Stopping The Spin

Is this J. Jonah Jameson?

For the uninitiated, the man in the picture is Damien Cox of the Toronto Star. He does a weekly mailbag where he answers his most obsequious readers’ questions. We don’t have enough readers here to run our own mailbag so we’ll borrow Cox’s questions. I’m sure he won’t mind. He’ll be glad to know that I don’t bother reading his answers to these questions. If you’re interested, you can read his answers here. Mine are over the jump.


Hi Damien, I really enjoyed your blog, ‘Leafs can’t win for winning’. It brought this question to mind.

Glenn Healy made a big gaff while commenting during the Leafs/Habs game. He had a chart on the TV screen showing how Edmonton has the most turnovers in the league and Toronto was second. He said, "you can understand Edmonton having those turnovers, their a young team".

What, did I hear that right ? With Aulie in the lineup and Lebda out the Leafs are the youngest in the league.

My question is, why is there a perception out there that because Edmonton has chosen to build through the draft that it is a better way or the ‘right’ way and what Burke is doing(building through trades, signings and the draft) is wrong ?

John Fava, North Bay

Well John, you did hear correctly. Glenn Healy is a horrible analyst. In this case his lack of preparation really shone through. Edmonton has definitely chosen the rebuilding fashion that conventional wisdom decrees is the way to go about the process. Of course, they found religion after a couple of years of trying to win resulted in laughably bad results.

Much has been written about how Brian Burke’s process has deviated from the accepted norm. As to whether one way or the other is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’, we’ll have to wait for a few years yet before judging it. Even then, unless one team achieves the ultimate confirmation – a Stanley Cup – the debate will rage forever.



The Maple Leafs are the most expensive team to see in the NHL. A decent seat is well over $100, but I hear you can go to a game in Tampa for $8. My friend actually priced out going to see the Leafs when the played in Florida recently. The whole trip for two games was less than a pair of Platinums at the ACC. How can this be? Are we subsidizing these teams through equalization payments? Are Leaf fans the biggest suckers in the world?

Greg Woods, Ajax

No Greg, you’re just clueless about economics. In your world you’d call people that have a food court lunch for $12 morons because you could get a meal for pennies in China. It’s simple economics that items that are more in demand are more expensive. The Leafs have more fans and corporations after their tickets so they can charge the highest prices in the league. You did manage to get one thing right: the Maple Leafs are subsidizing a number of their competitors through their financial success.


Hey Damien,

Really enjoyed your blog on the youth hockey charity you covered. Have a website or link that I could donate to over the holidays?

On to my hockey related question, I know his contract is ugly, but would the Leafs have any interest in going after Vinny Lecavalier? Experienced centreman who could provide some stability and leadership up front for the young players.

Frank Elia, Mississauga


Here’s the blog post the reader is referring to and here’s Damien’s response for this one in case you’re interested:

If you want to support the Hockey Academy you can contact Kent Yee, the principal at Wedgewood Junior Middle School in Etobicoke, or the convenor Bob Poldon at

As for Lecavalier, a quick look at his CapGeek page reveals two things: his cap hit is $7.7M for nine more seasons and his production is falling off. The Maple Leafs already have an albatros deal with Mike Komisarek and his three remaining seasons at $4.5M. Imagine having a bad contract three times as long and for almost twice as much money. In short, this is a terrible, terrible idea.


Damien, Love the blog and your insights. One area that has caught my eye in the past number of Leaf games, is the number of goals scored by all the teams using a wrist shot vrs the slap shot. So far my count is 34 wrist vrs 7 slap. It is obvious that the control of the accuracy is far greater with a wrist shot but I don’t know how much power is lost. It seems some players ( especally Kaberle ) would not get their shots blocked so often if they snapped off a quick wrist shot rather than telegraph a slow wind up to a slap shot. Your thoughts??

Bob Mayhew, Lindsay


There’s a good discussion on wrist shots versus slap shots in this post. Slap shots have their place but like you pointed out they are much easier to block or deflect. New composite sticks have made wrist and snap shots faster than ever which means the shooting area that comprises "unstoppable shots" has grown.


Hi Damien, firstly I love to read your blogs and your topics are very interesting. I saw The Reporters on TSN this sunday and it looked like you are most probably going to vote for Sidney Crosby for Lou Marsh Award this year. But don’t you think this year winner should be an Olympic athlete like Christine Nesbitt? As Steve Simmons said she has dominated her sport for 2010. For Crosby 2010 was good only when it came to Olympics not for NHL although he has been good this year in NHL but he still has 52 games left to prove his point! Plus he won the award last year so I would really like to see somebody other than him win it. I would also like to point out Meagan Agosta as other nominee as women’s hockey is rarely recognized in Canada which I find very surprising. One more olympian would be Jon Montgomery as this year has been pretty fantastic for him as well. After pointing out these facts would you still choose Crosby as your vote. One more question what is your favourite NHL team?

Nidhi Patel, Toronto

Sidney Crosby is the best player in a massive sport. A vote for him would not have been wasted. Duane Rollins had a good piece on how the Lou Marsh is awarded during Olympic years. This year’s winner was Joey Votto who was more than deserving of the award.


Hi, Damien:

I have a couple questions. First, Carl Gunnarsson seems to be struggling this year (his second pro season) just like Luke Schenn was struggling last season (his second pro season). I also note that Gunnarsson this year is getting about the same amount of icetime that Schenn got last year. Do you think Gunnarsson has gradually been improving and do you see him eventually breaking out of his struggles as Schenn did by the end of last season?

Second, this past August, Burke said that he had four plus "legitimate" offers (whatever that means) for Kaberle, but in the end decided to keep him. Do you think the offers were not "legitimate," the offers never existed, or that Kaberle agreed to a limited waiver of his no trade clause to keep from being traded to a team where he did not want to play? I am having a hard time believing that Burke would resign him, but I am also having a hard time believing that he would let him go at the end of this season for nothing, even if means the Leafs get to hoard more cap space.

John Hunt, Harvard, Massachusetts

Gunnarsson hasn’t had that bad of a year. He’s come back a bit as expected for a player that benefitted a lot from the percentages last year. This year his PDO is .960 whereas last year he was over 1.000. He’s scoring at even strength at the same rate as Dion Phaneuf and just behind Luke Schenn and Tomas Kaberle. He just isn’t playing as many minutes this year and has been a healthy scratch on occasion because the bottom pairing is so interchangeable. 

He has been the best defenceman on the team in terms of finishing shifts in the offensive zone. He starts 50.8% of his shifts in the offensive zone but ends 55.9% of them in the offensive zone. He’s the only Leafs defenceman that is over 50% by that metric. I think I’d chalk up his decreased production to a decrease in opportunity as much as the struggles of a young defenceman. He’s only played 65 games as a professional. I think you can probably assign some of the blame for Gunnarsson’s ‘regression’ to overhyped expectations.

As for Kaberle, I have no idea what will happen with him. I don’t think Burke is a liar but I do think that ‘legitimate’ might have some caveats attached to it. I’ve been assuming that the Kaberle saga will just end in tears. I hope I’m wrong but I think Burke’s mishandled it from the beginning. Only time will tell of course.


Hey Damien,

I’m wondering why Burke hasn’t gone out and got a 4th line center man that is a defensive specialist. I think the last attempt was JFJ picking up Jamal Mayers and that experiment didn’t turn out so well, but since the leafs are horrible on taking draws and even Brent isn’t that great defensively and doesn’t put himself in the way of the shot often. I know Ryan Johnson’s out there but I suspect he is pretty beat up after last year. Can’t hurt the penalty kill and it helps to have that faceoff man in the dying minutes of a lead (if the leafs ever can get one).

Also wondering about Clarke MacArthur. He is scoring and adds some grit, but can be questionable defensively. He’s worth 1.1 million, but is he worth the 3-4 million he will be asking at the end of the season considering he doesn’t exactly play inspired hockey? I’d love to keep him and trade Grabo, but I don’t see anyone picking up his salary and someone has to be moved if we ever get that big top 6 forward.

Andrew Pawlowski, Toronto

Brian Burke definitely did not do enough to ensure that he had a centreman able to win draws and eat tough minutes. Mikhail Grabovski has done well in every other facet but he’s still not good at winning face-offs. Ryan Johnson would have been an interesting signing if only to see Don Cherry pump his tires every Saturday night.

"Doesn’t exactly play inspired hockey’? Add that to your desire to see Grabovski traded and I question your hockey knowledge. Frankly, a GM that wouldn’t be willing to trade for Grabovski at $2.9M is likely a terrible GM. MacArthur’s next contract is a tough call. He is an RFA so the Leafs can use that leverage to get him another below market deal so that they can see if this season is a flash in the pan or if he is legitimately a top six forward. As for moving someone, let’s cross that bridge when we come to it.


Hi Damien,

First off I just wanted to mention that I enjoy the mailbag each week and to keep up the great work. My issue surrounds the play of Leaf rookie Nazem Kadri since his call-up from the Marlies a number of weeks back. My understanding at the time was that this was done out of necessity due to injuries on the big club and not necessarily due to his stellar play or progress in the minors. I have really tried to watch Kadri specifically when the Leafs are on TV and I have to admit that what I see on the ice leads me to believe he needs more time in the minors for a number of reasons. He is still quite weak defensively in his own zone, most notably when they play him at centre. He also seems to coast a lot on his back checks especially towards the end of a shift (I know he isn’t the only one but as a rookie you’d think the effort would be there 100% of the time). But the biggest reason I feel he needs to go back down to the AHL is that he is far too easy to knock off the puck. Countless times each game he has the puck in the corners or crossing the blue line, and defenders simply challenge him and physically remove him from the play almost effortlessly. Some more time in the minors and another off-season dedicated to getting stronger is required in order for him to be any sort of consistent threat at the NHL level. I know there are much smaller players that have had solid careers but they usually are very strong in their legs and difficult to knock off the puck (ie: Martin St Louis), both are attributes that Kadri seems to be lacking at this point in his career. I’d like to get your take on this and how you think the rest of this year will go for him.


Matt Kalagian, St Catharines

Nazem Kadri obviously is far from the finished article. His call-up was definitely more a result of the team needing to shake things up than a result of him outgrowing the AHL. The defensive issues you’ve raised are the same ones that Ron Wilson harps on. It’s funny that fans will admit it but when Wilson brings it up he’ll get pilloried. Kadri is a rookie and the plays where he is losing the puck tend to be junior-style plays. Kadri has made some progress and shown a willingness to improve so I have a lot of hope that he’ll make the adjustments that are necessary.