Thursday, June 26, 2008

Leafs need to tread carefully with McCabe

The Leafs may be getting to play serious hardball with Bryan McCabe. TSN is reporting that the Leafs may be considering telling McCabe to stay home if he won't waive his no-trade clause.

The idea has a certain appeal. For starters, it would finally remove McCabe from the Leafs roster (even though he'd be paid a full salary and count against the cap). It would also send a message to the rest of the veterans that Fletcher wasn't kidding around when he promised to make changes. And after years of seeing players hold out despite holding valid contracts, it would be nice to see the NHLPA have the tables turned.

But the Leafs need to be very careful here.

I'm as tired of McCabe as anyone else. When he finally waives his NTC, I'll be first in line to drive him to airport. I may even slow the car down before I dump him on the tarmac.

But he has a contract, signed in good faith. And the Leafs will be getting into dangerous territory if they decide to punish him for wanting it honored.

We've heard endlessly how players like McCabe and Sundin are just doing what the CBA allows them to do, as if following the strict letter of the law absolves a player of any criticism. The Leafs could certainly make the same argument on their side -- that they're just doing what the rules allow. That argument could even win the day in the courtroom mediation hearing that the case would surely wind up in.

But it's not about being technically right or wrong. It's about perception, and how a move like this will look to players negotiating deals with the Leafs in the future. Will future FAs trust the Leafs when they sit down to hammer out a deal? Is it worth that risk, just to wipe the smirk off McCabe's overpaid face?

Let's be clear: the Leafs should make McCabe earn whatever role he'll have on the team. The days of automatic first-line status and powerplay icetime should be over. If his play warrants a spot on the third pairing, so be it. If he winds up in the pressbox some nights, that's the way it goes.

But as awful as he's been the past few years, McCabe is still good enough to make the team. Sending him home because he wants his deal honored is crossing the line.


  1. Not sure I agree. First of all, I'd really like to see the leafs stick it to McCabe. Secondly, it's my understanding that so long as they pay him, they're well within their rights to play him or not as they see fit, unless the contract somehow stipulates a certain amount of playing time (unlikely, but I wouldn't put it past JFJ). Lastly, I don't really think a bit of a nastier reputation when it comes to contract negotiation would hurt the leafs at all. For a few years now they've been push-overs, and this sends a new message: 'we want to win; so play to your pay grade or fuck off.' Now, not everyone's gonna want to hear that. But I don't think the players Cliff is after (the players we really want) are gonna mind that much. The franchise has been so worried about not stepping on any toes for so long that I think they're rightly perceived as pushovers. I also think, and this is a more tenuous claim, that the front office attitude has been reflected on the ice. Lastly (yes, another 'lastly') this whole dispute revolves around a 'no movement' clause, and hopefully we won't be giving out too many of them any time soon.

  2. I have to agree with Rob on this one. The contract stipulates the Leafs have to pay the guy... to my knowledge there are no guarantees around ice time etc.

    If there are bonus clauses we're unaware of, regarding number of games played etc. then the Leafs might have to play him if he's healthy to give him an opportunity to reach agreed upon milestones... but if they can argue he isn't playing well enough to warrant playing time, they might win that argument in court.

    I don't really think the Leafs would lose this if it went to some sort of arbitration... especially given the history of Restricted Free Agents holding out until they get a trade. Nobody "forced" them to play... so why would anyone be able to "force" the Leafs to play McCabe?

  3. Good points Rob and Steve.

    To be clear, I agree the Leafs would be within their rights and would probably win any sort of court case.

    But this kind of move would put them in the crosshairs of the NHLPA. There are already rumors that the PA is trying to influence Sundin, what kind of damage could they do with a whisper campaign to a whole FA class? You know other teams would play it up to UFAs. "Sure, you could sign in Toronto. I hope you don't have a bad year, they'll try to humiliate you like they did to McCabe." You know Cox and the gang would be singing that tune for years (even though this was exactly what he said they should do).

    It wouldn't be fair, but it would still happen. I'm not sure its worth it here. I want to see McCabe bounced out of town too, but do we want to turn him into some sort of a sympathetic martyr to do it?

  4. Yeah, the thing we as fans should be angry about is how willing Toronto was to sign players to NTCs and NMCs.

    If any of us signed a contract at work that said we couldn't get transferred, you bet we'd laugh in our boss' face when he told us he wanted us to move to some shithole.

  5. i'm mainly in agreement in with sean. we can't show him the door and force him to leave just because we don't like the contract he signed in good faith. fucking JFJ, that bastard.

    and with his salary a little lighter on the books, i'm with sean, let him earn his place on this team. as terrible as he was last year, the leafs were even worse when he was out of the lineup.

  6. Yeah, the thing we as fans should be angry about is how willing Toronto was to sign players to NTCs and NMCs.

    No doubt. Usually a bad situation seems to get better over time as the sting wears off, but the JFJ era just gets worse and worse as time passes.

    I tear my hair out when I hear him babble on about how he had to give the NTCs because the players wouldn't have signed otherwise. Really? McCabe loves Toronto so much that we can't get him to leave with torches and pitchforks at this point, but he was going to just walk away if he didn't get a blanked NTC? Did Ferguson even try?

  7. eyebleaf said...
    i'm mainly in agreement in with sean.

    I'm confused, and a little frightened.

  8. Everyone seems to be in agreement that either McCabe stinks, or is completely overpaid. If this is the case why on earth does anyone think any other GM would take the guy even without sending anyone back in return.

    I think McCabe is an underrated d-man who spent a lot of time injured last year and had an off season. He is a scapegoat for Leafs fans because of the own goal he scored and a few other game loosing screw ups he made early in the season. Kubina and Kaberle are probably both better and cheaper, but the Leafs have a terrible record without McCabe on the roster the last few years and he played really well when he was getting over 30 minutes a game when Kubina went down.

    I think when Brian Campbell, who has similar numbers to McCabe, signs his contact this free agent season McCabe is gonna look darn cheap.

    I'd be fine with McCabe going in return for prospects or picks. but if he's going to stay he's gotta play, as of right now he's in the top three on the Leafs defensive charts.

  9. Really great picture, by the way.

  10. Okay, round 2. I really think, that insofar as the leafs live up to their legal responsibilities to McCabe, everything else is fair game. After all, McCabe is playing it by the book, so why shouldn't management? Really, McCabe holds all the cards, so Fletcher has to put up a front. He needs some basis for negotiation. So, as long as Fletcher's within his legal rights, he should do whatever he can to get McCabe to waive the no trade clause -- whether that means taking him off the roster, or letting him play, but changing McCabe's jersey so it reads 'shithead' instead of 'McCabe'. Okay, so the second one's not so plausible, but it'd be funny as hell. McCabe wants to us to live up to our contractual obligations? Well fine, but nothing more - no consideration beyond that. Basically, he has to make it as uncomfortable as possible for McCabe. And that's gonna be a hard thing to do, and it's gonna get ugly in the process. But it's worth it. Not just on account of McCabe, but to change the culture of the team.
    Now as far the second issue goes - image and Sundin - the Sundin bridge is burned, so lets just forget about him. He was calling the shots for a long time and now there's a new Sheriff in town who's not bending over backwards to please him. He's not gonna be happy whatever happens cause he's not the boss anymore, and I think that's what this whole waiting game is about - trying to hang onto a power that he lost as soon as Cliff became GM. As far as other free agents are concerned, I think most players want two things - money and wins. Right now we're not really in any kind of position to offer anyone anything when it comes to wins. The next time we'll be looking to make a serious splash in free agency is probably at least two years away, by which time we'll have a new GM, and (hopefully) a winning record and all this will be forgotten history.

  11. When he finally waives his NTC, I'll be first in line to drive him to airport. I may even slow the car down before I dump him on the tarmac.

    I just want to point out I love that line

  12. Howard Berger has now made essentially the same argument that I'm making.

    I'll leave it to the reader to determine if that strengthens or weakens my case.

  13. Technically speaking if McCabe's under contract then the Leafs can't make him stay at home for training camp, and if they didn't want to play him they'd need to scratch him.

    Despite the (I think perfectly validated) issues of player perception and our club, there's problems that arise from scratching Bryan McCabe every day. First off the league actually has a mandate to check on teams that aren't icing the best team possible in order to avoid tanking. If the Leafs are scratching McCabe day in day out they need to be able to prove that their current roster does not suffer as a result (or would suffer if he was playing).

    Secondly (and already noted) McCabe, while unable to file a proper grievance, can still make waves in the NHLPA that might hurt us in the long run.

    Honestly, I don't think McCabe will be dealt, he's repeated he's not moving so often that it's about personal pride more than anything else and we can't make him move. He didn't do too terribly on the second line last year, maybe he'll agree to the move once he's in the updated (stripped) locker room for a few months.

  14. Oh. Okay. Thanks for clearing that up. But the really important question is whether or not they can force him to skate around wearing a jersey that says 'shithead' on the back. Or better yet 'ragdoll'. (Just rewatched the Chara 'fight' today on youtube.)