I've always wondered what happens to letters to the editor. People write in expecting an answer to their query and then they get Damien Cox's reply? Poor people. Cox then uses these misdirected inquiries to create a weekly mailbag. Since I usually disagree with his answers I decided that - taking a page from the Drunk Jays Fans and their enhancement of Richard Griffin's mailbag - I will Toronto Sun the questions here and answer them myself. You can read his original answers here.
After the jump you can read the original questions and the awesome answers.
Question: Was there ever any reason given for taking the "A" away from Kaberle, or is this just one more example of the current administration showing the life long Leaf no respect? Kaberle will never smash an opponents hed through the glass so he lacks the "truculence" that Burke desires, but most GMs in the league still recognize that he is an elite offensive defenceman.
I've been a Leaf fan my whole life so would normally want to see the team get better, but if I was in Kaberle's shoes I would refuse to waive my no trade clause. Doing this will make Burke look pretty bad for not being able to get anything for an asset that he doesn't value.
Roger Park, Halifax
Answer: If Burke didn't value Tomas Kaberle then he would have traded him for the best deal on the table when his his no-waive trade clause was not in force. Burke also wouldn't have constantly made comments about how much he values Kaberle's skill set. The 'most GMs in the league' that recognize he is an elite offensive defenceman includes Brian Burke.
As for the alternate captaincy issue, it is certainly odd to see a player that has had an 'A' for so long have it taken. Of course, there are any number of reasons why it could have been done. The easiest would be that, taking into account that Kaberle will obviously be a target of the media because of his tenure, Ron Wilson wanted to provide an additional 'official' spokesman. In addition to Dion Phaneuf the Leafs now have Mike Komisarek, well accustomed to intensive media coverage, and Francois Beauchemin, another veteran.
Another thought would be that Burke and Wilson recognize that, again, Kaberle will be a part of the leadership team regardless, that they wanted to ensure that Beauchemin's experience was put front and centre in the group. Then again, maybe Wilson just wanted to take a distraction away from Tomas' attemtps to rediscover his game. Or Kaberle asked to give it up. Basically, we have no idea why were are doing it so you're free to spin it any way you want. I'd guess you're not a fan of Burke by the loaded way you phrased your question.
Question: Supposedly, the NHL has said they are going to get serious on cheap hits, so when I read today that Niklas Hjalmarsson got a 2-game suspension for his hit on Jason Pominville, I wasn't sure what to think. On one hand, it's a suspension, which I guess is good. On the other, it's two games, given out the same day as they gave James Wisniewski a 2-game suspension for making an "obscene gesture" to an opponent. Does the NHL in their infinite wisdom really think that flipping the bird to Sean Avery is equally offensive as smashing an opponent's head against the boards? If they want fans to think they're taking head shots seriously, maybe they should start doing so.
Kevin D., Toronto
Answer: You're preaching to the choir here. The NHL's disciplinary system is a joke. Wisniewski definitely needed to be suspended. I know that what gets said on the ice and on the benches is likely as offensive when something as blatant as Wisniewski pantomiming fellatio is caught by the refs and television cameras then the league has to step in.
Question: Hi Damien (Editor's Note: This guy spelled my name wrong),
Your article regarding Souray and Redden again got me thinking.
The common saying regarding players getting paid more than their respective value is: "wouldn't you take it if your boss offered it to you?"...and of course the answer is yes.
However it takes two sides to tango...the player needs to be demanding that amount too. When a player prices himself above his actual value it brings tremendous pressure that most never lives up to ( Brian Mccabe to name a few from Toronto). It can now mean the end of a career too. Do you think the salary cap era will make players think twice about maxing out their contract or, will this continue? Thanks, look forward to the mail bag.
Jeff Iles, Haliburton
Answer: I've made the same argument before. While it's certainly not Jeff Finger's fault that Cliff Fletcher offered him a salary commensurate with a role that he was never allowed to play, he knew what he was getting into by signing it. When you get paid $3.5M, especially under the cap, then there is nowhere to hide.
I do wonder whether players will begin to take the salary cap and its constraints into account when signing their deal. Brayden Schenn did take that into account when signing his deal so that his cap hit would not hold him out of the line-up. The biggest blockers will likely be that hockey players aren't the smartest guys to begin with, deals are guaranteed (or at least a buy-out's worth), the average career is only 3 or 4 years long, and sports agents are most interested in protecting # 1: themselves. At the end of the day, most players will refuse to believe that they could potentially be demoted to the AHL.
Question: Hi Damien. For many years I've enjoyed your columns as well as your comments on The Sports Reporters (Editor's Note: I assume that this writer has been recovering from a traumatic brain injury). You seem to have a great balance between appreciating sports (Ed's Note: Yup.) and ridiculing its foolishness. I have one question and one suggestion.
A quarterback, often the most valuable player on a football team, can be crushed from behind by a defensive player 50 to 100 pounds heavier, get up and return to the huddle for the next play. But in hockey if the most valuable player is hit hard, vengeance is the most immediate thought on the minds of his teammates. Hockey people always talk about what a tough sport it is but apparently the best players are off limits. Why?
On the shootout -- how about a chaser or a shot clock? Isn't it supposed to simulate a breakaway? I love the shootout but not when guys get to stop, start, swing wide, put the tip of their blade on the puck, or make a spin move. Put an opposing player on the blueline behind him and let him chase. Or put a five second shot clock on him. Be creative but at top speed.
Mike Kirby, Belleville
Answer: A better solution would be to can the shootout. A shot clock would be a decent suggestion but a chaser just makes it an even crazier gimmick.
Hockey is a ridiculously tough sport. To suggest otherwise is ridiculous. The comparison doesn't make sense because there's nothing in the rules preventing star players getting hit in either sport. There are however rules that lead to players getting ejected from football games for starting fights. If there weren't then I'd bet dollars to doughnuts that the next time some guy pancaked Peyton Manning (please do!) that Jeff Saturday would have something to say about it. Not to mention that vengeance in football comes in different forms like taking a cheap shot at the other team's quarterback.
Question: Damien, love your reports and columns. Do you think it is time for the NHL to find a way to eliminate teams playing on back to back nights? I know it is difficult with arena availability (NBA, NCAA and Concerts). Hockey is just as demanding physically as soccer and football, and they only play once a week! The game on Saturday night just goes to show how difficult it was for Ottawa to keep up with a rested team, a clear competitive advantage for Leafs. In the NHL this season, the Sabres will play B2B 22 times, while the Hurricanes follow with 21 times. The Canadian teams in the west (I suppose due to travel) only play B2B 11-13 times.
Nauman Vania, Oshawa
Answer: How long do you want to make the season and how much should these guys be babied? I have two words for the poor Ottawa Senators that had to play on back-to-back nights after a gruelling start to the new season: Boo hoo.
Question: Damien, have not been able to figure this out.
MLSE have the 'Leaf Channel'. Out of 168 hours in a week they have maybe 1 or 2 games to broadcast. Including pre-game and post game shows, that's about 10 legitimate hours of quality out of the 168. Why don't they show Marlie games, maybe not HOME games because it might hurt the gate, but all AWAY games????(AHH, it's called marketing!} Especially this year because there will be interest in Kadri?
Craig Dawson, Pickering
Answer: LeafsTV's programming is terrible. As you noted, there is a lack of original programming. If I had to take a guess I would bet that part of the reason MLSE doesn't show AHL away games is because the league sells a ridiculously overpriced online package. Television rights probably play a part - part of the reason LeafsTV isn't available everywhere Leafs fans live (ie EVERYWHERE) - but I certainly agree that part of getting more fans to Marlies games requires highlighting the team for the franchise's most ardent fans.
Question: Big fan of your column. I'd like you to comment on the way the NHL presents itself out side of core markets like Toronto. Living in FL, I have DirectV (Sat) and subscribe to the NHL Center Ice package. NHL remains on Versus and is nowhere on ESPN. Versus did not air the regular season last year b/c of contract dispute with Comcast. NHL Center Ice has aired both Leafs games (thru 10/12/10) but in standard definition. Just seems to me there is no consolidated effort to make NHL presented in its best light. Does this go back to Bettman? I'd like your opinion. Toronto will always be a solid market but the way this is presented to the US market is lacking.
Mark Byers, Orlando, Fla.
Answer: It does go back to Gary Bettman. He's made the decision that the league is better served pursuing a relationship with a major broadcaster that wants the league to be a major part of its growth as opposed to one that doesn't need it and bashes the sport at every turn. Of course, when ESPN has a financial interest in a sport they demonstrably cover it more favourably. Obviously Versus is much smaller than ESPN but it does seem like it is growing. Like hockey in Southern markets it is a long-term strategy.
As for the issues with Comcast and Versus, as the Phoenix situation with Dish shows it's not always clear who is at fault for channels not being carried. Unfortunately, I believe the league has limited control. In this case Cox's answer might be helpful since he's a reporter that can investigate...reads Cox's answer...well, there's no insider information which is a shame.
Question: If you had to rank Tyler Bozak's draft year based on current performances, how high would he go?
Nick Martin, Winnipeg
Answer: Tyler Bozak's draft year was 2004 which was a pretty bad year. Hindsight is 20/20 but since it works out in the Leafs' favour this time let's go for it: Top ten. There would be considerable debate about where he would be taken in that range but the more he plays the higher his ranking moves.
Question: Hey Damien,
With the recent retirement of Darcy Tucker, is the buyout money from his previous contract with the Leafs removed from their current salary cap obligations? If so, that must be a welcome suprise for Burke and company...Thanks.
Cory Abraham, Elliot Lake, Ont.
Answer: *Blows brains out* Well, not literally, just metaphorically, but no. The salary cap hole that Darcy Tucker created by his selfish refusal to waive his no-trade clause will not disappear for approximately 76 more years. Or 4. But it will at least feel like 76 years.