January 30, 2007
Who's in worse spot, Leafs or Flyers?
By STEVE SIMMONS -- Toronto Sun
In this, the 40th season of the Philadelphia Flyers and the 40th year since the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup, there hasn't been much worth celebrating.
Unless you look beneath the surface a little.
The Flyers, with a history of going big or going home, are going small this season. They are the worst team in hockey. They have never been that before.
A year ago, when the Leafs were firing Pat Quinn and trying to explain how the playoffs were missed, the Flyers finished with 101 points. One season later, the Leafs are still on the verge of being a playoff team -- they haven't gotten much better, haven't gotten much worse -- the Flyers hid rock bottom.
And should the lottery cards work in their favour come June, they could wind up with a nifty prize from Buffalo of all places named Patrick Kane.
Assuming the Leafs don't move up or down -- which is entirely possible -- they may finish out of the playoffs, but not necessarily in a favourable draft position.
So if you had a choice between being where the Flyers are today and where the Leafs are today, everyone except John Ferguson and a few stubborn diehards would take the Flyers' position.
If you're going to be lousy in sports these days, it pays in the end to be really lousy. Being middle of the pack gets you Jiri Tlusty not Sidney Crosby. Being middle of the pack gives you hope when you really have none.
There is no false hope in Philadelphia these days. People know this team is terrible. People hope there is a star on the way.
The only thing the Leafs know is they have a general manager who will likely lose his job should the team miss the playoffs, a captain who won't declare whether he wants to play beyond this season or whether he would waive his no-trade clause, and an injured but feisty goal scorer who may be traded, may be signed long term, may end up being neither because the decision is being left in the hands of a general manager who is in limbo.
If you were running a company, and you were contemplating replacing a senior manager of any kind, would you allow him to make key decisions prior to his dismissal? Strangely, both the Leafs and the Flyers are in somewhat similar situations with their general managers.
Paul Holmgren is signed to the end off this season. He became the interim GM when Bobby Clarke stepped down and the Flyers were so thrilled to have him they removed the "interim" term from his label, but only for this season.
Like Ferguson, he sits with a fascinating asset that is coveted by many teams in a trade. But Peter Forsberg, like countryman Mats Sundin, has a no-trade clause in his contract and would have to waive that to be dealt.
With Forsberg alone on the market -- and there is still serious doubt he will even be available -- the Flyers would hope to get a first-round pick and a prospect of some kind in return for a beaten-up, injury prone 33-year-old.
SWEDISH TRADE BAIT
Should Sundin be on the market at the same time, his value would be similar. If the Leafs see no hope in this team, and Sundin actually wants to pick up and move, then whatever the Flyers could get for Forsberg, the Leafs should be able to get for the more durable Sundin.
If only one of the two is available, then the price goes up. Demand, in this case, would exceed supply.
But should the Flyers make the deal, they would be adding a first-round pick to their own early pick and a roster that already has a 26-year-old sniper in Simon Gagne and kids with talent such as Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Joni Pitkanen. The final three are all 23 years old or younger.
The most promising of the young Leafs -- Kyle Wellwood, Matt Stajan, Alex Steen and Ian White -- all represent parts of a hockey club, not a core.
In this 40th anniversary of a team and a championship, this hasn't been the best of seasons for longtime rivals. The Flyers will at least get a prize for their troubles. What do the Leafs get?