Open Response To Donald S Cherry


Hey Don, its your bud Alex speaking. I don’t actually go by Alex any more; when I found out it was actually my middle name at the age of five, I decided that was stupid and asked to switch to Jeff full time. It was probably for the best, really. Alexler doesn’t roll off the tongue as well. In any event, I’m still a good Canadian boy from Tronna who watches Hockey Night In Canada every Saturday, so thumbs up to that, am I right?

But I have a bone to pick with you. 

This morning your social media assistant working on your behalf said the following on Twitter:

I am really amused when I see media types criticize me for saying Eric Knodel, US College guy, dropping in to take the spot of a Marlie. It’s ridiculous. I know Eric was a 2009 5th round draft choice. In fact, I remember reading about him when he played for the Philadelphia Jr Flyers. Thought he is big and must be tough. But that wasn’t the point I was making. Make no mistake about it, Eric is dropping in at the expense of a kid who has been playing regularly all year. Imagine going to tell a kid he’s not playing. Why? He asks. Cause we’ve got a kid coming from college. We wanna have a look-see. Imagine how he feels. But the dumb dumb media who never played the game (or) coached the game wouldn’t understand. Really, how could they?

It’s not rocket science, Don.

A team should always be trying to find a balance between self improvement and player development in the American Hockey League. It’s easy to say “give the kids all the games”, but you also want your team to play as many games as possible down the stretch. 

Look at Drew Macintyre; he seems pretty self aware that his chances at making it onto the Leafs roster are slim. The organization also has two solid young goaltenders that are years away from being able to rent a car in Christopher Gibson and Garret Sparks. Is it a negative to have Drew in the way of them? Absolutely not; he wins them games, establishes their spot in the playoffs, and therefore gives the skaters more experience and developing time. Not to mention, it creates a competition to stay in the league as his backup.

Competition is a great thing to have at this level. You aren’t entitled to a spot; you should be earning it. The Marlies defencemen (Brennan, Marshall, Percy, Granberg, MacWilliam, and Holzer) have been great this year (second in GAA and don’t give up many shots), but there’s nothing behind them. Zachary Yuen is in the ECHL because he’s too far off to be competition to them. Dylan Yeo is injured, and when he’s healthy, he seems to be spending as much time on right wing as he does on defence. The only players that may have a shot at coming up behind them and stealing a spot are Knodel and Matt Finn.

On that note, are you going to have the same issue with the OHL prospects that come up? What happens when Finn takes a defenceman out of the lineup? Is it okay, because he’s a Canadian playing in junior? When Connor Brown’s playoffs are done and he joins the team, is it okay if he replaces Brandon Kozun on occasion? There shouldn’t be an issue just because Kndoel is an NCAA prospect. In fact, that should streamline the process; he becomes a guarantee to be playing in the pros next year. It’s not a “look-see”; it’s a “starting effective now”. Andrew MacWilliam did the same thing last season.

If you want a “gut punch”, go ask the Marlies forwards how they’re feeling right now. There’s 18 of them in the lineup, and that will only grow as the year progresses. As such, many are sitting out games. In their situation, it’s even worse, because they’re dealing with players dropping down rather than leaping up. 

Peter Holland might be your best player with room to develop, but he’s coming down because the Leafs don’t have room to play their “oh crap, everybody is hurt” panic button anymore and taking a player’s spot. Jerred Smithson may provide bottom six depth, but how does Tyler Biggs feel as a first round pick that’s getting healthy scratched in his rookie year while a 35 year old who may not see the NHL ever again skates in his place? How are guys like David Broll and Jamie Devane going to feel if they start getting decreased games because Frazer McLaren is healthy? Getting knocked out by “leftovers” is probably worse than getting knocked out by a new serving.

Not to say that those guys are bad, of course. But the situation up front is much worse for the youth than having a 23 year old be the 7th defenceman on a roster.

Besides, if you had to pick a guy to swap out of the lineup full time (which is unlikely; it will likely be rotational), you’re looking at Kevin Marshall (the most likely) or Korbinian Holzer, who are both older than Knodel with their chances at being regular NHLers fading away right now. Good players, but not as high priority from a developmental standpoint.

Wrapping It Up

Look, Don. I haven’t played the game at the level you have (I still can’t skate backwards), nor have I coached at the level you have (just brought a D level mens league team to a first round exit). But that’s irrelevant to understanding how a situation like this works. Even if it had relevance, your relevance in this regard would have come and gone; what applies in the 60’s and 70’s doesn’t apply in the 2010’s. 

Besides, as Dallas Eakins called out out on last year; how often do you pay attention to this team? It’s been about half a decade since you’ve been at a game, and that was a promotional event. You’ve got bigger fish to fry, I’m sure, but that doesn’t mean that you try to eat the other fish raw. I don’t see you as a sushi guy.

If Eric Knodel is capable of playing on this roster, it’s a positive. He’s still pretty young, and would likely take a spot from an older play with lower upside. At worst, he’s a 7th defenceman on a team without a roster limit. Why is this a bad thing? 

It’s not. Its you having a combination of a bias and a need to sound like you’ve got your hands in every part of the hockey world. But don’t ask me, I’m just a guy that’s actually around the team you’re complaining about.

  • TGT23

    Shut up Jeffler!

    With that said, this whole thing from Grapes is confusing. What made Knodel so special to him? This kind of stuff happens all the time across the NHL. Just weird of him to target Knodel specifically.

  • TGT23

    I think he was just trying to bring attention to the human aspect of these types of roster decisions. Obviously it’s business as usual when it comes to Hockey Operations, but we shouldn’t forget the human element of (more often than not) early 20-somethings trying to make it to the show, playing decent for a year on a championship-contending team and then being pushed to the side when a coach likes another player better.

    • It’s not a matter of the coach liking another player better. Players don’t get ice time because the coach thinks they’re a “cool dude” or a “nice bro”. Coaches ice the lineup they believe gives them the best chance to win.

      If Knodel is taking some guy’s spot in the lineup, then I suggest that guy become a better hockey player so that the coach doesn’t even consider taking him out of the lineup. Simple as that.

      Don Cherry says a lot of half-baked, moronic things, and spare me the “but the players feelings!” angle.