Thursday Morning Leafs Roundtable: I Came, I Saw, I Awakened Leafs Nation

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Photo: Getty Images

As most of you have probably already heard/seen, Tim Leiweke gave a rather incendiary interview with Bloomberg.  The written version can be found here or feel free to check out the video below:

Leiweke on NFL in Toronto, Maple Leafs ‘Winning’

“He arrived alone, bringing no staff with him from California. He took a look around. He didn’t like much of what he saw.”

Just yesterday, Cathal Kelly from the Toronto Star had the opportunity to interview Tim Leiweke and he echoed many of the points he touched upon in his interview with Bloomberg, including the ones that really polarized Leafs fans.  You know what I’m talking about; the stripping down of glory day photos from the ACC and  having the Stanley Cup parade route planned for Toronto.   As with the Bozak and Clarkson signings, I once again made it a point to survey the landscape before reacting to Leiweke’s comments on Tuesday. On the one hand, many are labeling Leiweke as arrogant and dismissive of Toronto’s storied history, while others say he’s the disruptive infusion the organization needs in order to become…*deep breath*…Stanley Cup contenders.  As a matter of full disclosure, I lean more to the latter and believe that Leiweke is the kind of leader/winner who will be instrumental in driving top-down organizational behavior that is befitting of a Stanley Cup Champion.  In reading the Toronto Star article, here are some of the reasons why I think Leiweke is the right guy for the present day Maple Leafs:

He has the personality and demeanor to be the CEO of the Maple Leafs

 “Leiweke is impressive in front of a group. One-on-one, he’s Clintonian”

“The key to this charisma is the apparent guilelessness of his enthusiasm, the easy confidence”

Whether you hated, or loved, Brian Burke, you couldn’t deny that he had charisma and brought a different tone to the organization.  Burke was a larger-than-life personality.  Most of us can only judge Leiweke based on what we’ve seen and heard over television, radio, and print media. In person, charisma and aura are things that can permeate through an entire organization and I reckon that our opinion of him would be quite different if we had the opportunity for face-to-face interaction.  “But Aaron, charisma can’t win you a Cup”. That statement is 100% correct and, thankfully for us, he won’t be lacing-up for Randy Carlyle any time soon.  MLSE didn’t bring him to to play, they brought him in because…

His vision for the Leafs is infectious

“If Chicago had one million people, Toronto will have two.”

“We’ve built more arenas and stadiums than anyone in the world, ever – including the Romans!”

After almost of decade of fruitless, and sometimes embarrassing, attempts at gaining entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Leiweke is asking us to envision a time where 2 million Torontonians will flood the streets and create a sea of blue and white throughout the city.  People are edified by the substance of their ambitions and I don’t blame Leafs fans for not seeing what he sees. However, just because our suffering has dulled our imagination doesn’t mean that thinking big is wrong or arrogant. Also, there is something to be said about someone who compares his prior accomplishments to that of the Romans. Still, a vision without action is only a dream and I think MLSE will execute because of…

His unprecedented ambition

“I asked (Rogers CEO) Nadir (Mohammed) and (Bell CEO) George (Cope), ‘If I came to you with David Beckham, would you let me sign him?’ And they said, ‘Yes’.”

“Then I said, ‘If that’s the case, then why haven’t you?’ And they said, ‘Because no one ever asked.’ And that was it.”

“That’s his M.O. – the big splash. He isn’t a builder. He’s the guy who stages the place before the open house.”

The David Beckham comment is the most telling. This may be a soccer example but it tells you something about ownership’s eventual impression of Brian Burke. Please note, I don’t mean to say that Burke wasn’t ambitious.  If anything, I have always sung his praises for how he was able to salvage a substantial amount of value from the scrap pile he inherited in 2008, and how he subsequently built the organizational depth back to respectability. You, however, cannot deny that Brian Burke was not stubborn and unwilling to fully exploit MLSE’s financial advantage. Remember the 5-year contract rule? Championship teams are built through a combination of internal development and synergistic free agency additions.  Often times, Burke’s self-imposed rules priced us out of the running for big name players. I’m not saying that back-loaded, deep-sea diving, 15-year contracts are acceptable for the Leafs, but we were never really swinging for the fences either. Fast forward to the signing of David Clarkson, probably the most sought-after free agent this summer and this is the first time the Leafs have really shown a willingness to pay top dollar for, what management deems as, a key player going forward. No disrespect to Burke, but if he were still the Leafs’ GM, we wouldn’t be contemplating 7-year contracts for free agents.

– –

Here’s what some of our writers had to say. Also, Michael Langlois from Vintage Leaf Memories was kind enough to join us for this week’s round table.

“We likely need to draw a distinction between these incessant “ceremonial” events that MLSE seems to construct every few games, as well as the in-game video tributes to former players and all that.  If the organization wants to dial that stuff down, I’m fine with that.  I’ve said before that if they want to truly honour the old-time great teams, invite (at no cost) older fans to attend an event at the ACC or wherever on a non-game day/night.  (We oldsters might prefer daytime!) You might only draw a few thousand people, but every single person that did attend would actually be there to honour the former players and teams.  We know those players and have such fond memories of them and of those really good Leaf teams. When they host these events at the ACC on a game-night, the vast majority of the people in the stands (those that bother to sit in their seats) don’t have a clue who some of the old players are, and just want the game to start.  It’s a waste of everyone’s time.  That’s not “honouring” players.

 But when it comes to taking down pictures, I don’t get that at all.  Whether we’re talking about photos from the ’50s or the ’90s, those photos are part of Leaf lore, and more importantly, those great old-time players are an integral part of the Maple Leaf legacy.

Were it not for those players and coaches (and the success the franchise did have at times from the 1930s under Conn Smythe to the ’60s under the ownership of Stafford Smythe) does anyone really believe people would still care about the Leafs?  They built such a fantastic heritage that, despite 45 plus years without a Stanley Cup, the team is still relevant today. In fact, probably more popular in a sense than ever. This new guy talks like he invented the concept of “change”, “winning” and all that.  How much did this individual really have to do with the success of the Lakers, Kings or Galaxy?  C’mon.  He was not the GM, not the coach, not the owner, not a scout.   The Leafs don’t need to change their culture.  They just need to win.  Perhaps this guy will learn that what will impress most Leaf fans is running a classy organization, one that respects and truly honours the past, and also wins games-and championships – now. Some fans seem to see these Leiweke comments as some kind of welcome breakthrough.  I’m trying to understand that perspective but I’m struggling to.

For me, his bold proclamations are the same old thing we’ve been hearing for years.  Culture of change, excellence, winning…” -Michael Langlois (@VintageLeaf)

“The Toronto Maple Leafs are a franchise with a very deep history and the fans have an almost equally long memory. When Leiweke said, “I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962. Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.” My initial reaction was, “fucking right.”  I might get a lot of flak for saying this but, I love the balls that Tim Leiweke has. I’m sure that my view on this might be due to my young age, (the Leafs I grew up with were Sundin, Domi, Tucker and Kaberle) but I think it’s pretty easy to get mired in Toronto’s history and it’s refreshing to hear that it’s healthy to move on and forge a new legacy.

I’m not a big football or soccer fan so those elements of the article weren’t particularly interesting to me, though I do enjoy Leiweke’s candour when speaking to the damage that has been done to the brands and the failings of the teams. His ambitious goal to double the company’s value in 5-7 years and his estimation that 30% comes from winning is also heartening to hear and seems consistent with what we had  previously heard about creating a winning mentality and erasing “blue and white disease” from Burke.

The exciting part of Leiweke is that he seems like he understands that Toronto has resources at its disposal that put it in an advantageous position relative to other teams. Things like having excellent facilities, an in-city AHL team, and developing desired staff (whether it’s coaches, general managers, video guys, etc.) are areas where Toronto can flex its financial muscle, and has recently. I like hearing that Leiweke understands that and seemingly plans to exploit those advantages. ” –Taylor Wright (@Taylor_Wright)

“There’s a fundamental difference between hoping for success and planning for success. People who consistently achieve success do the latter. Lieweke’s comments are being blown out of proportion. He’s not saying we should ignore the Leafs’ history, he’s saying the brand – as it currently stands – is far too reliant on it. I do not disagree, at all.

Look at the New York Yankees. They revere their history, but the modern-day team has achieved success by being defined by a modern-day core of players. We still talk about Darryl Sittler’s 10-point game like it was yesterday. We roll out Wendel Clark to forcibly push the idea that a recently-acquired player (however good he may be) is even close to a comparable. The Yankees remember Babe Ruth, but they don’t build PR and Marketing campaigns around him. That is what Lieweke means.

He’s saying we can’t step into tomorrow with our feet firmly planted in yesterday. He’s not wrong. We’ve been doing that for a long time, now – and haven’t achieved a morsel of success. Move forward.” –Matt Mistele (@TOTruculent)

“My thoughts on MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke are fairly simple. He’s certainly brought the type of overwhelming self-confidence and bluster not seen since Brian Burke departed seven months ago, albeit in a much more significant executive role.  Similarly to Burke, Leiweke is coming to Toronto after  earning his sports management laurels in California.  At the helm of Anschutz Entertainment Group, he guided the LA Lakers, Galaxy and Kings to a combined 9 titles during his tenure.  He’ll be given a wide berth from ownership, and has already hinted at his desire to make major player acquisitions to build a winner.  But, much like Burke, pedigree is no indicator of future success; and he’ll soon find that bravado and bull shit ahead of failure will tire in this city quickly.As to his parade planning, two things.  Firstly: what, did you expect the guy with 9 championships to be meek? Secondly: how many people would have eaten that line up if it had come from Brian Burke in November of 2009?And on the topic of the photos being taken down? Grow up.  If the Toronto Maple Leafs have to stretch and further back into history to find someone to praise, they’ll be rolling coffins onto the ice.  The Leafs don’t even play in the same home rink as they did when they won all their Stanley Cups, and you’re getting upset over Leiweke taking down some photos on the way to the dressing room in the ACC? C’mon, Maple Leaf Gardens is LITERALLY a grocery store now, and you think this picture nonsense is sacrilege? Give your head a shake.Now, all this said… has he made the right choice to place so much confidence in Dave Nonis? The answer is beyond us until October, but it’s possible.  I’m also not a fan of his blatant nepotism hires in the acquisition of Troy Bodie.  Seriously, who wants their son-in-law to live in the same city as him, as well as pay for the move? Guy might not be dealing from a full deck.” –Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)

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A graduate student at Columbia University, Aaron is defined by a love of nature, an intense interest in finance, and a passion for the Blue & White. Toronto born and raised, earliest Leaf memories include emulating Joe Bowen calls and carpet mini-stick during HNIC. Former D1 NCAA Tennis player. Aaron can be found on Twitter at https://twitter.com/mapleleafmuse.
  • Optimustic

    I don’t know if TL is the man to bring LSC to Toronto or not, but I don’t have any choice but to hope that he is.  Here’e to the future of the TML.  I’ll never let go of the past though —- Too much glory and respect —  Until the last while the boys deserve to be honoured.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Michael Langlois nailed it.

    • Optimustic

      Alec Brownscombe I agree, “those great old players are an integral part of the Maple Leaf legacy” .  And, yes we’ve heard the bold proclamations before, I think he was reffering to Burkie mostly.

    • Greg Fenton

      -Keon- He isn’t removing history. He is taking some of the pictures that are constant reminders of the past to put more of a focus on the present.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    I don’t know why Burke is getting this rep as if he wasn’t willing to make a big splash, though.
    How many blockbusters has that guy pulled off? Maybe the reason why he didn’t sign a crazy long term deal is because, when he was in office, there was nobody who for whom he could justify the risk.
    Tough to say if he would’ve signed Clarkson at that term. I lean toward yes.

    • Optimustic

      Alec Brownscombe Clarkson was his type of player so you could be right,  I’m not sure about that though.   One thing for sure is that he would have tried.

    • Greg Fenton

      Alec Brownscombe First, we have no idea how good or bad Richards would have been here. He might have clicked with Kessel and/or Lupul and had back to back 80 point seasons. Second, if Burke got his way Richards would be a Leaf, for 3 or 4 less years but at a much higher cap hit. Its not as if Burke has some great foresight that kept him from signing Richards. He had a set of self-imposed rules which prevented him from getting the player he wanted.

    • Greg Fenton

      -Keon- If the rules allow it, how it is cheating the system? The NHL didn’t like that the rules allowed it, but they did. And he did try sign Richards. He did try to trade for Mike Richards, who is locked up until 2020 on a sliding scale contract. 
      Its not as if he just avoided those contracts all costs or anything. He was never in a position to have to give one out (if Kessel had wanted a 15 year contract who he was goign to walk, do you think Burke would have let him go?), and missed out on the players he wanted who were either on those kinds of contracts or who would have demanded them.

      • Greg Fenton

        -Keon- No, but if Burke had his way Brad Richards would be a Leaf right now with an 8.5 or 9 or 9.5 cap hit. And he wasn’t so against the contracts that he didn’t try to trade for a couple players on them. 
        I’m just saying holding Burke as some example of a GM with great foresight who saw what was coming or great integratey who refused to do something that was wrong is really looking back with rose coloured glasses.

      • Greg Fenton

        -Keon- Except for when he tried to sign Brad Richards to a huge contract and tried for trade for Mike Richards how is on one of those long term contracts……

      • Greg Fenton

        -Keon- Also, its not integrity when you don’t do something because you think you be punished for it down the line. Thats avoiding punishment, which is the opposite of integrity. 
        And if he knew Mike Richards contract was against the spirit of the CBA, why would to aquire him? Why endorse the contract by bringing into the fold? Why not avoid it because you know/think it will come back to hurt you in a few years? If he has his great foresight about Brad Richards, why offer him a huge contract, with a big cap hit? 
        Burke did some good things with the Leafs and screwed them up a bit. I’m just not a fan of attributing things to him in hindsight that he clearly didn’t have.

      • Bobsyouruncle

        Greg Fenton -Keon- Burke didn’t think Mike Richards contract was against the spirit of the CBA.   
        “The term isn’t the issue. Mike Richards’ deal and Rick DiPietro’s deal — there’s no issue there. There’s no back diving, there’s no cap saving and they’re guys that can be reasonably expected to play until that point in time”

  • Dink

    This topic is filed in my “who gives a shit” file

  • mlclearwater

    I like Tim, lets give him some time. No offence but this article is boring.

    • Optimustic

      mlclearwater I like the article enough, maybe it just seems boring because the last one was so interesting.   It was a really good interview, and we only seem to get them in the summer in either this form or in the Leafs Annual that used to come out in August or September.

  • dlb eh

    BURKE’s 5 YEAR CONTRACT RULE
    was for OLD guys.
    seems he was right about Richards and Kovalchuk.
    there’s NO evidence to suggest he wouldn’t resign Kessel or any other young star to a long contract.
    there’s no certainty to whether or not Burke would have offered Clarkson the same contract Nonis did.  it would have been ONLY a question of whether or not he felt the player would have still been a worthy contributor on the latter years of the contract.  i’d bet Burke would have taken the chance on Clarkson.  there’s no guarantee.  ask him.
    but i hate reading stuff that’s only half true, sorry.

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      -Keon- Exactly, he hated those back-diving deals that were designed for cap circumvention. He couldn’t compete against teams that offered them, or I should say he chose not to compete. Time has shown he was correct for the most part.

    • Greg Fenton

      dlb eh Also no evidence he would have resigned them to a long term contract. If we go by his words and actions, I think its reasonable to assume/conclude that he wouldn’t have gotten into a long term contract with anyone. For example, I dunno if he woul dhave given Kessel a 15 year contract under the old system.  
      As for Clarkson and the 7 years, the landscape changed, that might have changed how Burke did things. Ultimately we don’t know, and Burke probably doesn’t know.

    • Cameron19

      -Keon- It didn’t seem to matter how many times he explained his stance, almost no one understood him.

  • Faalcon

    Alec,
                 Very good interview with Cronin. Well done.

  • .JVR.

    I may have gotten too much sun/heat the past few days, but what does everybody think about possibly bringing in Jagr?

    He’s over 35, so he could technically sign a deal with a base salary of $600K and then have $5 million in different bonuses, much like the deal Iginla signed with Boston.

    His cap hit for this season would only be $600K and any of the bonuses he reaches would go against the cap next year and it’s gonna be going up anyway.  It’d definitely suck if he reached all his bonuses and we were stuck with a $5 million cap hit next season and no player, but that’s a chance I’d be willing to take:

    JVR   –   Bozak   –   Kessel
    Lupul   –   Kadri   –   Clarkson
    Kulemin   –   Bolland   –   Jagr
    McLaren   –   McClement   –   Orr
    (Colborne, D’Amigo, Ashton)

    • dlb eh

      .JVR. 
      NO

    • dlb eh

      .JVR.
      give Manny Molhotra a chance along with the Marlies to battle McLaren for his 4th line position (and i’m fine if McLaren wins it)
      Jagr’s position there is for a Marlie or a player we haven’t even considered yet
      Manny has size and speed and was once great at faceoffs and making the smart plays.  what is he now?  i vote we take the chance on him.

      • .JVR.

        dlb eh
        If nobody else is brought in, I wouldn’t mind seeing Malholtra signed to centre the fourth line, with McClement on the wing with Bolland and Kulemin.

        • rustynail

          .JVR. dlb eh he can’t see

    • Optimustic

      .JVR. I’d rather do it with ” our own team”  Bringing in Jagr, reminds me of the days when we kept trying to win by bringing in veterans that used to be great.

      • Greg Fenton

        Optimustic .JVR. No team does it with 100% home grown talent. 
        I don’t think bringing in Jagr is the right move, he doesn’t strike me as the kind of veteran you want in a leadership role or anything, but bringing in a payer like that is no different then bringing in Clarkson. They are/would obvisouly be brought in to serve different purposes, but still bringing in veterans players to try to win. 
        If it was Iginla, I’d be all for the move.

        • Optimustic

          Greg Fenton Optimustic .JVR. IU agree that no team wins with all home grown talent, but we used to try bringing in too many players that were at the end of their careers and had little left to offer.  I’m not sure about Iginla, but I like the addition of Bolland, and the addition of Clarkson for the short term.   Once in a while bringing in an older player is great, but we’ve done it too often in the past.

        • Greg Fenton

          Optimustic Greg Fenton .JVR. Absolutly. The Leafs are still a team build on trades and UFA signings. And building around 33+ year old UFA”s isn’t how they should try to win. But ignoring all players 32 or older is bad as well. This team needs/could use 1, 2 or 3 33+ year old veteran players. 
          7 years of Clarkson isn’t short term. Kids who are born now will be in 2nd grade when that contract is up.

        • Optimustic

          Greg Fenton Optimustic .JVR. I agree that Clarkson’s isn’t a short term contract, I meant that I like it for the first 3 or 4 years, after that, we may ( or may not ) like the cap hit.  It depends on how he’s playing at the time and what happens to the cap by then.  It the cap rises significantly then it could be OK still.  If it doesn’t rise by much and Clarkson is injured often or not playing well, then we may regret the term of the deal.

      • .JVR.

        Optimustic
        Oh, you mean the years where this team actually had success in the playoffs and made it to the Conference Finals?

        You’re right, that would be horrible!

        • Optimustic

          .JVR. Optimustic We bought limited success most of them years, and were not usually considered legit contenders for the cup.  Even in 93 I don’t think the Leafs were expected to go as far as we did.

        • theacs1966

          Optimustic .JVR. No one thought they would get by Det in the first round.

        • Optimustic

          theacs1966 Optimustic .JVR. Thats what I felt, if you remember the final four teams that year were TML, LAK, NYI, and the Habs.   None of them were top two in their devision so once they got past the first round most of the best teams were eliminated.

        • theacs1966

          Optimustic theacs1966 .JVR. They were down 0-2 to Det going back to the Joe.  They had no business winning that series.  Det and PItt went down in the first round, it was wide open after that.

    • Dink

      .JVR. Jagr will go to highest bidder anyway, it is his modus operandi

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      .JVR. Would rather take a flyer on Brunner, he’s young and fits into the stable of young players the team is assembling. If they had to bring in a vet, Cleary would also be a good choice IMO.

    • Pent_House

      .JVR. That’s not how it works for the cap-hit. All the bonuses are on the cap-hit, you have to have that cushion. No thanks to Jagr any way

      • .JVR.

        Pent_House
        Nope, I believe the “cushion” is above and beyond the cap and doesn’t count against it this year.
        If he reaches the bonuses, then the hit goes towards the cap next year.

    • mcloki

      Love Jagr,but no he should retire gracefully.

  • jcg_4

    Just what we need, another loud mouth; we don’t put up with ” I ” guy’s on the team; why do we have them in leadership. This idiot has come in a the perfect time; our team is on the upswing and when they win people are going to think it’s cause this moron  pissed on our history…f//k him and the arrogant horse he rode in on

    • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

      jcg_4 I’m more than willing to give the guy a chance, but he’s pissed me off with his attitude about the franchise history and the wave of proclamations about what he’s going to do. I prefer “show me” types vs. “tell me” types.

    • NotInsane

      jcg_4 
      Calling him an idiot smacks of jealousy.  He’s clearly smart.  Don’t think he pissed on our history; he just took down some pictures in a hallway for players.

  • NotInsane

    Great article, Michael.
    I have no problem with nepotism so long as the person is competent.  Think Blake Geoffrion got a job as a scout with Columbus because of his SAT scores? 
    Who doesn’t want their son-in-law in the same city?  I’d be keeping a close eye on my little girl… especially when the son-in-law is a 6’5 beast of a man.  Damn!