Cliff Fletcher is 78 years old and working his blackberry like crazy while doing a job designed for men much younger, with much less need for rest. Luke Schenn is 19 years old - and at an age when most of his peers are playing beer league hockey or just plain drinking beers in college, Luke is competing every night for one of the most storied franchises in professional sports.
First, my apologies to Cliff Fletcher. We have, admittedly, referred to him as "Grandpa Cliffy" around these parts in a derogatory manner based on our summertime belief that he was not what this club needed in the post-lockout era. However, seeing as how I write on this blog anonymously, and that my wife doesn't read it, I can admit to being wrong on occasion. In fact, given the club that Cliff has assembled so far, and how he and Ronnie have these guys playing over the first few weeks, I may just continue to use that term, but in an affectionate way.
We also all know about the ascension of Our Luke and Savior to the ranks of the top 4 dmen on the club. So with that said I ask the question: does age really matter anymore?
During the summer, I was firmly on board with the "tanking" strategy. In fact, I thought the current squad was largely devoid of legit NHL'ers and that this team - with a few exceptions - would struggle to compete against even the bottom dwellers of the big leagues. With Ron Wilson's patience and preaching, this team is proving me - and c'mon admit it, a lot of you - wrong. Plus, as the Celtics proved with their tank job during the Oden/Durant sweepstakes, tanking a season doesn't always land you the #1 pick. Plus, as Mike Brophy alludes to, the distinct lack of depth in this draft after the first and second spots (some combo of Tavares and Victor Hedman) makes tanking a risky strategy this year if you do happen to miss out on those top two guys.
Now, I point you to Cliff's recent comments in a Sportsnet interview that "we are not about to go and get any short-term help to get us into the playoffs," and ask the question: Why not? Would you rather finish the season with the current group and have the #13 or 14 pick in the draft - or would you rather make a playoff appearance for the first time in years and have a slightly lower pick in an admittedly weak draft class?
Naturally, I'm sure most of you readers are out there yelling: "I agree with Cliff! Of course we shouldn't leverage the good thing we've got going just for a short term rental! Those days are dead!" However, let's consider a scenario that most of us couldn't imagine 5 minutes before the puck dropped in Detroit on opening night: what if this team is juuuuuuust good enough to sneak into that #8 playoff spot? Are we going to be able to keep that level-headed calmness during a spring time playoff push and continue to argue that Gramps (there I go again) stay put and do what's in the best interest of the long term future of the club? Even with the perceived dearth of talent in this year's draft class AND with all that cap space we've got?
I continue to vote for the long term build, but have a feeling I'll be reading plenty of "Trade for Gabby!" and "Trade for Kovy!" postings in the Barilkosphere come trade deadline time.
In that same interview, Fletcher says there isn't much action on the trade front right now. That shouldn't come as a surprise to those who've been reading the blog entries by former NY Rangers GM Neil Smith, who is doing some guest blogging duties over at the very good Torontosportsmedia blog. Smith says that at this point in time, GMs of all teams - rebuilding or contending - are going through the process of evaluating the players on their own rosters to determine who they believe is going to contribute this year and in the years ahead. When Gramps does make the inevitable move - whether it be White, Carlo or whoever else - it'll show us what the club thinks of those guys.