal record for Monday mornings.

For starters, it took me 2 cups of coffee before I even realized I was at work.  I have no recollection of driving my commute.  It took 4 cups of coffee before I could think coherently.

Not to mention the weather in the Greater Toronto Area was absolutely abysmal this weekend, driving rain all Saturday before it turned into a full-on blizzard in the evening.  Sunday started beautifully before it turned to complete crap like the Leafs' 3rd periods of yester-year. 

I also partook in the new James Bond movie this weekend, Quantum of Solace and was disappointed, is it just me or did Daniel Craig's ears get bigger since Casino Royale?

Anyway, I am totally digressing. 

I saw all the hoop-la over the most recent ramblings by Cox and decided to take a gander.  Maybe it's because I used up all my angry and rage last week, or maybe its just a Monday and I typically have a hard time giving a crap about anything, but Cox actually made some good arguments... at first, before degenerating into sprouting what most people in modern society would classify as bullshit.

So let's dive right in shall we?

If you agree Wellwood looks reborn in Vancouver, then you'd have to say it was a bad deal by Fletcher.

Cox manages to make it 5 sentences in before he completely sullies the good name of logic-based arguments

Once upon a time in university, I signed up for a critical thinking course which is essentially a class that studies the art of logic-based arguments.  Now admittedly, the only reason I took this class is because it was well-known amongst Engineering students as critical drinking as a result of its utter inaneness. 

My most memorable experience (and really, my only actual memory since the class took place in a lecture hall that was a 2 minute walk from a campus bar) was when the prof asked a question to the class in one of the earlier sessions:

What is the definition of a bad argument?

Answer: One that is not good.

Clearly, this professor and Cox thinks along the exact same line, I must find his name and email him to inquire if Damien Cox was one of his past students.

It's hagiography, basically. It's also a measurement of the enormous circle of friends Fletcher has in the game and in the media that cover the sport.

Here, Cox is interestingly pointing the cause of Fletcher's relative untouchability solely on the media (and not on Leaf fans) not doing their jobs because they're all buddy-buddy with him.  The significance of this is rather obvious, by portraying the rest of his peers as not doing their jobs due to a conflict of interest, he is trying to sell his credibility to the rest of us.

Unfortunately like any typical Futureshop/Best Buy sales-person, Cox suffers a rather debilitating disease, the inability to back up their pitch with facts.

But immediately after this, he jumps into facts/stats-presenting-and-analyzing mode.

It's widely portrayed, for example, that Fletcher has directed a significant improvement with the Leafs.

It's just not true.

Under John Ferguson last year, the Leafs had exactly the same record after 18 games they do now, 7-7-4.

But they're a more exciting offensive team scoring more goals, right?

Wrong. After 18 games they've actually scored one FEWER goal than at this time last year, and allowed one more goal against.

Cox starts off pretty good here, it's true, in terms of team statistics the Leafs are effectively on par with last year's edition, the variance is too minor to be of significance, they're aren't better or worst but pretty much the same.  Here is the basis of Cox's argument that Fletcher has only been an "okay" GM.

Cox then further goes on breaking down individual player transactions and rating them.

Hagman (four years, $12 million) is overpaid, but he was a strong signing by Fletcher.

Well now we're running into some serious problems, mostly with the self-contradiction.  He does this with Grabovski, Hagman and Ron Wilson, stating that all three were acquired for too high of a price, yet at the same time, were good additions to the teamColour me confused.

But it gets even better,

It was a mistake to keep Schenn in the NHL - minus-five on this western road swing - and burn the first year of his entry level contract, but again, we'll give Fletcher this one.

Again, it is difficult to discern as to exactly what on earth is going through Cox's mind here.  He clearly calls the decision to keep Schenn at the NHL level a mistake, an error, but he gives points to Fletcher for it.

And thus he launches into a tirade against the rest of the Leafs players who were signed or bought out by Fletcher, a brief excerpt below:

Wellwood was dumped with nothing acquired in return. Ditto for Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft, who were bought out and will cost the Leafs $1.7 million against the salary cap this season...

The Leafs paid $2 million just to be able to trade Bryan McCabe to Florida, and in return picked up the capable but wildly overpaid ($3.5 million per season) Mike Van Ryn...

Jonas Frogren was signed for two years at about $2.2 million, and while he seems rugged, Wilson has seen fit to dress him for only nine games. He looks like a fringe NHLer, at best...

Fletcher tried twice to trade Mats Sundin and failed...

Jeff Finger was signed for four years and $14 million, an amount that seemed outrageous at the time and equally so now that we've had a look at him in action. He's seems reliable and capable, nothing more...

Jamal Mayers was picked up for a third round pick and Ryan Hollweg for a fifth rounder. Value? Doubtful...

Alex Steen was, for some reason, awarded a new two-year contract by Fletcher with a nice raise to $3.4 million...

Finally, Curtis Joseph was signed for one-year at $700,000, which made fans happy but sure isn't going to help much with Vesa Toskala's game seemingly going south these days...

Time to pull this thing apart.  We'll by-pass Wellwood since we've already addressed him before.  Tucker and Raycroft will still cost $1.7 mil against the Leaf's cap this season, I'm not sure why Cox is making this out to be an issue as the cap is over $50 mil this season, and $1.7 mil equates to 3.4% which is insignificant just like the minor variance in total goals scored and against thus far (and especially when you consider MLSE's gi-normous wallet).

The charges that Cox levels against Van Ryn and Finger are that they are overpaid and cost too much to obtain but that they are reliable, capable and rugged players... the exact same charges that he leveled against Grabovski, Hagman and Wilson, yet he gave points for those three transactions for the same reason he's taking away points for the Van Ryn and Finger transactions.

Furthermore, he's blaming Fletcher for Wilson not playing Frogen enough to make his price-tag worth it... and he's blaming Fletcher for failing to trade Sundin, two things that Fletcher is effectively powerless to do.

It also looks like he doesn't know what to say about Mayers or Hollweg, since it would be impossible for Cox to say that they cost too much to acquire (and he does just fall short of saying so but it is implied).

Perhaps the only valid point he has is on Steen and Joseph and I certainly won't argue those.  So Cox gets two players... out of twelve... a measly 17% (and I even rounded up!) accuracy rating which most people would call an epic fail.

What I find interesting is that Cox writes this huge blog post detailing a myriad of arguments yet he ignores one very simple, yet significant statistical fact with no attempt to debate or address it.

The Leafs had a $48 mil payroll last season, this season Fletcher managed to trim it down to $40.7 mil, a decrease of $7.3 mil, or just over 15%.  And let's face it, when you manage to cut your payroll by 15% over the previous year and are still getting the same production, you're either real lucky or you're good at what you do.

And that my friends, is the bottom line. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of

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