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Steve Simmons: Lazy Reporter, Laziest Reporter, or Something Sinister?

What evil hides behind those glasses?
What evil hides behind those glasses?

As the sun set on the 2006-2007 season, Steve Simmons wrote a story that set of a bit of a firestorm in Toronto alleging that story that Mats Sundin's career was in jeopardy due to impending hip surgery:

Mats Sundin's future in Toronto — and his future as a National Hockey League player — suddenly is in question after it was learned yesterday that the Maple Leafs captain requires hip surgery.

According to a source in the medical community, Sundin needs surgery almost immediately to repair a hip problem, complicating his still-to-be determined contractual status with the Leafs.

Of course, that article can no longer be found on the Sun's website so you'll have to take the word of those that remember reading it that "Chicken Little" is an apt description of the one of the article. The timing of the article was suspect in itself as Mats had just completed a 20 game run that saw him put up 19 points in yet another failed bid for the playoffs. Thank God that the Globe (article not present either) did a bit more digging:

The medical source said the surgery can be postponed indefinitely and could be done after Sundin, 36, retires from hockey if pain becomes an issue.

In the end however, it was clearly the end of the line for the classy Swede though as he put up anemic offensive numbers (32-46-78) with a terrible plus/minus (+17). Or wait, what's the opposite of 'over'? Oh yeah, he was freaking awesome again. And that flashback to previous Simmons shenanigans brings us to his latest 'scoop':

The historically quiet and almost non-combative defenceman has told old friends he "can’t stand playing for Wilson" and as much as he has loved playing for the Leafs and living in Toronto throughout his National Hockey League career, even through five straight seasons out of the playoffs, he is prepared to move on because he is unhappy with the manner in which Wilson coaches the Leafs and the lack of respect he shows for the players.

"He’s had enough," a good friend said. "He’s at his wit’s end with the guy."

- Steve Simmons, March 31, 2010

Needless to say, there was some skepticism when he announced the upcoming story on Twitter last night. More after the jump on why you should take this story with a massive grain of salt:

It all started when I noticed that Kukla's had a link to Simmons' story which was then taken down. I can only assume that The Sun goofed in publishing it early because incompetence seems the most likely excuse. I headed over to his twitter page to find this teaser:

My column tomorrow - the quiet feud between Ron Wilson and Tomas Kaberle. Don't miss it.

Being the anonymous smartass that I am I wondered if there was actually anything behind this 'feud':

@simmonssteve Is this going to be like Mats Sundin's hip? Or an actual feud?

Surprisingly, Steve replied. He struggled early with twitter but he's slowly figuring it out although he still sends out tweets that are clearly meant as replies to everyone and still DM's people by accident.

@mlse Mats Sundin had a torn labrum in his hip. He saw the world's leading hip surgeon for a consult. If nothing was wrong, why do that?

The doctor Sundin saw was named Marc Phillipon. He has practiced in both Pittsburgh and Colorodo. Many athletes see him ....

Junior didn't think that this was a very good explanation:

@simmonssteve @mlse Is that seriously what that story was based on? That he saw a doctor? Isn't it possible that he saw a Dr. for the (1/2)

@simmonssteve @mlse ...same reason I see a doctor, namely "to find out if there's anything wrong"? Far cry from "retirement ensuing".

And it really wasn't a good explanation for writing a story slanted towards the worst possible outcome. He did, at least, explain a bit more about about where he received his information:

simmonssteve my source said he required surgery. that's what i wrote. my source was right about the injury, wrong about the diagnosis.

There's some sort of internet speak for the outcome that resulted from trusting just a single source and running with the worst scenario and being proven wrong but let's just agree that it's one more example of why anything reported by Simmons has to be taken with a grain of salt. "Old Friends" are probably the worst sources of information as mentioned in the good discussion in this morning's FTB. Of course, there's always the option available, at least to reporters that still attend practices and speak to the players, to ask the main players directly:

Kaberle says he's never had trouble with a coach over 10-plus years in the league.

- Chris Johnston

Wilson on Kaberle: I think our relationship is fine...Never had any issues with Tomas.

- Jonas Siegel

During Kaberle scrum Wayne Primeau played role of reporter, holding a "phony" mic - his hockey stick. Players having fun with this story.

- TonyAmbrogio200

Tomas Kaberle asked if he wants to remain Leaf next season if Ron Wilson is coach. He said "yes." This response to column he hates Wilson.

- TonyAmbrogio200

It's created such a firestorm that even Wayne Primeau is trying to get in on the action along with Jamie Lundmark. These veterans probably have a good eye for ginned up stories.

Sure, Kaberle could just be playing the PR game with his answers now but knowing what little we do of Kaberle's character and demeanour what seems more likely? That he is kvetching to loudmouth friends in an attempt to...piss Burke off and get traded to Edmonton? Or that he is taking everything in stride? Why would a player that says he wants to stay in Toronto and never leave suddenly decide to begin the process of burning bridges?

All of those questions do not even begin to address the ridiculousness of the rest of the article that looks at how a sad Tomas Kaberle could diminish the possible trade return. Keeping in mind that Brian Burke absolutely refuses to allow teams to negotiate contracts (and he nevers goes back on his word) with Leafs players before making trades leaves Simmons' supposition that trading Kaberle to a team he chooses will result in a new contract and a higher return looking foolish. If Tomas Kaberle is moved he'll go where Brian Burkes thinks he can get the best return regardless of whether Kaberle is happy or not.

Of course, there is something else that could be behind another one source story. Rumours have abounded in Toronto about who might be feeding Simmons information. One commonly heard one is that none other than Larry Tanenbaum has been Simmons' best source of story ideas primarily as a way of destabilising Richard Peddie. The Sundin story also came out at a time when the Leafs were trying to negotiate a new deal with Mats in order to lower his cap hit. Wonder if starting a story about his deteriorating health could have helped? Now the Leafs are possibly looking to move Tomas Kaberle. What better way to cushion the blow of moving a top 10 offensive defenceman [Edited To Add] for less than expected than to begin a campaign making it look like he was uncoachable? Of course, this is all essentially baseless speculation but one good turn deserves another don't you think?