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Toronto Maple Leafs v. Columbus Blue Jackets

The Leafs host Columbus as the parade of Central Division foes continues. The Leafs have fallen to St. Louis and Chicago and managed to defeat Nashville and Detroit. Tonight's game will give them a chance to end their battles against the division with a winning record.

The Blue Jackets sit just three points out of a logjam for 7th place in the Western Conference. If they can keep it together on this road trip from hell then they could end up in the playoffs for the first time in the club's history. In that article Greg Wyshynski takes a look at the timing of the club's ticket renewal and how the team's play and moves at the trade deadline could begin to impact ticket sales.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the ice, the trade deadline is just as important but for slightly different reasons. One thing I have started to feel slip away is the unbridled optimism that this team was going to be packed with TNT and blow to smithereens. Among the Leafs' trade candidates Mats Sundin has repeatedly responded to every single variation of the question that he wants to stay a Leaf, Darcy Tucker doesn't want to go because his young family is settled in and love Toronto, and Tomas Kaberle will not waive his NTC for any reason. What I find funny (and some times offensive) to read or hear is some of the reactions that people have to the thought that players would be asked to waive their NTCs. The Meatriarchy has a good response for people that are dumping on the fans for wanting to thank players for their time before sending them on their way:

You know we’re the ones who are such idiots that we support our team no matter what and aren’t patient enough for a re-build. Except when we are actually interested in rebuilding. Then we are complete pricks because we want to get rid of a bunch of players that signed high priced NTC contracts and haven’t performed near the level needed to justify those contracts. Memo to all other bloggers and sports writers. Leafs fans didn’t negotiate the NTCs with these players. Why should we be held up as unreasonable for demanding that this situation be rectified. I don’t know of any Leaf fan who thought the NTCs were a good idea.

The larger point about the clauses is in that excerpt as well. These players negotiated for NTCs because they wanted to be a part of the city and the franchise. If they decide not to waive them then that is their decision. Will it be disappointing? Yes. Should they, as Bill Watters and his radio buddies on 107.1 this morning suggested, be villified for standing in the way of trades? Absolutely not.

This is a team that has lost 20 one goal games this year and has struggled with injuries. Fans now gladly see the shortcomings of the team but is it so unrealistic to think that these players do not believe that this team is as bad as it's made out to be? While some people ridiculously call into question these players' desire to win a Stanley Cup do they stop and think that these players could just as easily want to stay because they are determined to prove that this year was a one-off? Instead they suggest that Mats has no competitive desire because he won't be a rental for a Cup-winner. Here's a newsflash for you guys: You aren't fit to sharpen The Captain's skates. He's given nothing but his all for the Leafs on every shift in every game he has played for the Leafs. His desire is to win a Cup in Toronto not wherever he gets sent. The opposing logic is that the ultimate player is one that signs one-year deals and asks at each deadline to be sent to a contender. In an age when players are regularly derided for chasing the almighty buck how is it that players are being chastised for showing loyatly? I would call that ironic.

In 7 days we'll know if the Silver Fox can pour enough honey into the ears of the NTC-Leafs but I am beginning to think that it's less and less likely that these guys will be moved. Either way, it won't change how I feel about those players.

Remember to put your SPG guesses in the comments and let's hear what you think about NTCs and players declining to waive them.