TORONTO - What would it have taken for the Maple Leafs to make an offer of consequence on Steven Stamkos?
One year and $12 million? Ten years and $100 million?
The bottom line is: No one, including the Leafs, will ever know. Because no team in hockey made an offer on the restricted free-agent sniper, other than the Tampa team he re-signed with.
Some will call it collusion. Some will say the restricted free-agent business is bad for hockey. But this much is certain: Rarely are players with the talent and age of Stamkos and Drew Doughty available, and it’s not the job of hockey general managers to act as the conscience of the game. It’s their job to make their teams better.
There were no offers made on Stamkos: Worse, there haven’t been exploratory phone calls on Doughty, who may be the more complete of the kids.
Stamkos, we’re told, would have seriously considered signing a one-year, $12-million deal. But the problem with an offer like that is that Tampa would have matched it. The longer-term, larger-money deal, might have been too rich for the Lightning to match. That’s probably where the Leafs had to go if they wanted to play that game.
They didn’t. And the next shot at Stamkos will come at age 26, five years from now.
By then, maybe the Leafs will be in contention.
THIS AND THAT
Word around is that Tim Connolly is approaching this Maple Leaf opportunity with a ferocity not seen before. He knows how much is at stake — and has never trained this hard previously in the off-season ... Gord Ash admits to having regrets about how Roberto Alomar’s time in Toronto came to an end. “You get caught up in the emotion of the moment,” said Ash. “I probably should have tried harder to keep him. It wasn’t just money. He had a feeling it was time to move on.” ... There is no argument with Alomar, Hall of Famer. But I do wonder, just slightly, about the retiring of his number by the Blue Jays. He did walk out on the Jays once, left with fans booing him, although nobody wants to remember any of that now ... Is it just me, or is Wally Buono reminding you too of Don Shula’s final days with the Miami Dolphins? Like, something doesn’t look right or feel right with the B.C. Lions ... For those keeping track, Tiger Woods , in the past year and some, has lost his wife, his coach, his health, his game, his soul, some of his sponsors and now his caddie. And we’re probably missing something else ... Challenging for the division hasn’t exactly brought the fans back in Pittsburgh. The Pirates were 27th in major league attendance last year and have vaulted all the way to 20th in this resurgent season ... The Zach Parise arbitration case is scheduled for early August. Almost anyone who follows hockey considers Parise a superior player to Ilya Kovalchuk, whom the Devils have committed $100 million to for only 14 more years.
HEAR AND THERE
Normally, when you want to release bad news in the summer, you do it late on a Friday afternoon. That way it goes unnoticed. So can anyone explain to me why the Winnipeg Jets revealed their new logo late on a Friday afternoon? ... The NBA released its schedule this week and even it knew better than to release it on a Friday afternoon. And they may not play a game this year ... If you listen to the rhetoric of the NBA lockout, it sounds word-for-word like the rhetoric when the NHL lost a season to a lockout. And six years later, how’s that worked out for most NHL teams? ... One thing nobody says: The much-criticized deal the later disgraced Ted Saskin signed on behalf of the NHL players has worked out swimmingly for most of them ... The best second basemen I’ve ever seen: 1. Alomar; 2. Joe Morgan; 3. Frank White (strictly for his defence); 4. Ryne Sandberg ... If Kevin Eiben can’t play anymore, that’s sad but understandable. What isn’t understandable is not communicating to the classy veteran exactly where he stands with the Argos.
SCENE AND HEARD
Johnny Damon told a reporter this week that if he got into the Hall of Fame, he’d want to wear the cap of the Kansas City Royals. Which is sweet — especially considering what a longshot Damon should be ... Why is it every time a player retires, a Hall of Fame discussion takes place? Chris Osgood had a fine career in the NHL, but it’s not criticism to claim he shouldn’t be in the Hall of Fame. It’s just an opinion of where he stands in hockey history: I’ll begin considering Osgood for the Hall once Rogie Vachon, Dominik Hasek, Lorne Chabot, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon and Mike Richter get in ... You have to assume that Evgeny Nabokov is not the sharpest knife in the goaltender drawer. What he should have done was listen to his agents and report to the New York Islanders at trade deadline time and finish the final two months of the season with a team he didn’t want to play for. Now, in order to return to the NHL, Nabokov has to play for the Islanders and clear waivers before he can be moved again ... Didn’t always agree with Bill Watters, but I will miss his radio show. He was a provocative story-teller who had been both player agent and NHL executive, and wasn’t afraid to speak his mind.
AND ANOTHER THING
The naivete of the New York Rangers is now apparent with the arrest of Derek Boogaard’s brother, Aaron. The Rangers had Aaron represent his late brother and the team at the NHL draft. And now it looks bad with Aaron being arrested for his part in his brother’s death ... There will be NFL football in September. That’s really all that matters. I couldn’t care less about who gets what in this battle between millionaire and billionaire ... It must be totally embarrassing for Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to see the laughable state of Toronto FC with the newest MLS teams in Philadelphia and Seattle blowing away the Reds ... Did you see where Lakers’ Andrew Bynum got ticketed for parking in a handicapped zone? Apparently, his handicap is reading the signs ... What nobody asked Serena Williams on a recent Rogers Cup conference call: How was the food at Chris Bosh’s wedding? What should have been asked: Which injury will she get this year that will lead to her withdrawal from the Toronto tournament? ... It’s Game 7 of the World Series and if I got to choose my starter, I’d still take Jack Morris over Bert Blyleven, one of whom is Hall of Fame bound on Sunday ... Happy birthday to Bob Lilly (73), Barry Bonds (47), Karl Malone (48), Steve Grogan (58) and Jennifer Lopez (42) ... And hey, whatever became of Bashir Levingston?
WHERE IS TRISTAN?
We hope this isn’t how it’s going to be with Tristan Thompson. We hope he has more sense than this, more feeling of country and his own development as player and person. When the men’s national team began training camp this week for Olympic qualifying in basketball, the Canadian forward, selected fourth in the NBA draft was nowhere to be found. And there was no indication he planned on showing up for camp or to play for Team Canada, this summer or next.
According to his agent, Thompson will not attend the Canadian camp because he is tired from pre-draft workouts and is taking some classes at University of Texas.
That’s nice and all, but this is a wonderful opportunity for Thompson to expand his game and grow on the court and off. We trust he’s not just another Jamal Magloire, one of the best Canadian players ever, who has made no contribution to Canadian basketball internationally.
DIFFERENT TIME, DIFFERENT PAYROLL
How different were the Blue Jays when Pat Gillick was the general manager and Roberto Alomar was playing second base?
Well, look at it this way: When the Jays won back-to-back World Series in 1992 and ’93, the Jays had the highest payroll in baseball and were tops in major league attendance. The club payroll in ’93 was $51.9 million US, or $64.8 million Canadian at the time. That year, the Jays spent $5 million more than either the Boston Red Sox or the New York Yankees.
Fast forward to today, where the Jays payroll is $62.5 million — less than that in Canadian dollars — and are 24th in attendance.
As crazy as it sounds, the Jays are actually spending fewer dollars on payroll in 2011 than they were 19 year ago. The Yankees, who spent $46.5 million on payroll in 1992, are spending $206.3 million this year. Which explains more than a few things.
TRADE MADE TWO HALL OF FAMERS
The Blue Jays would have been happy to trade Fred McGriff for Joe Carter way back in 1990 and call it a day, even though McGriff happened to be the favourite player of Pat Gillick’s wife, Doris. It was a nice one-for-one swap of talented sluggers. But before signing off on the deal, Joe McIlvaine, the San Diego GM asked Toronto assistant GM Gord Ash: “Do you want to expand the deal?”
McIlvaine wanted Tony Fernandez, the popular Jays shortstop. The Jays didn’t really consider enlarging the deal until respected scout Moose Johnson made a plea for Roberto Alomar.
“If you can get Alomar,” Johnson said, “make the deal.”
The Jays listened to Johnson, one of Gillick’s trusted advisers and made the trade. It is entirely possible that neither Gillick nor Alomar wind up in the Hall of Fame had that deal not been consummated.