Volume 92, Issue 34

Wednesday, November 4, 1998

millions of bad feelings


SPORTS
 

Leafs have waited too long



The honeymoon is over!

For almost three weeks, Toronto Maple Leaf fans have been basking in the glory of a mediocre team actually playing some decent hockey. They led the league in the pre-season and got out to a fantastic start by Leaf standards, but it seems as though the only people who actually thought the Leafs could continue like this were the players and their fans.

But come on. Let's get real. Any team which relies on their fourth line, consisting of two average Russians and a journeyman forward, to try and complement Mats Sundin's scoring is in for a real long season.

The team bought into their new coach's philosophy and rode the emotional high of an exceptional pre-season to get off to a great start. But unfortunately for the Leafs, emotions and philosophy can only win so many games in the National Hockey League. To win on a consistent basis, a team actually needs skill, something the Buds thought they could do without while remaining competitive.

Everyone's conventional thinking has been that this will be solved once the trade of Felix Potvin happens because Potvin should be able to attract a second-line centre and some defensive help. Well Leaf fans, wake up because that isn't going to happen and the longer the Leafs hold onto him, the less and less attractive Potvin becomes.

Leaf management blew their opportunity to make their team better in the summer by saying they were in no real hurry to make a deal, they were going to wait until the right deal came along. And now general manager Mike Smith has said they are going to remain patient so as not to upset the chemistry of the dressing room.

And so the demise of the Leafs' season begins.

What needs to happen is for Mike Smith to call up one of his peers, perhaps Mike Milbury in Long Island and say "okay we want to deal Potvin, what's your offer." Then Smith could turn around to the Montreal Canadiens and say "we want to deal Potvin and the Islanders are interested, here's their offer are you interested in Potvin because we're going to trade him tomorrow."

This could force the hand of a team which was hoping to get Potvin at a rock bottom price because there is no interest. Once word got around the league Potvin was about to be traded, those who were at least mildly interested would probably call to see what the going rate is for the goalie.

The only way Mike Smith is going to get what he wants for Potvin is start the trade winds himself. He should know after years in the business that GMs are going to try and get the best possible deal, even if it means waiting a couple of months. But if Smith forces their hands by saying Potvin will be dealt at this particular time and not a moment later, then he will receive the best possible deal.

There is one problem with this scenario. Many people in the hockey world will probably believe Smith is bluffing and just trying to play people off each other – which is essentially the case.

If Smith had done this in the summer, he would have been taken a lot more seriously and there would have been a lot more suitors because many people were not sure about their goaltending situation.

These are desperate times for the Leafs and desperate times call for desperate measures. Trade Potvin and let's get on with the season.




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Copyright The Gazette 1998