"Of all human powers operating on the affairs of mankind, none is greater than that of competition."
-Henry ClayLots of talk yesterday about this article from Dave Shoalts in the Globe and Mail about an expansion NHL team in Toronto. [Update: interesting to see the Toronto Star trying to grab some of the publicity away from Shoalts by immediately putting out its own report that pours cold water all over what The Globe had to say.]
For those who missed it, Shoaltsy throws around a lot of interesting ideas. The basic premise is that "NHL governors are talking informally about placing a second hockey team in Toronto alongside the Maple Leafs." It mentions that the franchise could go to RIM founder Jim Balsillie, and the NHL could charge him a franchise fee of $700M (spitting up my drink as I laugh at that last part). The article also suggests that the idea of a team in Hamilton is DOA for two simple reasons: 1) that it would kill the Buffalo Sabres since Canadians wouldn't have to line up to cross the border for a hockey game; and 2) that a team from Hamilton wouldn't be a draw in U.S. arenas.
We all know this city could support another hockey team, and we can debate the likelihood of whether this really will happen all we want, but as I write this from my mother's basement the reality is that I have no inside info and can't bring you anything other than my uninformed opinion on that issue. BUT, what I can tell you however, is that if this did ultimately happen, the biggest winners in the whole thing would be us: the Toronto Maple Leafs fans. Talk about a novel idea.
A second team in Toronto, even if they were the worst in the league, would create instant competition with the Leafs. Plenty of long-suffering fans tired of their current hockey overlords would immediately jump ship, if for no other reason than to be contrarian (I'm guessing a few of the contributors to this blog would be among them). For too long the Leafs have had hockey fans by the balls. A new club (hopefully owned by an aggressive, potentially Cuban-like individual such as Balsillie) would give fans the ability to choose which team to root for, which team to go and see, which team's garb to buy and wear around town - and ultimately would give incredible leverage to the average fan. [NOTE: Take a moment to vote in the poll at the top of the sidebar to the right --->]
Going further, as the new club improved over time, advertisers and corporate sponsors would be drawn to the better product, whichever club that might be. The sell outs and huge corporate profits would no longer be simply guaranteed to MLSE. As competition began to increase, and profits began to disappear, it would force the suits to innovate. How, you ask? Well, for starters, they could hire a competent and capable GM (like Yzerman! Burke! Rutherford! the list goes on), could invest in scouting, and could put the club on a fast paced rebuilding project, similar to what was done in Philly. Ultimately, through increased competition, the fans would be rewarded with a better product on the ice. Imagine the embarrassment if that expansion club won the Cup before the Leafs? I think that kind of threat posed by a second team in Toronto would be enough incentive for MLSE to fix what we all know to be wrong, and to do so on an expedited basis.
Of course, that kind of competition is exactly why MLSE will fight tooth and nail to make sure this never happens, despite Peddie's assertion that MLSE wouldn't "automatically reject the idea...."
Game 6: Ducks 3, Leafs 2 (shootout)
As for last night's shootout loss at the hands of Gordon Bombay and the Ducks, what do you want me to say?
Our guys were in this thing right to the bitter end. In fact, it was more than that, they actually had a shot to win this thing by completely shutting down the Ducks in the 3rd and allowing NO shots on goal. None in 20+ minutes of play! Defense is supposed to be the hallmark of the team this year, and they showed up last night - lead by almost 30 minutes of ice time from Kaberle. Throw in Borat's 2 goals, including 1 with less than a minute left in the third to tie it, and Leafs faithful had reason to be hopeful. However, once again the shootout - the Achilles heal of the club last year - is proving to be more like a malignant tumor, as they've now already lost 3 of their 6 games in shootouts this year.
The worst part? Just when I start thinking the Leafs are going to give themselves a chance in the shootout by NOT sending stiffs like Kubina out there (Kulemin and Kaberle took the shots) - they instead outsmart themselves by yanking Vesa, pulling a stone cold old man Joseph off the bench (thereby interrupting his nap) and sending him out there to face Selanne and Perry. Uhhhhh, Ron? Suffice it to say, that was not your smartest coaching move ever. I know he was "playing the percentages," but let's try to put those percentages in context next time: a 40 year old goalie who's been sitting on the bench for 60+ minutes OR your starting goalie who hadn't given up a goal since the halfway mark of the 1st period. I think its now officially time to end EVERY SINGLE practice from here on out with a shootout. In fact, I think Gordon Bombay and Charlie Conway could show our guys how its done...
The bottom line is that we haven't won since the opener, and you better get used to it. This is a young team that's still learning how to play Wilson's system, let alone learning how to win close games. Losing in this manner is going to be a common theme this season, but on the bright side, just consider it putting us one step closer to winning the John Tavares lottery.