Tuesday, August 02, 2005

 

Rumors and a Berger Fix

Sorry, don't know if you saw the blog, but I was without DSL service, which means I could on post to the blog and not send out emails...check out the blog for some updates from this morning...(see Aucoin and Satan rumors) The newest rumor is that Allison is close to signing with the Leafs....

Here is a new Berger Fix for you Leafs Fans...

BY HOWARD BERGER
The Fan-590 Radio, Toronto

While there are undoubtedly Maple Leaf fans upset over the dual defections of Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk to the Florida Panthers, nobody should be overly surprised -- for a number of reasons. First off, it seemed crystal clear that the long-time best pals were a package deal, much like Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne signing for peanuts so they could play together with Colorado in 2003-04. Barring a situation where none of the 30 NHL teams showed interest in both players -- and that wasn't going to happen -- Roberts and Nieuwendyk were strictly a free-agency tandem, and for that, no one should begrudge either player. Both men have been top-notch pros through most of their long careers, and have earned the right to play wherever they so desire. It's a credit to their agent, Rick Curran, for getting attractive two-year deals from the Panthers.

Also be aware that the Leafs did not go overboard to bring back the veteran duo. Depending on who you ask, they showed higher interest in either Roberts or Nieuwendyk, but be assured it was tepid interest in both. Despite Roberts proclaiming he wanted to return to Toronto, he had no particular desire to play any longer for Pat Quinn, nor is Quinn in need of consolation now that Roberts has left the team. As well, it is my firm belief that if both players were truly honest, they would tell you they grew weary of the daily media grind surrounding the Leafs. I grow weary of it and I'm one of the culprits. Roberts became increasingly difficult to deal with over the past two seasons; when he made himself available, he was an interesting and honest quote, but he spent much greater energy trying to dodge reporters after practises and games. Nieuwendyk dove into the Maple Leaf scene initially, appearing happy to be back in a hockey-first environment after leaving New Jersey. But, around December or January of the '03-04 season, he too had changed his tack -- some felt because of Roberts' influence; I chose to believe he grew tired of the daily routine on his own. Both players will be happier in a less-intrusive hockey scene like south Florida, and will be thrilled with the lifestyle change, given the winter-time climate in the Fort Lauderdale area. You will see more players in the new salary cap world -- particularly veterans nearing the end of the line -- choosing to play in the Florida cities, in California, and in Phoenix, for obvious reasons.

The question now is: How does John Ferguson replace Roberts and Nieuwendyk? I don't disagree with Fergy's apparent plan to go younger and cheaper up front, providing he finds cap space for one of the top defensemen on the market ( where have you heard THAT before?). Ferguson made sure to qualify all of his third and fourth-line players and, as it stands right now, the '05-06 Leafs might win 25 games, if they stay completely healthy. As other teams mightily beef up their rosters (the Flyers, smartly, with defensemen Hatcher and Rathje), it seems the Leafs are tanking the '05-06 season, but one might surmise that Ferguson has something else up his sleeve. That something, however, is hardly apparent as we speak.

Stay tuned. More intriguing Leaf news is surely around the corner (right, Tie Domi?).



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