Stopping The Spin: The Fletcher Vendetta

No idea if I'll do this more often but here's another response to Damien Cox's "blog" (ie extra column that didn't make the newspaper because it wasn't good enough). I submitted part of it as a comment so we'll see if it gets 'moderated'.

Kristine and Richard Carlson made a tonne of money off of the concept that you should not sweat the small stuff in life. In theory it's a nice idea. Don't get upset because someone cuts you off in traffic (forget that it's a harbinger of society's increasingly selfish focus) or because your significant other doesn't take out the trash (forget that it's a sign of a lack of respect) because if you drill down far enough the source of your frustration is a trivial matter. It's a great theory because then you can make anything in your life into an afterthought and keep that chipper attitude going without having to resort to actually working on your issues.

So I guess you could say that in the grand scheme of things Damien Cox and his words really are nothing to get worked up about (don't tell Kim or Godd). Of course, his wilfully deception and fudging of facts is a problem if only because it is part of the larger issue with the traditional media doing the same thing with coverage of matters that are actually important. But that's an entirely different post. This one will highlight exactly why it drives me insane when people tell me that they think Damien Cox provides "insightful" coverage or that he "tells it like it is" because that's about the furthest thing from the truth. If he's not distorting the facts he's inventing them and usually it's to fit a particular agenda (see: Fighting, Banning of) or a vendetta (see: Fletcher, Cliff).

Exhibit A: Thursday April 2, 2009 Mailbag

I think I'd have a less visceral reaction if Cox just used the contacts and knowledge that he'd built over decades of covering the Leafs for good without stooping to the kind of transparent attacks he tends to make. For some hilarious background on why Cox hates Fletcher take your mind back to January when Fletcher was announced as the interim GM on a 19 month contract with no possibility of becoming the full-time GM.

So it's no surprise that Cox is still looking to get back at the cool kid in school for pantsing him in front of his buddies. Speaking of Cliff Fletcher:

But he wasn’t a suitable fit to run an NHL team in the cap era, yet Richard Peddie was prepared to let him to do so. Fletcher gave away viable draft picks like candy last summer (even a fifth rounder was obscene for Ryan Hollweg) to try and put a better team on the ice immediately and in so doing hang on to the "interim" GM position.

You know who wasn't suitable to run an NHL team in the cap era? John Ferguson Jr. You know who gave away viable draft picks like candy for his entire tenure? John Ferguson Jr. I assume that Damien's solution would have left JFJ in charge until Burke could be hired. Forget that JFJ would have been in charge for another trade deadline, draft, and UFA period. There's no defending that Hollweg trade but what this highlights is Cox's refusal to admit that moves can be made to affect both the Leafs' present and future fortunes. Therefore signing a 26 year old UFA is a sign that Burke is more interested in the short rather than the long-term.

But why put words into Damien's mouth when he hangs himself so well:

The last piece evidence that he was prepared to sell the future was the deal that brought Lee Stempniak to town for Alex Steen and Carlo Colaiacovo, a deal that will be even more difficult to swallow next season when the light-weight winger earns a $3.5 million salary.

Here's where you wonder whether Cox just doesn't know what he is talking about or whether his editor is clueless. The thing that bothers me is that because he writes for The Star readers assume that there is some fact-checking going on behind the scenes. Let's take try to figure out what Cox means by veterans. Does he mean based on age? 

Lee Stempniak

#12 / Right Wing / Toronto Maple Leafs

6-0

195

Feb 04, 1983

Carlo Colaiacovo

#28 / Defenseman / St. Louis Blues

6-1

200

Jan 27, 1983

Alexander Steen

#20 / Left Wing / St. Louis Blues

6-1

205

Mar 01, 1984

So Colaiacovo is the oldest of the three? Ok, so obviously Damien didn't mean that he was a veteran based on age. Maybe it's because Stempniak has played in more seasons than Steen and Colaiacovo? Hmmm Carlo's played in parts (small parts of course) of six seasons compared to four for Stempniak? Ok, maybe it's total games played? Nope. That's 310-290 for Steen. So really, you could say that the Leafs traded two underachieving grizzled veterans (combined stats before the trade: 30GP 2-3-5, -6) for an exciting young prospect (before the trade: 14GP 3-10-13, -3).

Now, obviously trades don't always work out the way that you'd hope. Instead of recapturing the form that saw him pot 27 goals in his second season Stempniak has struggled to score for the Leafs. Meanwhile, Carlo has flourished and Steen has basically replaced what Stempniak had become in St. Louis. It has worked out so well that Gallagher has been able to get over seeing his favourite player dealt. Of course, anyone can look at birth dates or games played or career stats. It takes something special to jump into the comments with guns blazing when someone points out the flaws in his logic:

Damien here. . .coupla quick points. . .on Colaiacovo/Steen for Stempniak, what some apparently fail to understand (or won't) is that it was far less important what the two former first rounders were or were going to be, and more important that taking on an underachieving veteran with a huge contract wasn't a good idea.

Ignore the fact that Damien doesn't realize that his comments have his username so he doesn't have to start each comment by introducing himself (maybe he wants to ensure that everyone knows it's not "DamienCox" writing) and look at his ridiculous clarification. Add it to his original note and it is really comical.

The fact of the matter, according to The Omen, is that what we should all be focused on is that the Leafs took on an underachieving veteran (see above) with a huge contract. How huge? Stempniak will be making $3.5M next year. According to NHL Numbers his cap hit is $1.882M and he will be a UFA July 1, 2010. What Cox apparently fails to understand (or won't) is that it is far less important what Lee makes every year than to know what his salary counts against the cap. Anyone suitable to write about the NHL in the cap era knows that fact.

But what about Steen and Carlo? I bet their contracts are miniscule. Steen's cap hit is $1.28M for one more year and then he's an RFA while Carlo's is 996K before he becomes a UFA after next season. So, with the help of my trusty calculator, Fletcher cleared up $394K in cap space for next season. What a horrible idea to increase your available cap space. But the fun's not over yet:

Second, you can try to twist this until the cows get home, but the reality is that the Leafs gave up a first, second and third to move up in the draft and get Schenn. Period.

I love that this drives Damien so insane. One guy just randomly mentions that trading a second and a third to get Schenn might not have been a good idea (no worries, Wendel has his IP address) and Cox flies off the handle. It all comes down to semantics. What people object to is Damien's insistence on presenting the trade in the worst light possible. I'll let the pros take over for the grand finale:

Fletcher, on the other hand, might have gone out and traded picks away. In fact, we know he did toy with the idea of dealing away the club’s 2009 first rounder to the Ducks.

...

Finally, those of you who want to write and argue that Fletcher was going to be able to trade the Leafs first rounder in '09 and make it draft protected to Anaheim straight up for Bobby Ryan are living in a truly amazing dream world.
The Ducks would have wanted much more. Whether it still would have been a good deal we'll never know, but Anaheim didn't make it, so it only exists in the fantasy world.

 From their own submission to The Omen's comments:

So the trade was too speculative to defend what Fletcher may have acquired, but just real enough to bash Fletcher for discussing it. Fantasy World is confusing! Good thing you send us regular postcards from there.

And finally - I know it's his book cover, but how great is that "Spin Plus" has revealed that a gigantic "67" hangs over Damien's desk? It's getting hard to figure out where Cox Bloc ends and the Spin begins....

- Godd Till

Of course, it's no surprise that neither Godd nor my comments came through. Cox might be commenting but he's doing the online equivalent of smacking around the kids from the short bus.

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