January 1, 2012
Simmons: Burke's loyalty has limits
By Steve Simmons, QMI Agency
All of us should be fortunate enough to have a boss like Brian Burke one day.
Someone to fervently defend you, even when your work is just adequate.
Someone to believe in you publicly, support you under almost all conditions.
Someone to overpay you, prop you up, guarantee your future.
The kind of boss Ron Wilson has with the Maple Leafs.
From the inside, Burke’s qualities are admirable, honorable and laudable. He wants you to fight for him, not against him. From the outside, though, a different story entirely.
While he believes in Wilson as coach and has chosen to extend his contract under dubious circumstances, nothing in the real world for the Leafs has actually changed.
Wilson will continue to coach the team so long as he makes the playoffs this season. If he doesn’t make the playoffs, he gets shown the door. The only difference now is, if he gets ousted because the team misses the playoffs, he leaves the way many heads of large corporations leave — with a healthy going-away present, a hockey version of the golden parachute.
Burke is loyal.
He isn’t stupid.
No matter what he says for attribution, he can’t bring back a coach who misses the playoffs four years straight. If, in the end, it happens to go that way.
THIS AND THAT
Not a fan of oldtimers hockey but it was fascinating to see how many Stanley Cup members from the Philadelphia Flyers’ 1975 championship team were in uniform Saturday. It’s 37 years ago and Bobby Clarke, Bill Barber, Reg Leach, Bernie Parent and the Watson brothers (and there were more) looking pretty impressive in orange and black ... When I was a kid, I went to Haliburton Hockey Haven, almost entirely because Johnny Bower was in the brochure. Boy were we disappointed when we got to camp and Bower was nowhere to be found and this minor-leaguer named Parent was the goalie instructor ... Lost in all the James Reimer fretting: He leads the NHL all-star voting for goaltenders and may end up in the all-star game, even as he’s struggling through this difficult season ... People were wondering how Clarke and Eric Lindros would get along this weekend in Philadelphia. But I was wondering how Lindros and former Flyers captain Eric Desjardins got on. They weren’t exactly fans of each other in their days playing together ... The five games to begin January are paramount for the Leafs. Four of them are against teams they are either ahead of in the Eastern Conference standings or tied with. They can’t afford to be losing points to Tampa Bay, Winnipeg or Buffalo at this time.
HEAR AND THERE
On Monday, the ubiquitous Versus becomes no more, replaced by the more appropriately named NBC Sports Network. But before leaving Versus, this is worth repeating. I heard Jeremy Roenick the other night calling the Florida Panthers “stacked from top to bottom.” And beside him on the panel, Mike Keenan, just giggled knowingly ... What a score by former St. Mike’s Majors coach Mike Futa the other night, holding the winning ticket of the 50-50 draw from the world junior game in Edmonton. The haul was more than the annual salary of most NHL scouts, which is what Futa does for the Los Angeles Kings ... Stan Bowman needs a goalie. If he gets one, the Chicago Blackhawks can win the Stanley Cup. But they can’t win with Ray Emery and Corey Crawford in net ... One of Tim Hunter and Woody Acton were essentially let go by the Maple Leafs because of the team’s horrendous penalty-killing numbers. Wonder how they feel now, considering the numbers are 5% worse this season. For the record, this is how bad the Leafs penalty killing has been under Wilson: No team since these statistics have been kept has gone through a period (in this case, four seasons) of such shorthanded incompetence ... This is how out of control junior hockey is getting: There is a three-hour trade deadline show on OHL television coming up. Don’t know what’s worse, having the show or the fact adults are allowed to trade teenagers and nobody objects to it.
SCENE AND HEARD
There are those who want to disregard the world junior hockey championships as little more than Canadian chest thumping, and I appreciate that view, but all you needed to watch was a minute of Petr Mrazek in goal for the Czech Republic to be hooked on the emotion these kids bring to the annual event. When a player we don’t know about, playing for a country we don’t care about, can foster this kind of feeling, you come to understand the power of the event ... Went to dinner Friday night. Waiter complained about the Blue Jays. Guy at next table complained about the Jays. Old friend walked in and complained about Wilson’s contract extension before getting to the Jays. I’ve been out of the country for two weeks but haven’t seen this kind of anti-Jays sentiment since J.P. Ricciardi and his ego ran the club ... And in this winter of almosts, looks like the Jays almost wound up with pitcher Matt Garza ... Why I love and hate fantasy football, sometimes at the very same time. And here’s why: Last Sunday, Mark Sanchez played terribly in the Jets loss to the New York Giants. Except he ran for a touchdown, and threw a TD pass in between making awful decisions. Which made him a huge QB in fantasyland, the opposite in reality.
AND ANOTHER THING
The fine South Florida basketball writer, Ira Winderman, described the Raptors as “internationally irrelevant” in his NBA season preview piece. And I was right there with him until I’ve watched the first few games. I figured this team for something around 12-54 for the 66-game season. And while their record may not be much better than that, there is already a pride in play under new coach Dwane Casey that wasn’t necessarily evident in lost years gone by. Friday in Dallas was the perfect Raptor game for this season: They played well and lost ... An Argo fan, trying not to make light of the fire that destroyed their training facilities, offered up this response: He hoped the previous playbook burned in the fire ... Still can’t believe the Argos have Ricky Ray. It won’t necessarily sell tickets but it should beef up interest ... I knew it was time to turn the television off when I was in the middle of something called the Pinstripe Bowl. The Rose Bowl, the Cotton, the Orange, I’ll watch. The Pinstripe means I’ve officially overdosed on football I don’t care about ... Happy New Year to Leo Cahill and hoping for many more ... And a happy birthday to Jimmy (Mouth of the South) Hart (68), Bill Bradley (71), Phillippe Dupuis (27), Paul Bissonnette (27), Jeff Carter (27), Bobby Holik (41) and Father Guidi Sarducci (69) ... And hey, whatever became of Marty Murray?
HOLLOW THOUSAND FOR JOHNSON
With a mere 14 yards rushing on Sunday, Chris Johnson will hit the 1,000-yard mark, thus making that number forever irrelevant.
Johnson has had a dismal season after holding out with the Tennessee Titans, eventually signing in September for six years and $56 million in salary.
But should he hit the 1,000-yard mark, he will actually earn an additional $300,000 in bonus money for the feat of insignificance. Already 13 rushers in the NFL this season have hit the 1,000-yard mark.
By the end of this final weekend, that number could be 16. It could have been 20 had Fred Jackson, Adrian Peterson, Matt Forte and DeMarco Murray not been hurt.
So the next time you hear that someone has rushed for 1,000 yards, put it in context. It’s not a very important milestone anymore.
Not when a guy having a dreadful season is doing it.
CLIPPERS HAVE THE NEW JORDAN
Something I never had to do before this season: Stay up late to watch the Los Angeles Clippers games.
But I find myself compelled to watch the Clippers in the early season, not necessarily because they have talent, not necessarily because of Chris Paul or Blake Griffin.
But more because of powerhouse centre, DeAndre Jordan, who is bound to do something every game you’ve never seen before. Jordan may not be a big scorer or a well-known player (he was a second-round draft pick in 2008) but athletically, for a 7-footer, he makes huge blocks and dynamic dunks and seems to fit the stars around him perfectly.
Check him out. You may like what you see.
GONE BUT NOT FORGOTTEN IN 2011
Joe Frazier, Harmon Killebrew, Al Davis, Cookie Gilchrist (left with the Argos), Dick Williams, Royal Copeland, Wade Belak, John Mackey, Duke Snider, Earl McRae, Prince Hal Patterson, Johnny Wilson, Randy (Macho Man) Savage, Seve Ballesteros, Brad McCrimmon, Dan Wheldon, Richard Harris, Roy Hartsfield, E.J. McGuire, Harley Hotchkiss, Rick Martin, Doug Sellars, Paul Splittorff, Mel Queen, Derek Boogaard, Bubba Smith, Igor Korolev, Rick Rypien, Henry Cooper, Donald Crump, Lee Roy Selmon, Mike Flanagan, Vasily Alekseyev, Joe Bodolai, James Worrall, Socrates, the soccer player.