Ah, the first day of UFA season.
If the NHL trade deadline is the equivalent of Christmas and the draft is a significant birthday, then July 1 is like finding a long forgotten wad of $20 bills in an old pair of jeans just as you're heading out on the town with your best mates.
Some will see this windfall as a bonus to be metered out responsibly. Others will throw their money around but watch the talent go home with somebody else. And a few others will awake to find their pockets empty, their memories hazy and their stomach twisting as they realize that there’s a sleepy Jason Blake is in their kitchen wearing nothing but a Leaf jersey while making some eggs and announcing that the moving truck has arrived with all his stuff. Let’s hope Burke acts responsibly these next few days…
After the jump, this week's five questions:
There was some discussion this week as to the top five worst post-lockout trades (I can only conclude Gainey was so inspired by that fanpost that he made his pitch to Sather accordingly).
Given that this is the start of the silly season, I thought it was only fitting that we turn our attention to bad UFAs contracts. For full effect, I think we need to consider term, cap hit, performance (past and potential), cost of buy-out and how much you hated the player to begin with.
1. What’s the worst post-lockout UFA signing?
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Speaking of bad UFA signings, I have the feeling that one or two of Burke’s potential free agent signings might cause a stir amongst Leaf fans, a group who can’t seem to agree on much these days. Consider, Todd Bertuzzi is in Toronto as we speak...
2. Looking at the list of potential UFAs, what is the one deal you don’t want Burke to make this free agency season? Is there a signing that’s so malodorous that you’d question your support of the Leafs?
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There are certain words that seem to only exist in type. Words that you rarely, if ever, hear spoken in the course of normal conversation yet encounter on the printed page or computer monitor. I’m thinking of words like "thus" "hence" or "ergo." For what it’s worth "tumescent" is another word that I’ve never heard a person say, a happenstance I’m hoping to keep alive for a good long time.
One word that pops up in the sports pages, which I don’t think I’ve ever heard a hockey fan say aloud, is "élan." It’s a great word and it’s often used to describe the type of player that brings Montreal Canadiens fans out of their seats. Think Kovalev when he’s really on his game, former great Jean Beliveau or Guy Lafleur. I think it’s safe to say that fans of the blue, blanc, et rouge love them a talented guy who brings a little extra elegance on the ice.
Conversely it seems Leaf fans love their "pick and shovel" men, as Burke so recently put it.
In the horrific 1980s, Wendel Clark personified the Leafs and remains an all-time Leaf fan favourite. Other blue collar guys like Lou Francescetti and Brad Smith drew fan support that was inversely proportionate to their skill level. It seems odd to me that Leaf fans can love and support Tie Domi while never seeming to warm to Mats Sundin or Alex Mogilny.
Darcy Tucker is still loved even though his declining skills and subsequent buy-out will be carried by this team for years to come.
Gilmour was the quintessential Leaf as he’s one of the few that combined these intangibles with unquestionable talent.
I think this bias for lunch bucket guys shows in the adulation for Luke Schenn and in the polarized reaction to the drafting of Nazem Kardi ahead of Jared Cowen.
I don’t think it’s a nationalism thing so much as it’s cultural or team by team phenomenon. Flyers fans love their bullies, the Oilers like skating and speed.
3. Do you think fanbases have a tendency to prefer a style of play or a type of player? Do you think Leaf fans have a tendency to value hustle and hard work ahead of skill?
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4. When the Leafs ultimately win, do you think the victory will be all the more sweeter because of the drought and all the crap Leaf fans have been through? Or do you just want to win the cup and to hell with anything deeper?
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My love of all things Leaf can be traced back to the early 1970s.
As a kid I played soccer and baseball well into high school. The sound of Mel Allen (the baseball broadcaster, not the master of cartoon voices) or the closing theme to This Week in Baseball transports me back to a time of Pittsburgh Pirate pillbox hats and a fever for all things Willie Stargell.
To spite my father and his support of Joe Theisman and the Red Skins I cheered on the New York Giants.
But basketball was completely foreign to me as a kid. Totally off the radar.
I never played an organized game of basketball until my last year of high school and I don’t know that I ever watched a match until I was in university.
The NCAA final four was likely my first exposure to the sport. I lived with a guy who loved the Duke Blue Devils and another friend was all about the Syracuse Orangemen. I watched the games, learned the players, and lost my money on several brackets, but my knowledge of the sport remained rudimentary at best.
We’d play three on three games on weekends in the lot of the local high school or go shoot hoops to help ward off a hangover (I don’t think it worked) but still I struggled with most elements of the game. Except the trash talking.
If there was one part of sport I enjoyed no matter what game we were playing, talking smack was it.
Once, during a heated game of three on three, I unwisely called one of my opponents "A Dutch boy in the paint."
The game came to a sudden stop.
Puzzled looks were exchanged.
I was asked to repeat what I’d just said.
"Dutch. Boy. In. The. Paint."
It seemed pretty simple to me. I’d heard it a million times in the background of college basketball games and had never really thought much about it other than it rolls off the tongue beautifully, especially if you say it snidely to an opponent.
Say it with me: You Dutch boy in the paint.
It’s certainly not something I’d want to be called.
What I didn’t realize was Dutch Boy is an actual brand of paint and a sponsor of the NCAA.
Dutch Boy in the paint, it turns out, was no smack talk at all it was actually part of an intermission stats segment on rebounding sponsored by Sherwin Williams Dutch Boy paints.
In was the equivalent of calling someone the Home Hardware Home Town Hero or a Got Milk Rookie.
Some 18 years later my friends still bring this up.
I have learned my lesson and simplified things greatly. When engaging in trash talk my preferred epithet is now "cock breath."
Many of my opponents, thinking themselves enlightened, will quickly ask me how I know what cock breath smells like. The easy answer is "I hang out with your mother."
5. Do you ever engage in a little on-ice/on-field/on-court smack talk, and if so, what’s your insult of choice?