Friday, July 06, 2007

Larry, Moe and Curly

Hey Peeps and anyone else checking in. A special “Hey” goes out to Hazel Mae if she is checking in.

We’re still fuming over last night’s game between Portugal and Mexico – but we are going to put it aside, knowing an awful fate awaits Mexico when they get to the Quarter Finals…a date with Argentina; we’ll deal with Brazil when we get there.

The opening week of the NHL’s Free Agent market has had a profound impact on the Northeast division for the upcoming season. The Buffalo Sabres took a major hit losing there two best players in Briere and Drury, and a guy they counted on to step up to fill the void in Dainius Zubrus. While fans of the other four teams in the Northeast were celebrating the Sabres’ misery – we shouldn’t be fooled into thinking that this was a good thing for the division.

Will Buffalo’s losses make for a more competitive division? Yes

Do the other four teams have legit shots at competing for the division? Maybe

The Northeast is home to some of the great rivalries in the NHL – Toronto v Montreal, Toronto v Ottawa, Montreal v Boston – with three of the NHL’s Original Six, what else would you expect? Well, from our perspective a lot more than we are being given.

Toronto, Montreal and Boston still have some serious problems. Three of the NHL’s flagship franchises have serious issues in terms of ownership and management that combines to ensure a Stanley Cup isn’t on the horizon for any of us. The Buffalo Sabres are going to be worse this year – no question, but it doesn’t mean that we are any better…just “less worse” (bad grammar used for effect), and that can be attributed directly to the Three Stooges running the organizations.

Larry (Bob Gainey), Moe (John Ferguson Jr.) and Curly (Peter Chiarelli) look totally overmatched in the new NHL – from bad free agent signings in the case of Larry, to bad trades in the case of Curly, to both in the case of Moe. These men are incapable of bringing a winner to their city and fans who so desperately crave a championship – well, maybe not in the case of Boston who seem like they couldn’t care less about the Bruins and the NHL.

Gainey – the Canadiens have had a history of turning to former players in hopes that they could bring back the glory days of the Habs – Gainey was brought back from Dallas in hopes that he could erase the memories of the Habs under the likes of Rejean Houle and Mario Tremblay. Gainey had success in Dallas in the “old NHL” by building big, tough, physical teams who would grind you into dust.

Gainey’s solution to the new NHL was to draft small, quick forwards and supplement the team with free agent signings. Gainey’s other brainwave was to fire Claude Julien a couple of years ago and replace him with defensive minded former Habs center Guy Carbonneau. Makes sense – draft offensively talented, small/quick, European forwards and turn them over to a defensive specialist to show them the way.

Gainey’s ventures into the free agent market have been an abysmal failure – from flaky Alex Kovalev, who hates playing in Montreal, to Sergei Samsonov who was traded to the Hawks, to this year’s “catches” - overpaying for Roman Hamrlik and a desperation move in signing Brian Smolinski.

The Habs are a mess right now – a goulash of inadequate players who aren’t good enough to be at the top of the league in scoring and who aren’t interested enough in trying to be a good defensive team; throw in a suspect number one goalie in Cristobal Huet and you have a recipe for a fourth place finish.

Moe (John Ferguson Jr) – Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment doesn’t care who runs the team, as long as they come cheap, do what they are told, and are willing to bow before the Board of Directors to get approval on buying a bag of pucks.
Ferguson’s time in Toronto has been marked by shortsightedness and desperation. He has been the architect of some awful deadline trades, acquiring veterans who were past their prime, in hopes of getting Toronto to the promised land (in some years it was the Stanley Cup, in others just the damn playoffs). Ferguson has traded away youth and draft picks for the likes of Brian Leetch, Ron Francis, Owen Nolan and Yanic Perreault – each and every one of his trades were an abject failure. He has consistently mortgaged the future, trying to sell Leaf Nation on the premise that they were “a player or two away” from winning it all.

Ferguson’s “here and now” trades – Rask for Raycroft, draft picks for Toskala inevitably result in him offering these guys extensions without having ever played a game in a Leafs uniform. It is almost as if he is trying to convince himself, and Leaf Nation, that he made a good trade by signing these guys to an extension – when the more prudent thing would be to let them go into a year playing for a contract and open negotiations after 20-40 games. What his strategy has led to is two goalies who may or may not be number one goalies locked up for two and three years, and seemingly “un-tradeable” based on their contracts.

Ferguson’s ventures into Free Agency haven’t been much better than Gainey’s – he totally miscalculated in signing the likes of Jason Allison, Jeff O’Neill, and to an extent Eric Lindros – two guys not suited to the new quicker pace of the NHL and one who is forever getting hurt. Last year’s dive into Free Agency may have been one of the worst ever by any GM. You know how we feel about Bryan McCabe’s contract (too long, too much money, and a no movement clause to boot). Hal Gill has periods of steady play but was all too often a pilon on the ice, not being able to make the turn as guys breezed by him and to the net. The jury is out on Pavel Kubina’s contract – we’ll see how he does after a full season with Tomas Kaberle.

Ferguson had the chance years ago to bring a new mentality to the Leafs organization – one in which the team would be blown up and rebuilt on youth and solid scouting…he could have sold it to a fan base that had been waiting for over 35 years for a Cup – we’re are 40+ with more hope than when he got there.

Curly (Chiarelli) – the Bruins, much like the Habs, have had a history of turning to former players or people with New England ties to run their team. Chiarelli was given a four-year contract to turn this sad-sack franchise around. His first year can be summed up in three words “not my fault”.

Chiarelli, a former Captain of Harvard’s hockey team, came in with ZERO experience as a GM – he had worked in various lower management capacities with a few hockey teams, but was never “the man”. Curly often talks about his vision for his team – yet his decisions seem a little cross-eyed and contradictory.

We’ve said this for over a year now – the Bruins have no identity. Since day one, Chiarelli has told anyone that will listen that he wants to build a team that is tough to play against, a team that plays hard and with passion – yet he picks up the likes of Brandon Bochenski and Dennis Wideman, two one dimension players not known for their toughness or willingness to compete.

Nearing the end of last year, Chiarelli could have been a player at the trade deadline and worked to unload Glen Murray’s contract, instead, he maintained some faint hope that the Bruins would make the playoffs – though he had to know they had no shot of winning. The man who came to Boston preaching about his vision of rebuilding the Bruins future was stuck in the here and now of nowhere. The trades he managed to make were akin to putting a band-aid on a severed jugular – Andrew Ference, Chuck Kobasew, Aaron Ward and Dennis Wideman aren’t likely to be with the 2008/09 Bruins. Come to think of it, Manny Fernandez might not be either of Tuukka Rask has anything to say about it.

Chiarelli’s solution to this colossal mess that is the Bruins was to hire Claude Julien – a guy who had some success with Montreal and a lot with New Jersey. The only problem here is that this year’s Boston Bruins are a lot more like the Montreal Canadiens than the Devils. Chiarelli’s vision was to hire a defensive minded coach who will get these guys to play harder and execute – tough to do that when you don’t have the horses to carry out the coach’s wishes (see Julien’s time in Montreal – one turnaround season and then back down to where they were when he took over).

Chiarelli had four years to make a difference in Boston – he did nothing in year one, looks like he is on course to repeat that feat in year two, and might join the players he traded for as “former Bruins” in 2008/09.

So, while the Sabres are worse and the Tards might come back to earth – the NHL’s Three Stooges haven’t made us much better.

All about the Red Sox today as they pounded the DRays again.

Coco Crisp hits a grand slam and drives in five runs – you could hear the sigh of relief all the way up here.

Mike Lowell has five hits, including a home run, and drives in five – have fun at the all-star game.

Hideki Okajima is the fans’ choice to go to the All-Star game.

We recovered last night from an awful afternoon – thanks for nothing Jake Peavy. The total for the week still stands at a very respectable + $425. Today’s suggestions

Oakland over Seattle – Dan Haren got knocked around earlier this week, expect him to revert to form at home tonight against Jeff Weaver and the Mariners. Lay $100 on the A’s - $200.

Tampa Bay over Kansas City – no, this has nothing to do with the theory that Tampa has to win eventually, and everything to do with James Shields going up against Odalis Perez. Ok, maybe we are thinking that the DRays have to win eventually…but we do like the pitching matchup. Lay $100 on the DRays - $105.

San Diego over Atlanta – we’re having a tough time taking anyone going by the name of “Buddy” seriously. We expect Justin Germano to put in a solid effort at the friendly confines of Petco. Lay $100 on the Padres - $135.

That’s it for today gang – thanks for taking the time to check in for this long-winded rant. Have a great one peeps!

Hazel, I hope things are groovy in your world.

I’m Out…for an afternoon on a patio with some Guinness.


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