The right way to manage

Ryan Fancey
May 02 2012 08:37AM

After the hiring of Marc Bergevin as the new general manager in Montreal, and subsequent news that the team could be buying out cap-killer Scott Gomez, the debates over the proper ways to wheel and deal in the NHL are brought to the forefront once again.

The Leafs are always involved in this discussion because 1) We're Leafs fans, and 2) The Leafs have a few cap-killers of their own.

Now, let's set out a few ground rules right away:

  • The Habs buying out Scott Gomez is not confirmed
  • It's dumb to buy out Scott Gomez
  • IF it turns out to be true, things that would make it not as dumb are: the Canadiens believe that with the new CBA they won't be able to bury Gomez in Hamilton next season (g/t to freezingkiwi), or they don't have as much money as we believe they do (g/t to SkinnyPPPhish).

But for now let's just assume it's an idiotic move and rip on the Canadiens by saying they should have hired Pierre McGuire instead.

One of the dumbest arguments in all of this is that the Canadiens won't bury Gomez's contract because they don't want to strike fear into the hearts of potential unrestricted free agents. Essentially the story goes like this: If a team pays big money for an unrestricted free agent and eventually buries him in the AHL due to poor performance and the need for cap relief, no future free agents will sign in that city for fear of the same fate.

The problem with this little narrative is that this NEVER happens.

The Wade Redden fiasco in New York is the prime example of sending a big contract to the AHL to make room under the cap. Sather didn't give a shit about sending him to Connecticut to clear 6.5 million and give the Rangers the flexibility to chase big money players again. But who would ever sign with a team that treats players this way?

Oh, this guy, who the Leafs and Kings both struck out on.

Players don't shy away from big money and big markets because of the chance they could get demoted. And some, like Mike Komisarek, who are smart enough to know they stink at hockey, negotiate no-movement clauses that prevent it.

So how does this relate to the Leafs?

Well for some reason everyone has this idea that Burke does things the right way. Apparently he doesn't burn bridges by offer-sheeting RFAs (basically nobody does, but they definitely should), he doesn't sign long term deals that circumvent the cap, and he doesn't bury big signings in the minors because he doesn't want to scare away free agents.

It should be noted that Burke did bury an inherited contract in Jeff Finger, and then his own signing and buddy Colton Orr too. But he hated doing so, and reiterated the point above about scaring away free agents when demoting Finger.

Don't worry Burkie, these things don't actually happen. The evidence, or lack thereof, tells us so.

"Burke does things the way they should be done. He's a professional."

That's what everyone tells me.

The thing that really bothers me about this whole thing is not so much the fact that Burke won't pull these snaky moves to try to gain an edge on the competition (though that does bother me), it's more so because fans believe that losing is fine as long as Burke and the Leafs are honorable in defeat. Like, a lot of defeat. About 37 times a year in regulation defeat.

Burke will likely pursue Parise or Suter this summer and strike out easily when they sign a long-tail contract with another club. He should pursue Semin as well, but won't. And even if he did, it's likely his "right way" of doing things will put him at a disadvantage again. The question is whether this disadvantage can be countered by the perceived advantage he's gained by not being a schemer so far. Laughable.

I mean, for such an honorable club, the free agents should be knocking down the door to sign in Toronto now right?

Email ryanfancey@gmail.com and follow @rfancey3

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Good thing the Leafs don't play in the Corsi Hockey League, since that'd be two leagues they're awful in. Email ryanfancey at gmail dot com or follow @rfan_3.
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#1 Danny Gray
May 02 2012, 11:17AM
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The whole not signing UFAs to "cap-circumventing deals" never bothered me because I never felt like we missed out on a player I actually wanted. Kovalchuk? Wasn't going to sign here. Richards? Not worth it IMO. But both Parise and Suter are guys worth the money and who we should try to acquire at all costs. If Burke refuses to match offers given by other teams because of his ethics I would call his judgement into question.

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#2 peterj
May 04 2012, 08:09AM
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I believe Mr. Burke was hired to be the GM of the Leafs, so in my opinion he should be doing what ever is needed to make his hockey team better. If that means signing players to front loaded contracts so be it. If it means signing RFAs to an offer sheet he should be doing that also, thats what he is being paid to do. The Rangers didn't break any league rules when they signed Richards, they did what they had to do sign a player they thought they needed, seems to have worked for them has it not.

I think a lot of Mr. Burkes bafflegab is just a smoke screen to cover up for his inability to do the job is very well paid to do. His motto seems to be: if I can't dazzle you with my brilliance, I'll baffle you with my BS.

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