Wednesday, June 25


The Great Purge

First off, I'd like to thank special guest blogger, "Greener", for yesterday's Darcy Tucker post. We'll keep your resume on file, buddy. Keep plugging away.

By now, I'm sure Leafs fans must feel like a tornado came through town and swept away their cow. Calm down, that wasn't another Kyle Wellwood fatty joke. I'm simply referring to the speed and ferocity with which 'Purger Cliff' is dismantling this hockey team. You have to give the man credit, he's made some tough decisions and he's made them free of any emotion. Say what you want about MLSE, or the monotony of the ongoing GM search, but the wisdom in appointing Fletcher is beginning to show. He had no tangible connection to this current Leafs regime, or its players, and that will pay dividends in the long run.

As hockey fans we have a tough time separating the player from the crest. We overvalue our own players because they are fighting for our cause. But such blurred judgment isn't exclusive to fans, we see it all the time with GM's and coaches who leave for other teams. They want to bring in players, assistants, and other staff with whom they've had success. Fletcher was never burdened by any such loyalties, and because of that, it seems he's making the tough choices that John Ferguson couldn't - or wouldn't, for fear of magnifying his own poor judgement.

As it stands today, the Captain (Sundin), heart-and-soul (Tucker), and underachievers (Wellwood & Raycroft), have been dispassionately culled from the herd, without any assets coming back (at least not yet). But, the real payoff from Fletcher's moves might be bubbling beneath the surface. In showing McCabe, Kubina, and Kaberle that he's serious about starting over and getting younger, Fletcher has made the Toronto Maple Leafs a less appealing team to play for, simply from the standpoint of winning a Stanley Cup in the near future. With each key part dissected, perhaps the waiving of No-Trade clauses comes closer to fruition. The Leafs aren't the Flyers. The building blocks for a quick return to the top are not in place, and the only assets they have to garner those building blocks, are holding the aces. If these players want to win, they'd be wise to try it elsewhere.

As for the vanquished:

Wellwood will get a new lease on his career in Vancouver. It's only fitting that the laziest man in hockey could possibly find the laziest job in hockey falling into his lap - playing between those twins.

Sundin is putzing about, and if I'm Montreal I'm starting to look at other options. So a classy guy like Bob Gainey calls you and offers you: $7 million a year, the first line center job on the first place team in the Eastern Conference, a great city with great fans...and you're still too bothered with the kind of crankbait you're gonna hook that next Mackerel with? Your heart probably isn't in it, Mats.

Darcy Tucker? The popular opinion is that the Alberta-born winger probably wouldn't mind a return home, and I can see Calgary having an interest. The Oilers are already overflowing with bodies up-front, so despite the fact he would bring some needed grit and leadership, it might not be a good match. Personally, I think the ideal team for Tucker would be Pittsburgh. With the Pens losing half their roster (and nearly all their left wingers) to unrestricted free agency, Tucker would not only address a positional need, he would bring back all the elements that the Pens are losing from the departure of Gary Roberts. Perfect fit if you ask me.

In the meantime, Fletcher will continue to go about his business and while the immediate future may not seem bright, their might be a Tavares, Hedman, or Cowen at the end of the rainbow.

Darcy Tucker: Always a Maple Leaf

This is my third attempt in writing this post about Darcy Tucker being bought out by Cliff Fletcher. The third go at trying to accurately get all of my feelings together about one of the all-time great Leafs, and one of the all-time great hockey players.

I don't necessarily mean that Darcy is all-time HHOF great. I mean, when you think about what characteristics make a hockey player great, it's those qualities that make us lucky to follow hockey over anything else. Things like strength, passion, courage, determination and will. Things you wish you had more of. Darcy Tucker has them in spades.

This is Darcy at a practice. You know when the last time you ever worked this hard? Never. Darcy is why we love hockey. Darcy is why we hate the Ottawa Senators. For every action, there is an opposite reaction. Darcy exists as the opposite reaction to the Senators; to mock and show up everything that team stands for.

Darcy is the ultimate teammate. You hear about "warriors", and who some stupid broadcaster would "want to go into battle with". Most of those names are complete bullshit. Darcy Tucker IS that guy. Remember this?:

This is another study in opposites. Darcy and Sean Avery. Whatever Avery said to Blake on that line doesn't matter. We all know what levels Avery stoops to. What does matter is how Darcy stood up for Blake. This is a moment that makes you proud to be a Leaf. If we never won, and had heart like this, that would be fine with me. I'd rather that, than win the other way with guys like Avery. Any day.

No one was more proud to be a Toronto Maple Leaf. No one cares about the crest like he does. The Muskoka 5? Never once did I question Darcy's integrity in refusing to waive his NTC. He wanted to stay and win as a Leaf, and nothing else would do.

We've all spoken a lot in the past couple of days about other players who some of us can easily do without, while others disagree. Bring up any number of players, even Mats, and you'll get a very mixed bag of reactions. Not so with Darcy. Every response I've heard and read so far about the buyout is one of shock and extreme disappointment. NO ONE wants this to happen. How many players can you say that of?

My friend Chemmy, who writes the great Darcy Tucker Fan Club, not that I know what he's gonna do, but I urge him to not change the name of his blog. It's as meaningful a name with Darcy as a Leaf as it is without him.

Please leave your favorite Tucker moment in the comments section. Mine is the Avery confrontation, followed closely by murdering Sami Kapenen in the playoffs. The most incredible hit ever.

So I want to say thank you to Darcy, for everything he's done for the Leafs. For everything he's meant to us as Leafs fans, and as hockey people.