Wednesday, May 27, 2015
Authors Posts by Matt Mistele

Matt Mistele

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As in, Red Dawn. Get it? Yeah, I’m not a fan of the title either. It was either that or “Dallas”, but I don’t have the time tonight to write a complicated and funny Marlies metaphor piece that ends with Bobby Ewing appearing and telling us the Leafs’ disastrous previous season was all a dream. Much as I’d like to.

"We are both completely, 100% willing to negotiate 24/7. That's why we haven't for weeks."

No overall topic for today’s mashup. I could rant about how simultaneously promising/frustrating it is the NHL and NHLPA are meeting Friday but not to discuss any “core financial issues,” apparently. That’s like putting on hockey equipment to watch a game from the press box. I could push the Toronto Marlies as an awesome alternative to big club hockey this year winter fall, but everyone else is doing that, including some of the links below. I think, at this point, I’m really just rooting for the annual return of Dreger’s backyard rink.

Links after the jump!

Brian Burke is not a superhero. He doesn’t have magical powers that allow him to move faster than everyone else. He cannot use pure energy to forge amazing things out of nothing. He’s a normal man trying to do a well-intentioned job – one for which he is eminently qualified – by using the significant earthly resources at his disposal to sort out justice in an incredibly dark, cynical, and complex environment. He’s trying to build future positives from the smoldering pile of ash that was past tragedy.

Brian Burke is Batman.

Ben Scrivens
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

What’s that? Positives news out of the Leafs’ camp? I think that deserves a second consecutive post, and its own Morning Mashup! Huh? Lockwhat? Something else is going on?

The Toronto Maple Leafs signed Calder Cup run goaltender-in-chief Ben Scrivens to a two year deal yesterday, which I can’t say is definitively a “one way” or “two way” contract, because it’s both. Yup. The first year of the contract is a two-way deal, and the second year is the one way kind. It’s way less complicated than it sounds, and actually kind of a creative solution which – before yesterday – I didn’t even know teams were allowed to do.

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    (Reading Twitter): "Holy crap, Gary. These people are way more upset than we thought they were." | Photo: Toronto Star

    The biggest difference between the impending lockout and its older, nastier, 2004-born brother from a fan’s perspective (aside from the complete unnecessariness of this one), is the accessibility fans have to the larger conversation. Message boards were around in 2004, but they weren’t communal the way social media is now. We’ve all seen what @UnfollowNHLSept is trying to do with Twitter (despite a number of followers which, I’m surprised to find as I check, is considerably lower than expected) and Janne Makkonen’s viral video has certainly made the rounds.

    Concluding whether or not stakeholders like these will make a different may, in the end, be impossible. And whether or not you agree with their approach may be equally irrelevant. If nothing else, the social media reaction to this seemingly inevitable disaster will be an interesting social experiment.

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    Mike Komisarek
    Rightly or wrongly you're all just gonna say Komisarek, so...

    Vincent Lecavalier. Scott Gomez. Brian Campbell. Wade Redden. Mike Komisarek. Danny Briere. Patrik Elias. You probably don’t need me to highlight the common thread amongst these players, but I’ll do it anyways. They’re all players whose on-ice impact doesn’t, in the subjective minds of fans and pundits, reflect the salary cap hits their respective teams incur for their services. Colloquially, you call them overpaid.

    Their contracts are referred to as ‘albatrosses’, which isn’t just because of the large seabird (who probably resent the fact we’ve adopted their species’ name as a term for fat burdens), but apparently a specific allusion to a Coleridge poem. We consider them poorly conceived-of deals that are oftentimes unmovable, eating up valuable cap space and otherwise challenging their respective GMs in charge. They’re the “mistakes” Brian Burke commonly refers to his brethren making the most of on July 1st.

    Many of those executives would love to rid themselves of at least one bad contract on the payroll, and if one new wrinkle that’s emerged during these CBA discussions come to pass, they may have the opportunity to do just that.

    The potential for an “amnesty buyout” clause is an intriguing one, a provision previously seen with the NBA. In a nutshell: GMs would be allowed to select one candidate from their roster for a buyout, and while they’d still have to pay the player the full cash payout stipulated in the contract, the ensuing cap hit (like we’ve been charged for Darcy Tucker, and will be charged for Colby Armstrong), won’t exist. So, Montreal pays Scott Gomez to leave, they pay him a lot to leave, but there’s no cap hit/trace of his existence on the roster.

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    I wonder how many consecutive weeks I can keep using this picture for a Mashup. And by wonder, I actually mean, "shudder to think."

    After meeting Wednesday morning in advance of what was a scheduled 1pm start for this week’s CBA negotiations, executives on both sides (including Gary Bettman, Bill Daly, Don Fehr, and his brother Steve) elected to delay the larger talks until Thursday morning. CP’s Chris Johnston has a thorough summary of the events, including the assertion that it was a “mutual” decision.

    I’m not really sure how re-assuring this is supposed to be, especially given scrum comments from Fehr like, “You can probably sense a certain amount of frustration amongst the parties.” (Despite his quick follow-up assertion that this sort of thing is, like, totally normal at this stage of bargaining.) But news of the delay may actually be more positive than negative.

    Obviously, there has to be a reason why beginning talks yesterday afternoon wouldn’t have been advisable. I take that to mean both sides recognized a key issue (or two, or twenty) that would invariably devolve into an unproductive shouting match, and perhaps prudently though, “You know, let’s re-visit our respective sides to discuss the issue more thoroughly before convening as a group in the hopes of using the larger negotiation time more wisely.”

    "Thank you, NHL. I rarely have the opportunity to seem this friendly and appealing."

    …is what Michael Grange should have called his terrific Sportsnet article from yesterday (SPOILER ALERT: Cold water). If only because A) this whole thing’s about money, B) wuns are punderful, and 3) it’s probably what Bettman and his negotiating team screamed in frustration when Fehr didn’t fall into the baited mudslinging trap that was the NHL’s first CBA proposal.

    Grange almost gets there. He goes as far as referring to the Trojan horse myth when describing the NHLPA’s counter proposal, insinuating that it’s far more nefariously designed and player-favourable than it may seem from the limited details we’ve received. And that despite the proposal appearing level-headed and good faith-y, it will amount to little more than a fleeting gasp of fan relief in these discussions if only because it so sharply contrasted the NHL’s laughable initial offer by being, y’know, slightly realistic.

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    Cinderella story, outta nowhere, about to become a Stanley Cup Champion. It looks like a mirac...IT'S IN THE NET! IT'S IN THE NET! (Photo Credit: Getty Images)

    Update: 2012 Canada/Russia Challenge is at 11am on TSN2. Hopefully a chance for Leaf fans to see just how overly excited they should get for Morgan Rielly.

    Caddyshack is a story about a boy named Danny Noonan who lives an aimless life as a golf caddy and struggles, as we all do, to find meaning and direction at a very formative age. Despite having the talents and drive to succeed at the level he hopes and expects he’s capable of, he lacks that crucial factor which is a prerequisite for a person to achieve success in any profession: opportunity. After a series of hilarious interactions and soul-sucking observations about the superficially “successful” nincompoops around him, Danny finally utilizes his potential in a moment of opportunity to seize glory, with a little help from some exploding gopher holes.

    Thus concludes my fancy, over thought review of an American comedy classic. I’ll get to the point. Nazem Kadri’s our own Danny Noonan – high on potential, higher on drive, a shade lacking in opportunity – and the discussion about what direction his career is soon to take is a relevant one.

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    Offseason!Continuing on from yesterday’s mashup, everything is decidedly quiet in Leafland. Quiet, and kinda sad. At least, it’s been sad since I read Dangle’s piece @ TLN yesterday and reached, specifically, this sentence: “I cannot remember interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs ever being lower than it is now.” Definitive case of the “sad because it’s trues”?

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    Dropkick!
    You aren't allowed to say Alex Semin's not truculent unless you can also take down Brooks Orpik with a perfectly executed drop kick.

    There’s a multitude of jokes I could open this post with. I won’t. I’ll laugh at them in my head, sure, because I’m….8. But at the end of the day, he’s a millionaire professional athlete so whatever fun I could possibly make of him is juvenile and won’t change the fact that his life is probably way more kickass than mine. You win, Alex Semin!

    Unfortunately, you also lose, Alex Semin. Because, apparently, NHL clubs are way more hesitant to sign you than they should be. Or, than you’d think they should be, according to some Luke Fox campaigning in a Sportsnet article summarizing relevant points and quotes on Tuesday: the polar opposite of a TSN panel absolutely destroying Semin earlier this year. The variance in the MSM opinion alone suggests some legitimacy to the controversies delaying a player of Semin’s skill from signing a UFA contract.

    For a team as strapped for frontline players as the Toronto Maple Leafs, one has to ask the question (ugh, I feel dirty even channeling that sentence) of whether or not he’s worth considering. Just what are the pros and cons of Toronto acquiring this player?

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    Jonathan Bernier
    It's Jonathan Bernier. I don't really have a funny caption for it. (Dave Sandford, Getty Images)

    Much noise has been made about the Leafs’ need to change their goaltending situation this offseason. I’m choosing to phrase it like that mainly due to the vast differences in opinion about what it really seems to mean. Really, fans just collectively want to know that whatever happens, the result is an improved team. Unfortunately, that may be defined differently than an improved organization, which – at this still-relatively early and unproven stage of what must be considered a full rebuild – should be the true priority.

    Prudence really does suggest running with a James Reimer/Ben Scrivens tandem next season and seeing if one of the young goaltenders can claim the #1 starter role beyond question. Patience and public relations may prevent that from happening; if the rumors are to be believed, an outside hire for one of the slots is all but inevitable at this point.

    One name in the discussion – rumored, perhaps, far less to this point than he should have been as a candidate for acquisition by Toronto – is the Los Angeles Kings’ Jonathan Bernier. That doesn’t mean we haven’t discussed him to death. We have. I’m just wondering why he doesn’t emerge more often as the preferred choice.

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    Cujo!
    "I said yes to the Alumni game in about 15 seconds. For the next 30 minutes of the call, we talked about the NHL starting job."

    Apologies in advance for the rushed mashup, due primarily to two things: A) The distinct lack of summertime topics means we need to spread whatever discussion we can think of as thinly as possible over about 12 weeks, and B) the fact that I spent a generous portion of the night with a friend in the ER, post-rec league hockey, dealing with what I believe is a severely sprained shoulder on his part. A heartbreaking 1-0 loss in our first (and last) playoff game, too. I told him the waves of pain he was feeling made him look incredibly badass, even in defeat. He just wheezed, and didn’t seem to care. I think he was trying to say he wanted water. They got him some water.

    Anywho, two major items of newsworthiness happened in Leafland yesterday, and I can’t decide which one makes for a better Mashup topic, so here they both are.

    Chuck Fletcher
    "I learned about comically large contracts from Dad. I learned about giving them to deserving players from...not Dad." | Getty Images

    Chuck Fletcher
    "I learned about offering comically large contracts from Dad. I learned about giving them to players that deserve them from...not Dad." | Getty Images

    Fan sentiment is a strange thing. Not that I’d claim to know much about the NBA, but I seem to remember the response to Lebron James and his free agent cronies deciding to play together in Miami being… decidedly negative. Two short years later, Zach Parise and Ryan Suter – by far and away the best two NHL free agents available this summer – colluded ever so slightly to sign matching (cute!) contracts with their hometown Minnesota Wild for 13 (ha, wink!) years’ worth of probable playoff contention. It’s almost poetic. (Links after the jump)

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    PHOTO: Ghetty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.

    PHOTO: Getty Images. PLAYERS: Probably won't be Leafs.

    NHL Free Agency was, originally, to be a major component of the Brian Burke ‘rebuild’ model – or ‘retool,’ whatever you want to call it – when the Maple Leafs’ new GM arrived in Toronto. And despite perpetual inflation, it remains the surest and easiest avenue for a team to obtain top-quality players in their prime without sacrificing any organizational assets beyond cash. Factoring in the promises of a quick turnaround and transactions we shall not name, lest we incite debate involving high-end draft picks exchanged for promising young stars, free agency to the Brian Burke model becomes…well, not quite a necessity…but a really, really valuable step in getting the Toronto Maple Leafs back to the Stanley Cup finals as efficiently as possible.

    One can’t exactly say it’s worked out nicely, thus far.

    The problem, as Burke’s lamented, has been the distinct lack of premier free agents available. Teams have compensated for the league’s attempts to “liberalize” the market by locking up their talented players before they become UFAs.

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    "Hey. I totally stole this hat from Jonas' locker."

    Speaking with ESPN.com (and it’s hockey, so whether or not they were listening is up for debate), Brian Burke suggested Wednesday – and for the first time publicly, I believe – that the Leafs are prepared to enter the 2012-2013 lockout season with a goaltending tandem of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens if the price of upgrading the position doesn’t make sense. According to Pierre LeBrun, Burke’s faith in James Reimer as a potential frontline NHL goaltender remains unchanged by the events of this past season. Though Burke doesn’t address Scrivens’ eligibility directly, we’re left to believe Ben’s impressive Calder Cup playoff run with the Marlies has more than convinced the Leafs’ brass he’s ready for the challenge of an extended NHL look.

    As far as prudent rebuilds are concerned, a Reimer-Scrivens tandem may be the best thing to do. Unfortunately, the deafening sound of 91% of you disagreeing with that may well be what prevents it from happening. (Links after the jump).

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    Photo: National Post

    Brian Burke recently sat down with TVO’s The Agenda with Steve Paikin for an extensive interview entitled “The Business of Hockey”, available to watch via the TVO website (or YouTube, in case you have the same viewing problems I did with the first link).

    The conversation is 27 minutes long and covers topics we’ve heard Burke discuss before – with some of the same philosophies and sound bytes he’s previously delivered – but its best advantage, perhaps, is that we now get to see them in one contextual conversation. When evaluating the Toronto Maple Leafs’ President and General Manager, far too many fans seem to focus on player transactions within the hockey operations department as the sole admissible metric of performance. Which is a fancy way of saying they believe Electronic Arts’ NHL GM Mode captures the minutiae of the job accurately and that it never gets more complicated than compiling XP points to be exchanged for generic “medical staff” upgrades.

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    WE'RE THE DEVILS!
    We're the Devils! THE DEVILS!

    I spent most of Wednesday afternoon watching the super-extended version of Return of the King on DVD. Must have jinxed it.

    Oh, and settle a bet – what’s a better headline? The one above, or “Not so Quick, Jonathan.” Personally, I like the ‘Quick’ one – but he didn’t really have a bad enough game to warrant using it.

    David Puddy’s Devils prolonged their Stanley Cup life Wednesday night with a 3-1 victory over the Los Angeles Kings, who temporarily missed their opportunity to end a 45 year cup drought at home – and in front of celebrities! Goals from Elias (slick backhand!), Henrique (clutch snapper!), and Kovalchuk (empty net!) beat Jonathan Quick, calling into question our shared misconception that the young Kings’ goaltender was sent here from the planet Krypton by loving parents moments before his homeworld exploded.

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    This is NOT how he felt Thursday morning.

    The entire Most of the reason we watch hockey started last night, and Anze Kopitar’s overtime breakaway goal gave the Los Angeles Kings a 1-0 series lead over the New Jersey Devils. The goaltenders were – as expected – very impressive, and I’m sure there’s a joke somewhere in there about how interesting that is considering the near-generational gap that separates them. Jonathan Quick was a later-than-should-have-been-available fantasy roster pick of mine this past fall in a keeper league, and even though he’s done statistically carrying me to a championship for the year, I should probably slip in a customary gloat about it.

    I’m having trouble envisioning a scenario where Los Angeles doesn’t come away with this one. It would be a frighteningly touching swan song for Marty to backstop the Devils to a victory, though – and wouldn’t hurt whatever case Lou Lamoriello plans to make to Zach Parise contract-wise as soon as the playoffs are done.

    I’m pretty sure we’ll continue to be entertained either way. And hey – if Don Cherry keeps wearing the Beetlejuice suit, we all win. (Links after the jump)

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    Ben Scrivens
    Photo: Marlies.ca

    Which is to say, the Marlies are winning. Lots. And that’s awesome. Because if they weren’t, and this playoff run had ended weeks ago, I wouldn’t have much to talk about during these April and May Morning Mashups. Really. I never would have volunteered for “Thursday” if I’d known Wednesday was consistently the slowest NHL news day of the week after the regular season ended.

    So, kudos to the kids. And Dallas Eakins. The internet, it seems, agrees heartily with me on the Dallas Eakins part.

    (Links after the jump).