Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Napoleon speaks...why should anyone listen?

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

The Stanley Cup Finals are in full swing and it hasn’t turned out to be what anyone, especially the NHL’s head office, had hoped for. The “battle for the ages” with the up and coming (young) Pittsburgh Penguins against the veteran-laden “battle-tested” (old) Detroit Red Wings has turned out to be a matchup of boys versus men – with the boys being schooled.

The Stanley Cup Finals are, for all intents and purposes, over – the chances of the Penguins winning four of the next five is a hair’s width away from zero. Naturally, the NHL brass, lead by Napoleon Bettman wants all the attention focused on the NHL’s showpiece – the Finals – but darn it all if the Maple Leafs aren’t making news (at least they are in Canada).

The NHL has had an unofficial (but really official) policy that the only news during the Stanley Cup Playoffs – especially the Finals – should be the on-ice product; major announcement should be kept until after Lord Stanley’s mug is awarded. This year, teams are ignoring that directive (yes, I think it is a directive) and making organizational moves such as firing coaches…oh yeah, and searching for a new GM. Which of course bring things back to the center of the hockey universe – Toronto – and the Leafs’ purported desire to bring Brian Burke in to run the big show.

Napoleon, so afraid that a team that hasn’t made the playoffs in three years could overshadow the Cup Finals (which isn’t as compelling as they would like to believe), took the bold step of issuing an ultimatum (albeit without mentioning them by name) on the issue of Brian Burke leaving Anaheim to run Hazel’s favourite hockey team. Mr. Bettman has threatened stiff punishment for any team suspected of, or caught, “tampering” with a player or employee under contract with another team. The punishment would range from removal of draft picks to cash penalties – or in the case of the Toronto Maple Leafs who are swimming in cash – BOTH.

The absurdity of Napoleon’s interpretation of “tampering” has been discussed here before – his interference and insistence that teams with vacancies consider Colin Campbell for a management position is laughable, as meddling in an organization’s business isn’t that far removed from tampering itself.

While Bettman’s threat is intended to uphold the sanctity of a contract in the NHL – it doesn’t take a genius to figure out that it is all about the business of the NHL and the devastating effect Burke’s departure would have on the Ducks’ franchise. One has to wonder if Bettman would be so direct in issuing a threat if it was a case of a superstar GM leaving a well established hockey market to take a job with one of the league’s fledgling franchises – in other words, a GM leaving New York to take a job with one of the Florida-based teams. You can bet that if Burke wanted to leave to rescue one of those franchises, Bettman would be supporting it to show how attractive every market is in the NHL and would be praying to his god that Burke got the job done. But as Toronto is an established market, and cash cow for the league, he wants to prevent the move from happening, as it has no additional financial benefit to the league.

Bettman has interjected himself into a situation where he has no business being involved – while there is a signed contract between Burke and the Ducks – if Burke wants to leave to take on the ultimate job in the league, who is Bettman to say anything? The issue is between Burke and the Ducks, if the ownership group in Anaheim is willing to publicly assert that they will not release an employee who would rather be somewhere else, then they should step up and say it. Burke, for his part, has spoken volumes with very few, and measured, words – having “no plans to talk to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the near future” means he wants to go, but can’t publicly say it.

The NHL’s interference in the matter has only served to make the Leafs the laughing stock of the hockey world – making them go through the motions of interviewing “potential” GM candidates, saying all the right things, while all the while having a contract ready to sign with the guy everyone knows should be running the show.

Napoleon should focus more on the problems with the league – notice how talk of awful officiating has been quashed? – and leave the business of the league to the billionaires who run it.

Brian Burke in Toronto for the beginning of the 08/09 season? Can we get a “Hell Yeah”?

Arizona over San Francisco – go with Dan Haren at home over Tim Lincecum. Lay $100 on the D’Backs - $140.

Cleveland over Chicago – Mark Buehrle’s career numbers against Cleveland are ugly. Lay $100 on Cleveland - $135.

Oakland over Toronto – “The Enigma” (aka AJ Burnett) goes for Toronto tonight – first game of a west coast swing is usually ugly for eastern teams. Lay $100 on the A’s + $105.

That’s it for today gang – thanks for taking the time to check in.

Hazel, here’s hoping things are groovy in your world.

I’m Out!


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