Mailbag: Kidnapping Cam


I’m in British Columbia at the moment. Inching closer and closer to Vancouver by the minute. We have a grand conspiracy to make sure that everybody on the site is within spitting distance of Toronto, and quite frankly, I’ve had enough of Mr. Charron’s west-coast funny business. Just a few more hours and…

Nah. I’m still on the Five Hole For Food tour. If you’re in the Victoria or Vancouver area, come check out our last two stops this weekend. If not, here’s the answers to some questions you’ve all left me.

How do you feel about the new contest that TLN has (Next Top Blogger)?

I think it’s fantastic! Believe me when I say this; I wouldn’t be writing for the Nations right now if I didn’t want it to be successful. I know enough about web development and social media to run my own projects, and have done so in the past. But I believe in this network, love the rest of our writing staff, and think there’s a lot of opportunity for anybody who joins us.

Conversely, I think there’s a lot of talent in the Leafs blogosphere; even in people who haven’t really given blogging a shot. There are a lot of very intelligent people around who could help us be even better, while helping themselves at the same time. Even the more talented ones who don’t get selected may be encouraged to start or focus more on their own thing, which increases quality across the land and makes us all strive to be better.

Every single person who thinks they could put fingers to a keyboard while thinking of Leafs things should be entering this contest. It’s a great opportunity for both yourself and for us.

With the Marlies that will be called up for the Leafs + a new coach + losing Brennan and DMac, how do you think the Marlies will do next year?

It’s really hard to predict how an AHL team is going to do. So much of it depends on players who are very easily drawn in and out of rosters in both directions (NHL and ECHL), and there isn’t a single team that has a group set in place yet. You can also be carried to big places if you have stars in the right places; last year’s Marlies are a great example.

Next year’s team is going to depend on Sparks and Gibson being steady between the pipes. Offensively, the regular core won’t change much; Holland and Ashton are the only two that should leap, and they didn’t spend much time down there anyway. Losing Brennan’s offensive ability from the point is a blow, but they’ll probably split the deferred responsibility among a bunch of players.

As for coaching, I don’t think they miss a beat. Dineen and King were the reason that the Eakins to Spott transition was so simple. Bumping up their responsibilities is the safest bet.

How do you feel about Andrew MacWilliam as a future NHL defenseman? (My personal opinion: seems like a possession black-hole when he’s on-ice.)

I think people are quick to put the “possession black-hole” moniker on every defensive defenceman. It’s fair logic, but I’d like to see how he does in a different role before judging his ability to drive play. 

Last year saw him play against obnoxiously high quality of competition in shutdown situations, with Korbinian Holzer on his side. When someone is only assigned to do everything but control the play offensively, it’s hard to write them off before their first NHL game, especially without concrete numbers.

Even still, the “shutdown defenceman” role isn’t leaving the NHL for a while. Whether it should is a subject for another day, but most teams still employ at least one man for that job. These guys are usually recruited based off of skill-set and visual reputation, and in that regard, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see MacWilliam in the NHL. He’s a large body who enjoys being physical and isn’t a terrible skater. Teams salivate at that.

Do you agree with having teams within the sun belt of USA? Wouldn’t it be better if all teams were in Northern USA and Canada?

I totally disagree that it would be better. I think that the best way to get a high pool of talent in any sport is to make sure that there are quality players in many regions. “You need to beat the best to be the best” is a common mantra, and a great way to develop a player is to always have them play against other amazing players. 

For this to work at it’s most optimal state, you need the sport to be popular in as many regions as possible. This includes the US sunbelt, where they have the resources and money to play the sport as long as the demand is there. Of course, you can’t create demand for an ice sport like hockey in these regions out of thin air, so the best way to do it is to entice markets with professional teams.

Here’s the thing, too – it works. Chris Peters wrote a piece a little while back about how the game is growing from state to state. In the past 10 years, places like Florida, Texas, and North Carolina have boomed in terms of player registration. California has been on an upward curve since the Gretzky trade in 1988. 

Arizona is a struggling area, both in terms of the Coyotes and player registration, but it doesn’t help that the Coyotes play in a distant suburb from their metropolitan area and haven’t been better than mediocre, usually closer to terrible, in their existence. The Panthers have the same issue. It’s easier to attract flies with honey than vinegar, and the product that these franchises have sold to their potential fanbase is beyond vinegar and approaching battery acid.

Of course, the gains take a generation. Kids who grow up as “life long” Stars, Ducks, Hurricanes, or Lightning fans need to get to “having a career” age so they can start buying tickets and bringing their own kids. The ones that get into hockey need time to go up the ranks, and need other good players around them to actually become great. 

It’s a long term project. Slapping a team in Quebec City and printing quick money is great for temporarily boosting the salary cap (until you need a TV deal and you’re lacking major metropolitan markets). Putting teams in risky places, however, makes the sport better, more understood, more adopted, and more widespread.

It’s a no brainer.