Editor's Note: This is a neat story! When in doubt, ask yourself: What Would Wendel Do? In this case, it was 'be yourself'. Congratulations to one of our younger members on winning a great award.
Ok, so I don't post here very often, mainly because by the time I get to the comments section on posts, my opinion is usually already expressed by others. That being said, I frequent the site quite a bit and I probably whittle away 2-3 hours a couple days a week just reading the various posts and comments. I thought this would be a good opportunity to share a neat story to share with everyone here, and then toss in some thoughts I have about the Leafs as well.
So I'm a highschool senior, out of here in a week or so (exams are actually next week and I'm super prepared, thanks a lot PPP). I was fortunate enough to win a Loran Scholarship this year, and I firmly believe this website played at least a partial role in it.
Basically, during one of the stages of qualification back in December (contrary to Berger beliefs, the interviews during this month still mattered), there were phone interviews with some of the candidates to get a better understanding of who they were. It was something I was quite nervous about. I mean, this is a substantial amount of money we're talking about here, even if it's not quite Finger's 3.5M cap hit! I had done some research and knew that they would ask me some curveball questions for sure, so I was ready for them. I dealt with the "what would you do if you were the PM tomorrow?" and the "where do you see yourself in 10 years?" questions as they came, but what threw me off was when my interviewer asked, "So what websites do you visit most frequently?"
Now, if you have experienced an over-the-phone interview, you know that long pauses are awkward and really might cost you. So naturally, I bought some time to think by repeating the question and adding a meaningless "eh?" for good measure (kinda like what Ron Wilson did with Beauchemin's jersey this year). During this time, I tried to think of the "politically correct" answer the interviewer would be probably looking for. Science Daily? The World Vision homepage? A website that allows users to raise money for various causes effortlessly as they surf the web?? (Sorry about the plug, I'm a social justice junkie and cant help myself). All of these would have been great, but at the time it seemed like Wendel would have just been honest, and so I said:
"Well, um, there's this site called Pension Plan Puppets..."
And I guess it worked. The conversation wound up smoothly from there (she wasn't a Habs fan), and I got the call that I had progressed to the next stage a few days later. In February at the nationals, I had a chance to meet my interviewer and she mentioned that my unique answer to that question had made my interview quite memorable. So yeah, as much as I thought I would never say these words together in a sentence, the Leafs had given me the competitive edge I needed to win. Hm, go figure.
Speaking of this team, I have a few things to say that I suppose aren't given enough thought:
I really don't have many knocks on the guy, but without all of the moves Burke has made, we would have had a solid defence. Its just cumbersome to have so much money locked up on D. If you think about it, we had Tomas Kaberle, Luke Schenn, Jeff Finger, Carl Gunnarsson, Ian White, Mike Van Ryn, Garnet Exelby, Anton Stralman, and Jonas Frogren. How are these for pairings?
Kabs - Schenn
Finger - Gunnar/Stralman
MVR/White - Frogren/Exelby
Not half bad. Finger played well 2 years ago when he had more ice time, and since he was signed as a second pairing defenceman, might as well have utilized him as one. Subjectively speaking, I don't think Beauchemin has been much of an improvement. I mean, I know its good to have depth defensively, but going into the FA market and ultimately spending 8.3M of yearly cap hit on two players isn't exactly the best solution. Without these signings, its possible Finger wouldn't have been such a scapegoat; at least he would have a chance to prove himself. Also, it would give Luke Schenn more ice time to develop. I can't help but imagine all that shared ice time with Phaneuf, Beauch, and Komi is going to bring down his total minutes in the coming years, and players like Schenn are most effective when they play big minutes. It wouldn't have been hard to shore up the defence with some cheap free agents. If the defence played like they got paid last year, then it would be a different case, but is it really a stretch to say the group above could have done just as well?
The root of the issue is not neccesarily poor signings or particular trades here. I'm a firm believer in continuity from year to year, and I believe part of the problem with the Leafs is just being an organization that is in constant flux. I wonder how the Leafs would turn out if we just let some of our younger players step up and fill the roles we try to fill with 2-3 big free agent signings or trades every single year. When is the last time you remember a Toronto team that didn't have 2-3 crappy contracts that not only prevented us from getting the real big guns in free agency, but also took away ice time from some of our younger players?
Another issue I have with player movement is that individuals, and as a result teams, perform differently from year to year. For example, Buffalo missed the playoffs two years ago. They barely changed rosters at all, perhaps the only significant change being Spacek leaving and Myers in. This year, they finished top of the conference! It is possible for a team to improve significantly even if many changes to the roster are not made, and I think this is a concept the Maple Leafs organization needs to understand. Could you imagine the Leafs missing the playoffs, losing one of their top defencemen to free agency, and doing absolutely nothing about it? Me neither. Maybe big moves are the expectation when it comes to the news-hungry media, but that really shouldn't be playing a role in how our team is being managed. Leave young players together for long enough, and they will improve together - it's that simple.
One final thought to put my hockey woes in perspective. When I finish school next week, I will have gone all four years of highschool without waching a single Leafs playoff game. In fact, I'm headed to university in the fall and the last time the Leafs were in the playoffs, I was in elementary school.
Oh my Wendel, I've been deprived of my adolescence.