Tucker leaves Maple Leafs in a dilemma

STEVE SIMMONS

, Last Updated: 5:00 PM ET

The better Darcy Tucker plays, the more confounding the future becomes for the Maple Leafs.

Tucker is having a monster season at precisely the right time, with his low-level contract coming to an end.

He leads the NHL in power play goals, was second in goal scoring as of yesterday, and at $1.596 million US a season is about the greatest bargain since Google went public

Around him, Brendan Shanahan makes $4 million a year, Marian Hossa takes in $6 million, Ilya Kovalchuk earns $5 million, Martin St. Louis brings in $6 million.

Heady company for a player whose game has never been built around goal scoring. Tucker is due an enormous raise in pay, either by the Leafs, his team of preference, or by another team in free agency.

The question is: How real is this season and how much is Tucker worth and for how long? Someone will overpay for a player who doesn't score much at even strength but if Tucker continues to score at 50-goal pace after a 28-goal season, what choice does anyone have?

THIS AND THAT

So Leafs defenceman Ian White got busted for driving with a suspended licence after being busted for drunk driving and he says it would be "no big deal" if he wasn't a hockey player. If I were him, I'd shut up for a while and try not to say anything quite so asinine ... Yes, Canadians have won MVPs in the NHL, NBA and Major League baseball this year, but they have not won a Most Outstanding Player award in the CFL since Tony Gabriel took home the trophy 28 years ago. In fact, in the 53-year history of the trophy, only two Canadians, Gabriel and Russ Jackson (three times) have won the MOP ... More weird numbers: There have been two Canadian MVPs and one Cy Young Award winner in baseball in the last 10 years but no American born player has won the Hart Trophy in hockey ... One more fact, the only Canadian award in the NFL was when Rueben Mayes won the rookie of the year in 1986 ... The best reason to subscribe to Leafs TV: The continuing saga of Wade Belak's salsa dancing lessons. Dancing without the stars.

HEAR AND THERE

If Vernon Wells was a stock, the time to sell is now. The price will never be higher ... If Juan Pierre, who can't hit and can't throw, gets $45 million for five years in free agency, Wells is worth the cost of most franchises ... The Blue Jays will miss the professional hitter, Frank Catalanotto. All he ever did was his job ... One strange aspect of the emerging Jays power lineup: Lyle Overbay is the only left-handed bat in a league with primarily right-handed pitching ... How come no mention of Jeremy Accardo as a possible replacement for Justin Speier as the Jays' setup man. Wasn't that the plan when the Jays' acquired him -- or have they soured on Accardo? ... Pat Quinn's best trade in Toronto: Tucker for Mike Johnson and Marek Posmyk ... You can't make this up: U.S. College football has a Randy Moss Award, same Randy Moss who was booted out of Florida State for drug usage ... Remember when some hockey pools made it illegal to draft Wayne Gretzky? Is the same going to happen with LaDainian Tomlinson, who has 19 touchdowns in his past six games.

SCENE AND HEARD

Love this Whopper of a story: Two Zamboni drivers in Idaho lost their jobs after taking their units out of the rink to a Burger King drive-thru window. It isn't known if they were fired for being delinquent on the job or having terrible taste in fast food ... Ken Hitchcock has the same problem in Columbus he had in Philadelphia: No goaltending ... Not a good combo: Curtis Joseph has the highest goals against average and lowest save percentage of his career ... The ever-controlling NBA is at it again: This time, calling the Dallas Mavericks at halftime of a game, requesting that their players limit their exuberance on the bench ... Mixed messages: In the NHL, Alexei Ponikarovsky's hit from behind on Steve Eminger is a two-minute penalty. In minor hockey, it's a three-game suspension ... The Giants are prepared to make a big pitch for Ted Lilly, whom the Blue Jays hope to retain ... The Bachelor, Jesse Palmer, the fourth-string quarterback on the Montreal Alouettes, is now the first-string NFL analyst for Madison Square Garden television.

AND ANOTHER THING

As of yesterday, Andrew Raycroft was tied for wins with Ryan Miller, Marty Turco and Cam Ward. He's an odd goalie: Lets in bad goals, makes terrific saves, but wins games. Can't complain about that ... If the B.C. Lions had lost the Grey Cup, Wally Buono would have had some quarterback explaining to do. Like what he was doing, rotating Dave Dickenson and Buck Pierce in he midst of drives ... Why didn't the Argos resign defensive end Eric England before last Sunday's deadline? They don't have anybody to take his place ... Jake Plummer's next NFL start is almost certain to be with another team ... This is how a coaching change can affect a player: Half of Alex Steen's 18 goals as a rookie came on the power play. This year, no power-play time, no power-play goals ... Is there a Hart Trophy curse? Jose Theodore wins the award, never regains his form. Martin St. Louis wins the award, is invisible the next year. Joe Thornton wins the award, is 20th in league scoring the next year ... Did you know that Spergon Wynn was 16 spots ahead of Tom Brady and Michael Bishop was once ahead of him on the New England depth charts. And did you know, 13 quarterbacks -- almost half of whom don't play at all -- were taken in the draft Tony Romo was passed on ... And hey, whatever became of Dan Feraday?


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