TORONTO - Francois Allaire is a stubborn man, who like a lot of successful coaches, believes it is his way or the highway. Brian Burke is a stubborn man, who like a lot of general managers, believes his way is the only way.
So it comes as no real surprise that Allaire’s departure from the Maple Leafs as goaltending coach wound up rather toxic. Allaire couldn’t deal with walking away a failure — the Leafs goalies in his time in Toronto were mostly dismal — without having the last word. And once Allaire stopped firing bullets at the apparent dysfunction of Leafs front office and coaching situation, Burke couldn’t help but respond.
Frankly, Burke would have preferred for the Allaire announcement to pass without any real comment at all, but once the loyal man was crossed, then he can get quite nasty. In the end, what can be taken from Allaire’s nasty exit: 1) Burke and others in the hockey world consider him a dinosaur of sorts, teaching a style of goaltending that is out of style, and yet as recently as April he called him the “best goaltending coach in the world.” The next time Burke uses hyperbole for his team or staff, take that into consideration; 2) The level of dysfunction with the Leafs coaching staff, under Ron Wilson and perhaps under Randy Carlyle, must be addressed before the Leafs open training camp, whenever that happens to be; 3) Burke’s history of misreading goaltenders should come under some question here. His decisions on the position have been more wrong than right throughout his career.
THIS AND THAT
The second wealthiest owner in the NHL, Phillip Anschutz, has his Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings up for sale. Meanwhile, the wealthiest NHL owner in Canada, Darryl Katz, is asking for more handouts to have an arena built for him in Edmonton ... Now that the Detroit Red Wings have been fined for Jimmy Devellano’s comments about NHL owners being “ranch owners” and players being “cattle” understand this: This is how most owners view players in all of pro sport. And the Gary Bettman fine was sent out rapidly to shut up Devellano and those like him who spread this view, which may well be shared by Bettman ... Leadership is clearly part of Bettman’s mandate as NHL commissioner, and from the business end he has mostly succeeded in his role. Where he has failed miserably is with advancing the game and the league itself. The damage done from every fight between players and owners may not translate to season tickets or television ratings, but what it has done is take the homespun nature of the NHL to remove it forever. This was a league different than the others, with players more accessible, with teams in touch with their communities. That’s going, if it’s not completely gone already.
HEAR AND THERE
I’m trying to determine what I find most troubling about Farrell-ball but I can’t put it in exact order: Is it 1) his corporate ways; 2) the strange strategy that has the Jays’ taking the bat out of their best hitters’ hands time after time; 3) the fact that a pitching coach of his background has had little impact in fixing Ricky Romero or Henderson Alvarez; 4) the Jays reckless baserunning; 5) or is it the Red Sox rumours that won’t go away? ... Is it just me or has the overkill of media coverage, books, DVDs, golf tournaments and reunions beat you into submission on the 1972 Summit Series. I love the Paul Henderson story as much as anyone and remember the reaction to it in Grade 10 and ever since. It was a rare where-were-you moment as a Canadian. Now can it please go away for another 10 years ... Don’t believe for a second that it was Melky Cabrera’s idea to remove himself from consideration for the National League batting title, as if you can remove yourself from a statistical consideration. Baseball has long had a problem with the asterisk. This has Bud Selig written all over it ... And in honour of Cabrera’s stance, I have chosen to remove myself from Pulitzer consideration this and every other year.
SCENE AND HEARD
When Masai Ujiri was one of Bryan Colangelo’s assistants with the Raptors, you rarely if ever heard his name. Now, he’s a hot property as GM of the Denver Nuggets. So hot the Philadelphia 76ers made a push to hire Ujiri away from Denver before settling on Tony DiLeo as GM ... So, just how many suicide football pools were turned upside down when Stephen Gostkowski’s 42-yard field-goal attempt went way wide, costing New England its win over Arizona? ... Somewhere the Fan 590’s Norm Rumack must be asking: Why didn’t Jimmy D give me those cattle lines? After all those interviews, didn’t I deserve that much? ... Purely personal: I don’t feel any connection between the Montreal Expos and the Washington Nationals .... Tough question: If you were buying a Leafs jersey, what current name would you want on the back? ... One piece of damage Edwin Encarnacion can do in the final days of the season. He can still win the AL home run race, preventing Miguel Cabrera from a possible Triple Crown win ... Most people know the last Triple Crown was won by Carl Yastrzemski. What they don’t remember is that Frank Robinson won the year before Yaz and Mickey Mantle won in 1956. Before that, Ted Williams in 1942 and 1947. Impressive list of names.
AND ANOTHER THING
Three graduates of the CFL have had significant early season impact in the NFL: You watch Andrew Hawkins with the Bengals and wonder why the Montreal Alouettes didn’t use him more: You knew Marcus Thigpen could return kicks because he did it so well in Hamilton and he’s already taken one all the way in Miami, and linebacker Jerrell Freeman, fresh from Saskatchewan, owns a pick-six for the Colts through the first two weeks of his NFL career ... The Vince Young, I’m broke story, isn’t sad. It’s pathetic. The guy went through $26 million in guaranteed money in six years — and who knows how much in marketing dough — and now he doesn’t have a dime. How long before the Alouettes come calling? ... This is strange but true: The best quarterback in the Manning family right now is Eli ... Can’t believe what a disappointment George Cortez has been as head coach of the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Like a lot of people, I expected the Ticats to be great this season. Most weeks, they look disorganized and just plain ineffective without the ball ... Edmonton doesn’t need more coaches: It needs a quarterback. And please don’t tell me Kerry Joseph is quarterback. He was a quarterback ... Happy birthday to Tony Mandarich (46), Marty Schottenheimer (69), Ray Downey (44), Artis Gilmore (63), Ian Leggatt (47), Bruce Springsteen (63) and Jason Alexander (53).
And hey, whatever became of Gil Stein?
Turner (DUI) gets off easy compared to Escobar
A little perspective is needed in the ridiculous story of the idiot shortstop, Yunel Escobar. Yes, he was guilty of stupidity and insensitivity and probably is playing his final days with the Blue Jays. And no, there is really no defence for what he did or how he embarrassed his team. But consider this for a moment: Hardly a week goes by when a professional athlete of some kind doesn’t get caught driving drunk. Most times, we shrug when hearing that running back Michael Turner or some other pro athlete has been arrested for DUI. It’s just another day, another headline. The troubling part is Turner and those like him are a danger to society. They can kill or injure people. As damaging as Escobar’s words beneath his eyes may have been, what’s troubling to me is how much reaction you get to one act of carelessness and how little reaction you get to the other one.
NHLPA HAS NO LEVERAGE
I have great difficulty mustering any sympathy for NHL owners (also known as ranchers) demanding salary rollbacks when they were, in fact, eager participants in establishing the very salary perimeters they suddenly object to.
Conversely, Donald Fehr has his own problems: Should the NHL lockout, as expected, extend into the early months of the season and possibly longer than that, with each missed paycheque the question becomes: What are the players fighting for?
If the players miss four cheques, for example — they are paid 13 over the course of most regular seasons — that’s a loss of 30.7% of their season’s salary. I’d rather accept a 10% rollback than lose 30.7% now and who knows what else later.
The tapdance for Fehr as Players’ Association leader is balancing toughness with pragmatism. At what point does accepting a rollback become less painful financially than continuing the lockout?
The players have done nothing wrong here but have no leverage. Their leverage, sadly, comes from making a deal, being paid accordingly (as always) and watching owners trip all over themselves afterwards.
CABRERA ON A MISSION
There is so much to watch in the final days of the Major League schedule but I can’t take my eyes off Miguel Cabrera. It’s not because the Detroit Tigers are this close to catching the Chicago White Sox. It’s that Cabrera is this close — a swing of that bat, really, the closest anyone has been — from winning a Triple Crown, since Carl Yastrzemski in 1967. Over the past 45 years, my lifetime watching baseball, really — the first year I remember was Yastrzemski’s Triple Crown season. He led in hitting, home runs and RBI and instantly became my favourite player. In that year, Yaz hit 44 home runs, knocked in 121 and hit .326 for the Red Sox. Cabrera’s numbers as of Saturday were shockingly similar: He is actually having a slightly better year, hitting .330 with 130 RBI and 41 home runs. He leads in batting and in RBI and looks to hold on those advantages. He trails Josh Hamilton, currently out of the Texas lineup with sinus troubles and vision issues, in home runs by one and with Hamilton out, everything is looking right for Cabrera’s Triple Crown season.