TORONTO - Tomas Kaberle was barely out the door when talk turned to the likelihood of Brad Richards playing for the Maple Leafs one day.
Itís a logical inference, considering the Leafsí desperate need for a front line centre, the cash they now have available, and the fact that Toronto fans assume that every pending free agent wants to play for the blue and white.
Except for one problem. Apparently, Richards doesnít.
The free agent to-be has told an old Tampa source that he has no real interest in playing in Toronto, if he, in fact, becomes a free agent come July. Richardsí first choice is to remain in Dallas, assuming the team gets sold and can afford to sign him. His second and third choice, not necessarily in order, would be returning to Tampa (which doesnít seem possible economically) or playing for his old coach, John Tortorella, with the New York Rangers. He has also hinted about having some interest regarding playing in Carolina.
When asked about Toronto, he apparently said nothing but shook his head.
This and that
The NHL trade deadline came 10 days early, with a real trade, if you can believe it. Not a salary dump. Not a future for present deal. Not a selling off of your roster. This was players for players, Colorado and St. Louis. Kind of restores your faith in hockey mankind ... Interesting that the Blues traded away a first-round draft pick but put a lottery protection on it. If Brian Burke had managed that in the Phil Kessel trade, fewer people would be squawking ... All of us, and you know who you are, owe Olli Jokinen an apology of sorts for chuckling at his return to the Calgary Flames. It did seem funny. It doesnít anymore ... The Milos Raonic machine continues on. A little trivia: The tournament he won last week in San Jose, his first ATP victory, happened to be the same place Michael Chang won his first event and the second tournament won in John McEnroeís career. Thatís heady company ... Should Daniel Sedin win the NHL scoring race, and itís entirely possible he will, it will mark the first time brothers have won back-to-back scoring titles in history. In fact, no two brothers have won scoring titles at any time previously.
Erik Johnson was drafted ahead of Jonathan Toews and Jordan Staal. Guess is St. Louis would like a do-over on that one ... An insiderís scouting report on the new Leaf hopeful, Joe Colborne: ďHeís still a boy, who hasnít grown into being a man yet. Heís a good skater with great offensive instincts and nice hands and two years from now he should be something. But you look at him right now, and you realize heís just a kid.Ē ... Colborne, by the way, was drafted 16th out of the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The best first-round pick to come out of the AJHL was Brent Sutter, drafted 17th out of Red Deer. Seven years later, he scored his only 100-point NHL season ... Just when I was getting bored of shootouts, along came Tuesday night with back-to-back shootouts, Philadelphia-Tampa, Montreal-Buffalo, 34 shooters in all ... Hope the new Buffalo Sabres ownership will put a buck or two into the backup goaltender: The last four years, Buffaloís backups have won just 19 of 61 starts. You invest in an upgrade in goal and you go from out of the playoffs to possible contender ... Love the David Desharnais story. Kid wasnít drafted, started in the low minor leagues, spent four seasons developing and is now showing some dividends with the Montreal Canadiens. And even some who watched him regularly in the AHL didnít see this coming.
Scene and heard
I wonder, sometimes, if the CFL does this kind of stuff just to drive us crazy, like not scheduling the Argos and Ticats on Labour Day? The sporting world has become all about events, and the Labour Day game is an event ... Itís nothing to get too excited about but it sure looks like Jarious Jackson will battle Cleo Lemon for the starting quarterback job with the Argos ... I understand the Alouettes letting Avon Cobourne go. I donít understand the signings of washed up NFL players, Ahman Green and Jerry Porter ... Donít know if itís possible but Iíd love to see Vancouver back in the NBA. It would be good for the league, great for Canadian basketball ... Ian White should help the San Jose Sharks. Theyíve had trouble moving the puck all year without the retired Rob Blake ... Try and understand NHL rules: Islandersí Michael Grabner, having played 20 NHL games prior to this year, is eligible to be rookie of the year. St. Louis defenceman Alex Pietrangelo, having played 17 NHL games over two seasons prior to this year, is not ... And the award for greatest goal scored by a player who may or may not have been concussed goes to Mikhail Grabovski. They may have asked him how he was feeling after he was crunched by Zdeno Chara but odds are they wouldnít have understood the answer.
The Jose Bautista Gamble
The great financial gamble on Jose Bautista is not just about the Blue Jays outfielder. It has much to do with Adam Lind and Aaron Hill, as does everything with the Jays. The expectation is that Lind will bat fourth and Hill fifth in the Jays order this season, behind Bautista in the third spot. If Lind and Hill donít have complete turn-around years offensively, why would anyone pitch to Bautista? Last season, Bautista hit 33 home runs at Rogers Centre with Vernon Wells hitting behind him, batting .321 at home, with 20 homers at the Dome. On the road last season, Lind hit a powerless .205 and Hill batted just .196. For Bautista to earn his keep under his new salary structure, heís going to need adequate protection. And thereís no way of knowing whether itís going to be there.
The book on Ron Wilson
Itís Ron Wilsonís job to win games and develop hockey players with the Maple Leafs. From the winning side, heís had little success, but from the development side you canít help but see progress in Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin and lately, Tim Brent. Thatís the positive side of the Wilson ledger. On the negative side, itís his job to put his players in places where they can succeed and heís essentially failed this season with Phil Kessel, Tyler Bozak, Dion Phaneuf and Mike Komisarek - all of them players who were expected to give more. Typically, the ledger is not so clear with Wilson. For every yes, there is a no. For every step forward, there is one back. A sound argument can me made for either side - retaining him next season or letting him go.
Could this happen in any other sport, any other league? Could a player go the all-star game and meet with owners of competing teams, all with the purpose of working out a deal for himself? Well, itís happening with Carmelo Anthony at the NBA all-star weekend. Heís shopping himself around, meeting with the owners of the New York Knicks and New Jersey Nets all with the purpose of establishing a new place for him to play. Not only is this preposterous and unprecedented, itís also astounding. Bryan Colangelo, for example, canít mention a player on another team without being fined for tampering and a player isnít allowed to publicly ask to be traded, but itís OK to meet with the Knicks and Nets while youíre still playing for the Denver Nuggets? Iím sorry. But this one, I donít understand.
And another thing
Here is the great Canadian divide, quantified. The Raptors play their biggest game of the year, with Chris Bosh returning, against the Miami Heat and draw an impressive 200,000 viewers on TSN2. The Leafs play mid-week in Buffalo opposite them and do 1.3 million viewers on TSN ... Just when you wanted to like Bosh or appreciate him for his time here, his mock gesture to the fans post-game Wednesday and the departing arrogance and whimsy left every reason for further disdain. Bosh just canít help himself and what he fails to see is how small it makes him ... Why is it a story every time a player reports to spring training? Shouldnít it be a story when someone doesnít report? ... Still canít understand ó and wonít understand ó how the same people who voted John Bonk and Rocco Romano into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame missed on Damon Allen ... And we see where Bryanís dad, Jerry Colangelo, is taking similar heat in the U.S. for not having Reggie Miller as a finalist for the Basketball Hall, of which he happens to chair. And I wonder: Do Hall of Fame voters and CFL schedulers hang out together, plotting ways to frustrate people? ... Another question Iíve never got a decent answer to: How is Dick Thornton not in the Hall of Fame? ... Born this date, Joe Krol and Hank Greenberg: And happy birthday to five-time scoring champ Phil Esposito (69), Charles Barkley (48), Glen Hanlon (54), Antonio Inoki (68) and Dennis Mitchell (45) ... And hey, whatever became of Andrew Sznajder?