Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The Leafs/Canucks tampering case: Another fake NHL outrage

From this point on, the Sedins
will be sleeping in these.
It's ... the hockey world's most annoying new trend: fake outrage. And it doesn't take much these days to get hockey fans up on their soap boxes.
Me, from a June 14 post

And here we go again.

Yes, it's mid-July and there's nothing to talk about in the NHL, so somebody somewhere needs to drum up a fake controversy to give us all something to shout at each other about.

And right on queue, here comes the Vancouver media. Lead by Jason Botchford of the Vancouver Province, they're desperately trying to whip up a frenzy over Ron Wilson and the Leafs tampering with the Sedin twins.

This all stems from Wilson's June 30 appearance on a Toronto radio station. During a discussion on potential free agent targets, he specifically mentioned the Sedins by name.

The Sedins never even made it to free agency, resigning with Vancouver the next morning (as Burke has already pointed out). But, the argument goes, Wilson's comments could have been used as leverage in last-minute negotiations. This may not have cost the Canucks the twins, but it could have cost them a lot of money.

There's a problem with that theory: by Blotchford's own reporting, the Sedin's had already received matching 5 year, $30M offers from the Canucks before Wilson ever opened his mouth. Hours before free agency began, the twins were able to negotiate themselves all the way up to ... 5 years and $30.5M.

That's right: a difference of $500K each. Total. Less than 2% of the value of the contract.

Not even enough money per year between the two of them to sign a single player to league-minimum deal. Less money than Kyle Wellwood spends in a week on Swiss Chalet dipping sauce.

And that's not even the biggest hole in the story. The entire premise of Blotchford's little scandal rests on the idea that, until Wilson opened his mouth, nobody knew the Leafs might target the Sedins.

But everybody knew. Just about every hockey outlet on the planet had spent weeks speculating about whether Burke would land the Sedins.

But we're supposed to believe that the idea had never occurred to agent J.P. Barry. Until the moment Wilson opened his mouth, of course, at which point Barry slapped his forehead and realized that the GM who had drafted the twins and had tons of money and cap room just might make an offer.

Of course, there is a precedent here. The St. Louis Blues lost a first round pick to the Devils as compensation for a tampering charge involving Scott Stevens. This case has been widely cited by Canuck fans as being a good comparison to the Wilson fiasco.

But there's a part that gets left out. In the Stevens case, the NHL determined that the Blues had been negotiating with Stevens, who was still under contract to New Jersey, and had already agreed with him on an offer sheet.

So we have one case where a coach drops a name on the radio, and another where another's team's player is already signed and sealed before ever reaching free agency. Yes, Vancouver, those two situations certainly do sound very similar.

(It's also worth pointing out that it took the NHL four years to come to a decision on Stevens. Apparently the case was heard by Mats Sundin.)

So how will it all play out? Tough to say. Tampering is one of those rules which isn't well-defined, has no specific punishment, and rests largely in the realm of "commissioner's discretion". That means Gary Bettman can do pretty much whatever he pleases here.

Ordinarily, the result would be predictable: help the small market team, screw the large market. But in this case, both Toronto and Vancouver are large markets. And since neither city is a struggling southern franchise without any fans, there's a good chance Bettman will just lose interest completely.

What Bettman should do is have the league investigate further... just in case. After all, if this goes any further than an offhand comment on live radio (such as actual contact between the Leafs and the Sedins before July 1), then it's a whole new ballgame and the Leafs will deserve whatever the get.

But if not, he should fine Wilson (for being an idiot), fine the Leafs too (since Wilson's an idiot), issue a stern warning and be done with it.

Finally, a friendly note to Canuck fans. Yes, we all understand why you're pretending this is such an outrage. After all, there's a possibility (however slim) that you could receive some Toronto draft picks out of this. And since the current Leafs roster is projected to score about 16 goals over the entire course of next season, those picks should be pretty decent.

So yes, we understand why you're acting like a broke college kid who just got into a fender bender with a guy driving a Porsche, grabbing your neck and shouting "whiplash" at any lawyer who wanders by. We get it.

But you may want to dial it back a little. It's one thing for some bored media types to try to create a story out of thin air. There's no rule that says you have to embarass yourself as you play along.


  1. Always smile when i see the "Kyle Wellwood is Fat" tag

  2. Haha, I'm loving this series. And another tag for Pie'll Be-good

  3. I assume the Canucks are also looking into tampering on the part of the Tampa Bay Lightning, correct? Or did Mattias Ohlund, his agent and the Lightning management team magically come to a 7 year 30+ million deal within 30 minutes of the free agency period begining? That's an awful short amount of time for the Lightning to make an offer, Ohlund's agent to counter, Ohlund to talk to his family about the possible move, an agreement to finally be reached, the NHL to be notified, the NHL to clear the deal and the media to be notified.

    I guess Vancouver is willing to overlook that one?

  4. The amount of time being devoted to this story that is by definition not being spent discussing the death of Michael Jackson is an outrage, plain and simple.

  5. Am I the only one who thinks the whole concept of tampering rules is retarded? Wouldn't it be better for competitive balance if every GM had to contend with the fact that the players he's trying to re-sign have a good idea of what they can get on the open market? I thought the purpose of the salary cap was to keep "have" teams from having rights to the top players in perpetuity. Don't tampering rules put up an arbitrary obstacle to that?

  6. We just want a crack at Taylor Hall. :)

  7. Mmmm, Chalet sauce...

  8. very well said DGB. i couldn't agree more.

    also, props to RobViper. good call.

  9. In the sake of fairness to 'The Province', this article was pointed out to me on a different site:

  10. There's no rule that says you have to embarass yourself as you play along.

    Don't know how you missed it but rule # 1 in the Vancouver Canucks Fans' Manual demands that they be insecure about anything involving the Leafs.

  11. I moved out to Vancouver from Toronto in 2005 and cannot begin to fathom the level of animosity for anything Hogtown out here.

    PPP is right on, Canuck fans always say to me "we like to hate the Leafs more than we like to cheer the Canucks"

    Its not easy being a fan of the official team of Canada out here.

  12. I still don't get it. What exactly have the Leafs done that completely inconvenienced Canuck fans personally for the remained of their god forsaken lives. DGB? PPP? Viper? Do you happen to have an answer within your awesome minds?

  13. Re: RobViper13 and Ohlund: It's my understanding that NHL teams can begin negotiating with free agents at 12:01 AM EST on July 1st, they just can't physically sign a deal until after 12 o'clock noon, so there's actually 12 hours there to work out a contract.

    Re: a couple of the Anonymous comments: Probably part of what Vancouver fans don't like about Toronto is this idea that the Leafs are the supposed "official team of Canada". Does being named the Maple Leafs and having a national symbol on the jersey really count for that much? We've also got the Canadiens, the Canucks, and even Calgary has a Canadian flag on the shoulder patch of their new jerseys, so why would the Leafs be Canada's team? All the Canadian NHL clubs are, in fact, regional teams and not one of them is our national NHL franchise. Most Canadians, outside of Greater Toronto, understand this fact and many would find the idea of forcing the Leafs on an entire nation quite distasteful.

  14. Who says the Leafs are Canada's team?

    Anonymous said: "Most Canadians, outside of Greater Toronto, understand this fact and many would find the idea of forcing the Leafs on an entire nation quite distasteful."

    Waaaa I'm insecure and need to bash Toronto because it is a cultural phenomenon.

    Blame CBC. Blame your insecurity. I can assure Leaf fans couldn't care less if the club is deemed "Canada's team" and do not consider it to be the case.
    When the Leafs when the cup free to close your garage on suck on your tailpipe.

  15. I don't think it has as much to do with nationalism as it does with the fact that outside Quebec, Leaf games always preempt the rest of the Canadian teams on the CBC. I imagine I'd be similarly annoyed if I were in their shoes, though I like to think I'd be more of an adult about it than so many of them are.

  16. I've lived in Calgary since 2001 and promise you that Albertans hate the Leafs more than their own provincial rivals.

    There is an aura about the team that falls into their "Eastern bias" thinking, consistent with media and politics (see "Bob Cole is a Leafs homer" and "TSN = Toronto Sports Network").

    The classic arguments always centre around two points:
    1 - I'm sick of watching them every Saturday. Like it's my fault and not CBC's. Besides, if you could broadcast the same product to 1 million people (Cal or Edm) or a bazillion people (Leaf nation), which would you pick from a business standpoint?
    2 - They've sucked since 1967. Irrelevant are the 4 conf finals in 10 years, while both AB teams were golfing and the red one was one Sutter away from losing their team.

    DGB, I challenge you to compare the points/standings for the Leafs over the last 20 seasons (last time an AB team won the Cup), like we've seen recently with the Habs, against the Shames and Soilers.

    (Footnote: I cheer for the Oilers, because it keeps me married)

    Thanks guys, this is alwasys a popular discussion for me. Any time I get hassled by a western hockey fan about the Leafs I just stop them with "I've heard them all", then proceed to recite to them the brilliantly eloquent cut-up I was about to receive. Shuts them up every time.


  17. PPP - Canuck fans are insecure about everything. Not just the Leafs, but the Flames, Oilers, Sens, Canadiens, Avalanche, Stars, Lightning, Ducks, Kings, Rangers... well, you get the idea.

    There is no fan base on earth with an inferiority complex that can rival Vancouver.

  18. Caber, I've been in Calgary for five years, and I spent 7 years in Vancouver prior to that. I have to say that the hatred towards the Leafs is roughly 862 times worse in Vancouver than Calgary. Here people simply don't care about the Leafs, but in Vancouver "Leaf Hatred" is a respected profession.

    Maybe things are different in Edmonton since nobody wants to play there.

  19. Thanks cfer. It's awfully annoying how it's almost trendy to hate the Leafs and anything Ontario! People that have never even been there think they know what they're talking about (and don't get me started on the drivers!).

    Non-hockey fans think the Leafs really do suck, because they heard it on the radio or their brother told them or some other uneducated reason. It really shouldn't bother me, but when you're inundated by it...

    Regardless, I can still proudly display my blue and white, and am probably an even bigger fan now than when I lived in Ontario! Must be thicker-skinned or something.

  20. Canucks deserve 2 first round picks cause they tampered with 2 players and 1 million in compensation.

  21. This is stupid. And not very "classy". (another popular phrase now)

  22. To Jimmy P:

    "Who said the Leafs are Canada's team?" you ask. I think it was in comment#11:

    Anonymous said...

    Its not easy being a fan of the official team of Canada out here.

    July 9, 2009 12:15 AM

    Maybe try reading through the other comments in the thread before bashing someone and making accusations. Yes, I'm the annonymous poster that you felt so compelled to throw baseless and insulting attacks at ("Waaaa I'm insecure and need to bash Toronto because it is a cultural phenomenon").

    If "Leaf fans couldn't care less if the club is deemed 'Canada's team' and do not consider it to be the case", then why is it that a Leaf fan had to whine about how hard it is to be a fan of "the official team of Canada"? And you call me insecure...

    Look, I like Toronto: it's an exciting, vibrant city and I've had a lot of good times there and in Ontario. What I was commenting on was the idea, put forth by a Leafs fan, the the Toronto Maple Leafs are the offical Canadian national NHL franchise, and how that kind of thinking rubs a lot of people outside of the Leafs' market the wrong way (especially in markets that have their own NHL franchises). Furthermore, I was suggesting that the Maple Leafs don't have any kind of exclusive claims on being Canadian, ie: Canadian-sounding team name, symbols, et cetera.

    As to the accusations of insecurities, it seems like, at least in the comments in this discussion, it's the Leafs fans who are displaying any kind of insecurity--and I can't really blame them/you.

    I'm not denying that a lot of Canadians, outside of the Toronto area, hate the Leafs--especially in the West--I'm just not one of them. I'm pretty neutral. Well, it would be more honest to say that I really couldn't care less about the Leafs. I certainly don't hate the Leafs myself, I just wanted to offer an explanation as to why some people might be annoyed by claims of the Maple Leafs' official status as Canada's team. That alright with you, Jimmy?

  23. Just to note, an example from the NBA. I believe last year Phil Jackson mentioned Chris Bosh would look good in a Lakers uniform, and the NBA fined him.

    I see these two situations as pretty similar. I'd be shocked if anything more then a fine occured here...

  24. Yes, anonymous, I'm pretty certain the league would never,ever fine AND take a draft pick from the Leafs. I mean, first off, Burkie and Bettman are absolute BFF's, and there is simply NO precedent whatsoever for smacking Toronto harder than any team gets hit........

  25. My dad can beat up your dad.

  26. Any idiot claiming any NHL team is the official one-and-only of whatever is just doing so to stir the pot. See the comments section of any NHL article on for a microcosm; by the 3rd post, the entire section will have degenerated into a cryfest collection of trashtalk failure without any reference to what the article was actually about.

    DGB bangs this home on the nail. These morons (and their equally insecure moron counterparts who are so easily 'outraged'), are not at all representative of the majority of any fanbase. When one asshat Leaf fan posts "OMG LOL UR TEEM SUX GOLEAFSGO" and 17 thousand Canuck fans go berzerk, you know there's a disconnect somewhere. I'd say this was more representative of how any 14 year old with an anonymous internet connection can wield a ridiculous amount of power these days.

  27. Wow, Canuck fans and media sure love to WHARRRRRBBBBBBGGGGGGLLLLLLL!!!!!

    (sheesh, guys......)

  28. If the Leafs weren't the most popular Canadian T.V. they wouldn't be shown as the early game on HNIC every week. It would be bad business otherwise. Numbers, and money, don't lie.