I think Gary Bettman let the Leafs off easy. I think the Cliff Fletcher and the Maple Leafs knew they were breaking a league rule when they signed Frogren and they went ahead and did it anyways -- thumbing their noses at the league in the process. And I think they need to be punished. Severely.
Losing a fourth round draft pick, which wasn't even their's to begin with, isn't enough. Frankly, it's a copout.
The NHL needs to make a stand. And they should do so by taking a page from the NCAA's book, and finally getting serious about sanctions against organizations that intentionally flaunt the rules.
Recently the NCAA discovered that Florida State had committed several academic violations and responded with a punishment that will see the school forfeit victories, including as many as 14 from the powerhouse football program.
The NHL should do the same to the Leafs. If Jonas Frogren's contract was illegal, then he should not have been playing. And that means the Leafs should forfeit any and all games in which Frogren dressed.
Harsh? Yes. Unprecedented? Sure. But the league needs to make a stand here.
If Gary Bettman has an ounce of integrity, he will immediately announce that the Leafs have forfeited the points earned in all 41 games in which Frogren played. The decision won't be popular, but truly visionary leadership never is.
Understand that as a Maple Leaf fan, I'm happy to see this whole episode swept under the rug. But as a parent, responsible for shaping a young child's view of the world, I expect more. Rules exist for a reason. Cheating has consequences. I will not lower my standards just because a hockey team I personally root for is involved.
Now, there is the small matter of the NHL standings, which of course would need to be updated to reflect the forfeited games. The Leafs would now find themselves in last place overall by a wide margin. This change should be made immediately.
What's that? The draft lottery? Hm. Good point. I guess the Leafs would now be in position to receive the first overall pick. I hadn't thought of that.
Oh well, no time to bicker over minor details like who gets to draft John Tavares. This is about integrity. Nay, this is about the very essence of right and wrong.
So make the call, Gary. Do it right now. Or at least, as soon as possible. Definitely before the draft lottery.
And for the next two decades, every time Leaf fans watch John Tavares suit up and lead the team to yet another victory, let it serve as a reminder to all: cheating never pays.