November 5, 2011
Lupul unexpected bonus for LeafsSalary dump surprise of Ducks deal
By Steve Simmons, QMI Agency
The truth on Joffrey Lupul: The Maple Leafs didn’t really want him, but knew they had to settle for him in completing the trade that brought them Jake Gardiner.
It’s amazing, sometimes, how these transactions work out.
The Leafs wanted a young defenceman from Anaheim in continuing to build their youth on the backline and that turned out to be Gardiner. Anaheim wanted the veteran Francois Beauchemin back, who had basically failed in Toronto. This was the deal both teams would have been happy making, had salary not been involved.
The Leafs were told they had to take back salary from the Ducks in order to complete the trade and, when they evaluated what was available, chose the expensive Lupul, who had played for general manager Brian Burke before, and had been buried on the third, and mostly fourth line, in Anaheim.
The Leafs had sincere concern about Lupul’s ability to recover from a blood disorder but, once they got the go-ahead from doctors, the trade was made. And in his first full year in Toronto, Lupul has been just about the best left winger in hockey.
Funny how things go. Gardiner wasn’t necessarily their first choice when they began discussions with Anaheim and Lupul was basically forced upon them. Now, both, playing way beyond expecations, have contributed enormously to this head-shaking Maple Leafs turnaround.
THIS AND THAT
Yes, there is a God of hockey. I know this because someone has stolen Harold Ballard’s Stanley Cup ring ... The NHL lists both Phil Kessel and Lupul as right wingers in their online scoring statistics, which is strange, considering they play on the same line ... Kessel had 17 even-strength points heading into Saturday night, which is 12 more than the diminished Alexander Ovechkin has in Washington ... The Leafs are winning. The Oilers are winning. The Bills are winning. So, the question is: Who falls apart first? Or, has hell officially frozen over? ... I look at the Red Wings and wonder: Is this the beginning of the end of the 100-point teams? And if this is how they play after Brian Rafalski is gone, what happens when Nicklas Lidstrom retires? ... Two words that never came up in Luke Schenn’s contract negotiations: Healthy scratch ... You have to wonder: Is Cody Franson this year’s Kris Versteeg? ... Guess the Anaheim executive who told me that Lupul “can play, but can’t play left wing at all. If they think they’re going to play him there, it won’t work” was wrong.
HEAR AND THERE
What you rarely hear Doug MacLean say anymore: “I drafted Steve Mason.” ... Two reasons never to miss training camp: Drew Doughty and Chris Johnson. Doughty’s timing has been off, then he got hurt, now he’s trying to find his game again. Johnson is having one of the most embarrassing personal seasons in NFL history. After all the contract noise he made, he is 34th in the NFL in rushing and showing no signs of getting better ... A National League contender would be wise to sign free-agent pitcher, Mark Buehrle. His career record against NL teams is 24-6 ... I like Pekka Rinne. But I don’t like him $7-million worth ... If the NHL participates in the Olympics of 2014, would Dan Bylsma be the first choice to coach both the Canadian and American teams? And would Canada consider him, even though he’s an American? ... You can take the Rex Ryan out of Toronto but you can’t take the Toronto out of him. When talking with the Sun’s Mike Zeisberger the other day on the phone, the first thing out of Ryan’s mouth was his excitement over the state of the Leafs.
SCENE AND HEARD
If the NBA wasn’t locked out, the league-champion Dallas Mavericks would be playing in Toronto on Monday night, which would give everybody the opportunity to see that Andrea Bargnani is still not the second coming of Dirk Nowitzki ... When Jerome Messam was traded from the B.C. Lions to Edmonton in June, it barely garnered notice of any kind. Now he becomes the first Canadian to rush for 1,000 yards in the CFL in 11 years, the second to do it in the past 23. Can’t get enough of these kind of feel-good stories for a kid with all kinds of trouble in his past ... I loved seeing Vince Carter, Tracy McGrady and Charles Oakley on Off The Record. I would have liked it even better had Carter or McGrady said anything. But it did make me sad in a way: You saw how much talent the Raptors had then, how little they have now ... Here’s the Argos’ on-field problem in a nutshell: The coach and the general manager are the same person. The GM didn’t go out and get the coach a good enough quarterback or good enough import receivers. In a skill league, the team had few skill players. The coach trusted what the GM gave him. So who gets replaced, coach, GM, or both? ... And some wonder: If Kavis Reed can do what he’s doing in Edmonton, why not Mike O’Shea in Toronto? ... And if the Argos are looking for a head coach, they’ll be competing with Saskatchewan and probably the Ticats.
AND ANOTHER THING
Maybe none of us should make NHL predictions because all it does is make us look bad. A quick glance at the NHL standings shows seven teams currently in playoff positions that I figured would miss. I know it’s early. But it’s not that early ... So, what happens if every player in the NFL wants to have a personal meeting with Roger Goodell? Does he make time for all of them, the way he made time for Ndamukong Suh of the Detroit Lions? ... Yet another sad story about athletes post-retirement: Jose Canseco and Lenny Dykstra in the ring, celebrity boxing ... Whomever ends up as the general manager of the Baltimore Orioles will know he got the job because about a 100,000 other candidates turned down the apparent opportunity ... The great Bob Johnson would change lines about every 15 minutes when he coached the Calgary Flames. I’m glad I got the chance to cover him before Twitter and the Internet were invented ... Good for Joe Nieuwendyk, taking a shot at Sheldon Souray, after a year of being embarrassed in the AHL. Souray is second in goal-scoring among NHL defenceman and has been a big factor in Dallas’ surprisingly strong start ... The Blue Jays’ off-season shopping list needs to include a starting pitcher who can throw 180 innings and at least two bullpen arms of consequence ... Reports out of New York indicate that Joe Frazier is in the final rounds of his fight with cancer, so please, take a moment and pray for Smokin’ Joe ... Born this date: Pat Tillman. And happy birthday to Don King (79), Ken Patera (69), Lamar Odom (32), Ed Kranepool (67), Nick Punto (34) and Erik Kramer (47) ... And hey, whatever became of Randy Burridge?
I didn’t realize what a terrible CFL season this has been in the East until the league ballot arrived for voting for the annual awards. The player of the year came down to Anthony Calvillo, Chad Owens, Javon Johnson and Justin Hickman. You had to pick one. Now, Calvillo is Calvillo, and even though this wasn’t his best season, this was an easy choice. Owens is a special teams player who, frankly, was a lousy receiver for the Argos and, between drops and fumbles, was among the reasons why the team didn’t progress. As for Johnson and Hickman, you have to wonder: How does a defensive back become a team’s outstanding player unless he is Troy Polamalu? Same with a defensive lineman in Hamilton’s case with Hickman. Where is 1997 when you really need it, with Doug Flutie and Mike Pringle competing in the East, and Danny McManus, Jeff Garcia, Damon Allen and Milt Stegall in the West?
OF GASTON AND LA RUSSA
It has always bothered Cito Gaston that he never received the kind of credit for managing the Blue Jays to two World Series championships that Tony La Russa and Bobby Cox received, for at the time, accomplishing less. La Russa has now joined Gaston and Cox in retirement and, for the first time in his life, he can say he has one more World Series championship than Gaston. Cox, for all his great years in Atlanta, won just one Series. La Russa and Cox, unlike Gaston, were lifetime managers — succeeding with more than one team, known for how their teams competed, and how much they contributed. Gaston, for a variety of reasons, has never been held in great esteem by baseball’s opinion-makers and that, at times, has eaten away at him. Next year, when Cox, La Russa and Joe Torre are eligible to be voted into the Hall of Fame, they will all get strong consideration. In that discussion, again, there is no mention of Cito.
COHON AND TORONTO
Mark Cohon has had a successful run as commissioner of the Canadian Football League with one giant exception. When he took the job in 2007, he did so with the hope he could influence the state of Toronto football. If he has had influence in any way, it has not been evident from the outside. Never mind the Argos’ dismal record this season, the biggest challenge for Cohon, the league and owner David Braley, is to make this team close to relevant again in this market. If not blossoming, the CFL is succeeding in pretty much every market outside Toronto. The in-stadium experience for Argos games is dismal. The pre-game buildup, outside of the media, is almost non-existent. While attempts have been made to find the Argos an outdoor home, that has not come forth, either. Cohon is nobody’s fool, but some questions have no answers and the Rubik’s Cube that is the Argos may not necessarily be solvable at a time when almost everything in the CFL, business-wise, seems to be working.