Leafs miss the point

AL STRACHAN -- Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 9:23 AM ET

Back in the days leading up to the National Hockey League lockout, before he got muzzled, Philadelphia Flyers general manager Bob Clarke suggested there was no need for a salary cap.

If you run your business properly, he said, you will make money even if you spend a lot of money. Avoiding spending is not the answer, but avoiding spending foolishly is.

As the NHL's first salary-capped season winds down, it would appear Clarke was right.

The high-spending teams before the lockout still are the high-spending teams. And most of them still are among the league's elite. The salary cap has done nothing to change their fortunes.

Only the Maple Leafs appear to have failed to grasp the concept.

Despite a string of devastating injuries, Clarke's Flyers, still among the leading spenders in the league, are managing to hang around the top of the pack.

And look at who else is doing well in Gary's New World Order: Colorado Avalanche. New York Rangers. Detroit Red Wings. Dallas Stars.

Spot the trend here?

Teams that spent big money in the pre-lockout era have not changed their ways. And, judging by the results so far, they're spending wisely -- even the Rangers.

Rounding out the list of the top seven highest-payroll teams prior to the lockout are the St. Louis Blues and the Maple Leafs.

Unlike the other six big spenders, the Blues tried to vacate the high-rent district. They let Chris Pronger go to Edmonton where he earns $6.25 million US, an amount the Blues could have squeezed into their cap room had they chosen to do so.

Last month, the Blues unloaded Weight ($5.7 million) and Mike Sillinger ($1.026 million). If they can find any takers, they'll probably dump more salaries, including Keith Tkachuk at $5.7 million and Eric Weinrich at $1.33 million.

So out of the pre-lockout group of high rollers we are left with the Leafs, the only team that has perpetuated the lifestyle but not matched the results.

It's not hard to see where the Leafs went wrong.

The two-year deal to Tie Domi had the rest of the league snickering. And even though it is widely assumed this was a deal forced upon the general manager by the board chairman, we're talking about the failings of the Leafs here, not just the failings of their GM.

Jason Allison has played well, but you simply cannot, under any circumstances, tie up $4.5 million of your cap room for a player of that calibre.

Allison won't earn the $4.5 million, but because the potential bonuses amount to that much, the Leafs lose a commensurate amount of space under the cap.

Ken Klee is another useful player. Under the old order, his $1.9 million would not be out of line. But it is in today's game.

IDENTICAL SALARY

The same can be said of Nik Antropov, who earns a salary almost identical to that of Sillinger. Which one would you rather have? To help you make your decision, you should know that Sillinger has 24 goals, Antropov seven.

And so it goes.

Other contracts handed out by the Leafs -- or perpetuated when they could have been bought out -- are simply inappropriate for today's climate.

It's too late to do much to alleviate the situation this season, and because all the wiggle room was used up before the season even began, the usually free-spending Leafs will not be among the bidders should there be a fire sale for high-salaried free agents.

The lesson is clear.

In the new NHL, you can't just throw money around.

You have to throw it at the right people.

Apparently, the Maple Leafs skipped class that day.


Videos

Photos