Monday, July 7, 2008

How Bryan McCabe can fix this

I would have gone with McChoke, myself
And these were the good times

Right now, it looks like Bryan McCabe is headed for a September showdown with the Leafs. Cliff Fletcher doesn't want him around, but McCabe has a signed contract, and the NHLPA ready to break out the big guns if the Leafs tell him to stay home.

Public sentiment is firmly on the Leafs' side. McCabe has become the poster child for the post-lockout Leafs: a whiny, entitled underachiever who makes superstar money while looking ordinary at best on the ice. Oh, and he has a no-trade clause. That he absolutely, positively will not even think of waiving.

Other than that, he's great.

All this could mean that McCabe is in for a fan reception that will make the Larry Murphy experience seem like Wendel Appreciation Night. It could get so bad that even the 100-level suits may look up from their business deals long enough to boo him.

But it doesn't have to be that way. Bryan McCabe can fix this if he wants. Not all at once, and not to the point that he'll be welcomed back to Toronto with standing ovations. But he can defuse what's shaping up to be a nasty situation if he's willing to swallow his over-developed since of pride.

Here's the five-step plan.

1. Acknowledge why the fans are angry

It's time for McCabe to stand up and take some responsibility for this mess. No, it's not his fault that John Ferguson whimpers like a schoolgirl every time an agent looks at him sideways. But he signed a big ticket contract that created expectations, and his play hasn't lived up to them.

The first step in any sort of McCabe reclamation project should be some sort of statement to the fans. Not an apology, of course -- that would asking too much. But at the very least, McCabe needs to acknowledge that his play over the past two years has been a disappointment, to the fans and to himself. The fans have a right to expect more of their highest paid player, and he should promise to work hard to make sure they get it.

Which means...

2. Enough with the whining and excuses

Shut up, Bryan
Less of this...

McCabe has always been known as a crybaby on the ice. He's yet to take a minor penalty he felt was deserved, and seems to spend half the game waving his arms around in mock frustration. That needs to stop. From a fresh-faced rookie, it looks bad. From a so-called veteran leader, it's pathetic.

Worse, McCabe has developed a maddening habit of insisting that the Leafs are a good team, despite all evidence to the contrary. He seems to think this makes him sound like a team-first, never-say-die warrior. It doesn't. It makes him sound like a delusional half-wit. Leaf fans don't need more smoke blown up their behinds -- that's Richard Peddie's job.

It's time for McCabe to drop the excuses. No more talk about injuries (every team has them). No more complaining about bad bounces (good teams make their own luck). No more whining about the officiating (stop clutching and grabbing and maybe they'll stop calling it).

McCabe's a 12-year-veteran. It's time he started sounding like one.

3. Tell the fans why he wants to stay

Yes, he has a NTC. So does half the league, but players still accept deals. What makes him different?

McCabe has never really explained his insistence on staying in Toronto, at least in any detail. He should. We've heard vague talk about liking the city and having family commitments, but that's just generic agent-speak. If McCabe is being sincere and not just stubborn, he should explain himself.

If he loves the city and can't imagine leaving, he should say so, and why. If he's always wanted to be a Maple Leaf and can't bring himself to play for another team, he should say so. If his wife is still working through her medical issues, he should say that.

Right now, the best explanation fans have heard is that the McCabes want to stay close to her family. And while that may be admirable on some level, "I can't accept a trade because my in-laws won't let me" isn't going to do much for your reputation in the sports bars of Toronto.

4. Settle down and play the system

McCabe has never been considered a great defensive defenceman, to put it mildly. But his reputation in Toronto as a pylon is at least somewhat unfair because he's never played for a defense-first coach.

Pat Quinn had a system: score, score, score and let Cujo and Eddie do cartwheels at the other end. He won a lot of games that way.

Paul Maurice had a system: Scowl, grimace, and then say something funny for the media. He didn't win many games, but he made Rosie DiManno's tummy flutter.

For the first time in his stint with the Leafs, McCabe will be playing for a coach who preaches defence. He should listen. McCabe never looks worse than when he's trying to do too much. He should focus on settling down and making the safe play.

5. When in doubt, drop the gloves

And if he fights Chara again, he comes off the cap after the funeral
More of this.

It's true: Leaf fans love guys who fight. Wendel, Tie, Bomber, Tiger, Darcy, Belak, Roberts, Stumpy... heavyweight or welterweight, if you drop the gloves and your name isn't "Marchment", you'll never have to buy your own beer in Toronto.

McCabe used to fight semi-regularly, but as I pointed out in the Leafs are the softest team in the NHL post, that stopped once he signed his big contract. He fought 55 times before inking his deal, and only four times since.

There'd be no quicker way to feel the love from Toronto fans again than to get back to his old ways. Next year's Leaf squad will be young, fragile, and possibly even softer than last year's model. What better way to send a message that things really are different than with a big-ticket veteran sticking up for this younger teammates early on?

There you have it, Bryan. From rabid hatred to mild scorn in just five easy steps.

And if that doesn't work, here's one last step tp try: Waive the damn NTC and get out of town while the mob is still gathering pitchforks.


  1. I'm not so sure he can resurrect his career in Toronto but certainly #4 and #5 would help. I'm not so sure Bryan can pull off #1, 2 or 3 and I doubt the fans would let him off the hook without an improvement in his on ice performance.

  2. McCabe dropping the gloves sounds like a great idea until you remember this ...

  3. i'm willing to give him another chance. he's the scapegoat, somewhat, for a shitty team.

  4. Why does McCabe want to carry Larry Murphy's torch? a)He doesn't care about how the fans feel. b)He stubbornly under-estimates the weight of it. c)He feels really bad about last season and he's made a pact with himself to single-handedly raise the competitive spirit in the dressing room and to achieve glory on the ice.
    What are the chances that it's 'c'?

    p.s. another great post, but don't get to close to DiManno-tummy-flutter, the smell is disgusting.

  5. McCabe dropping the gloves sounds like a great idea until you remember this ...

    Yep. Check the alt text on the fight picture above.

  6. DGB,

    Good plan. I heard rumours that there are "family issues" but they are never stated. While on one level they are nobidy's f'ing business it is reasoanble to give a hihgh level as to why that is one of the reasons Toronto is a reasonable destination.

    ALternatively, if they are that serious perhaps McCabe should consider a year off. Family issues can cause a lot of stress, maybe they are best addressed directly.

    He needs to have a heart to heart with Cliff if he really wants to stay. That includes addressing the issues of past soft play and a willingness to try..and IF he doesnt live up to CLiff and Dougs expectations, or it isnt working by a certain time frame, November 30, then he would agree to a trade to a small list of cities.

    The PR plan is great but it has to be genuine. 1) People smell when you arent being authentic 2) It isnt worth the grief to live a lie, meaning if he doesnt believe it it isnt worth doing.

    Toronto dislikes a whiner but they also love a determined come back story...toronto fans are noothing if not forgiving, so I agree I dont think all is lost, but it would take a determined effort on McCabes part, including grace while he is having the inevitable pile of poo thrown on him. If he cant do that or go through that then either take a a sabbatical or take the trade.

    I like Mccabe, the shot the size, I think Wilson might be able to tame him, if he is willing. Problem for BM is he has to hit rock bottom before he can rebuild himslef and his reputation. I would rather Mccabe show himself to be a decent player so he actually is worth something in November to trade.

    I would rather trade Kubina now, you can get more for him. And once again I would take draft picks from a Columbus, A Nashiville, an LA, a Vancouver or a couple of second rounders from one of the top teams that you can trade later to move up.

    You may not Tavares but like this year it might be worth it to move up a notch or two on draft day.

    Final thought....McCabe isnt as bad as stated but the drama cannot be allowed to infect the dressing room. At the end of the day thats the issue, just as it was for Tucker, Wellwood and Raycroft. At least if Sunding returns you know it is because he wants to.

  7. "How the Toronto Maple Leafs can fix this"

    1. Buy out McCabe.


  8. To Anonymous right above me,

    "How the Leafs screw themselves for the next decade"

    1. Buy out McCabe.

    Fixed. Check under "Buyouts" in the CBA - it'll help.

    And DGB, I never thought anyone could pull off a sentence that contained all of "Rosie DiManno", "tummy", and "flutter" without mass upchuck. Granted, it's not an image I want, but you got away with it. Well, almost.