Tag Archives: Cliff Fletcher

Orr and Gretzky Could’ve Been……..

Bob Davidson may have been Chief Scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and no doubt was responsible for guiding many great players to the Leafs, particularly in the 1960s when Toronto was winning four Stanley Cups, but he made the odd big error in judgement in his scouting career, and I mean big.

One 1972 Davidson faux pas is well-documented. It occurred when he and John McClellan travelled to Russia prior to the 1972 Summit Series to scout the Soviet squad, and came back with the report that the Soviets weren’t great shooters and their weakest spot was in goal. Of course, the squad turned out to be a powerhouse and the goalie’s name happened to be Vladislav Tretiak, who wasn’t a weak spot by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he stood on his head in that historical series and continued to stand on his head for the next decade or so.

The other big Davidson boo boo happened much earlier than 1972 and if he’d followed up on a simple letter, the course of Leafs, Bruins, and NHL history as a whole would have been drastically altered.

In 1960, a minor hockey organizer in Parry Sound wrote to Leafs coach and GM Punch Imlach about a 12-year old player named Bobby Orr and how good the little guy was, but Imlach thought little or nothing about it and simply passed the message on to Davidson. But Davidson, without checking the kid out, decided that young Bobby was indeed too young and maybe in a few more years they’d have a look again and see how he was progressing at that time.

The Orr family was disappointed. Bobby’s father Doug and grandpa Robert were both big Leafs fans and loved the idea of Bobby eventually playing in Toronto, but it wasn’t to be because Imlach and Davidson couldn’t be bothered.

Shortly after the Leafs passed on the kid, Boston brass saw the young fellow play in a tournament in Gananogue, Ontario, began making trip after trip to Parry Sound to wine and dine the Orr clan, and the rest goes without saying.

And while we’re talking about the Leafs, Wayne Gretzky almost played in Toronto following his brief St. Louis stint in 1995-96.

Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher was on the verge of having the deal sealed. Gretzky wanted badly to play in Toronto, it was his dream to finish his career there, and he was ready to sign for around two or three million. He’d even passed on an eight million dollar offer from Vancouver because he was so eager to play for the Leafs. Gretzky told Fletcher he’d do whatever it took to get it done, but Fletcher’s bosses decided they wanted to cut back on payroll and use any extra money for the building of the Air Canada Centre.

So Gretzky signed with the Rangers instead.

(The Gretzky and Orr information comes from the Damien Cox/Gord Stellick book – ’67 The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire. The wording in this post is mine).

Orr And Gretzky Were Almost Leafs

Bob Davidson may have been Chief Scout for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and no doubt was responsible for guiding many great players to the Leafs, particularly in the 1960’s when Toronto was winning four Stanley Cups, but he made the odd big error in judgement in his scouting career, and I mean big.

A 1972 Davidson faux pas is well-documented. It occurred when he and John McClellan travelled to Russia prior to the 1972 Summit Series to scout the Soviet squad, and came back with the report that the Soviets weren’t great shooters and their weakest spot was in goal. Of course, the squad turned out to be a powerhouse and the goalie’s name happened to be Vladislav Tretiak, who wasn’t a weak spot by any stretch of the imagination. In fact, he stood on his head in that historical series and continued to stand on his head for the next decade or so.

The other big Davidson boo boo happened much earlier than 1972 and if he’d followed up on a simple letter, the course of Leafs, Bruins, and NHL history as a whole would have been drastically altered.

In 1960, a minor hockey organizer in Parry Sound wrote to Leafs coach and GM Punch Imlach about a 12 year old player named Bobby Orr and how good the little guy was, but Imlach thought little or nothing about it and simply passed the message on to Davidson. But Davidson, without checking the kid out, decided that young Bobby was indeed too young and maybe in a few more years they’d have a look again and see how he was progressing at that time.

The Orr family was disappointed. Bobby’s father Doug and grandpa Robert were both big Leafs fans and loved the idea of Bobby eventually playing in Toronto, but it wasn’t to be because Imlach and Davidson couldn’t be bothered.

Shortly after the Leafs passed on the kid, Boston brass saw the young fellow play in a tournament in Gananogue, Ontario, began making trip after trip to Parry Sound to wine and dine the Orr clan, and the rest goes without saying.

And while we’re talking about the Leafs, Wayne Gretzky almost played in Toronto following his brief St. Louis stint in 1995-96.

Leafs GM Cliff Fletcher was on the verge of having the deal sealed. Gretzky wanted badly to play in Toronto, it was his dream to finish his career there, and he was ready to sign for around two or three million. He’d even passed on an eight million dollar offer from Vancouver because he was so eager to play for the Leafs. Gretzky told Fletcher he’d do whatever it took to get it done, but Fletcher’s bosses decided they wanted to cut back on payroll and use any extra money to the building of the Air Canada Centre.

So Gretzky signed with the Rangers instead.

(The Gretzky and Orr information comes from the Damien Cox/Gord Stellick book – ’67 The Maple Leafs, Their Sensational Victory, and the End of an Empire. The wording in this post is mine).

Habs Slam Dunk The Leafs.

It was one of those long nights Toronto Maple Leaf coach Ron Wilson and GM Cliff Fletcher predicted would happen this year as the Leafs are in the early stages of struggling and rebuilding. Not to mention they’re a team made up of unknowns.

 

And the best thing is, this long night was against the Montreal Canadiens, who rolled over the hapless Leafs 6-1 in front of a less-than- happy Leaf crowd. (with dozens of Habs jerseys sprinkled about).

 

Montreal dominated in every aspect, from Jaroslav Halak playing solid in goal, to a deadly power play (3 for 8), to Alex Tanguay having a goal and three assist night, to Sergei Kostitsyn chipping in with two goals and an assist, and Guillaume Latendresse helping out with a goal and two assists. 

 

What a far cry from Fridays spotty effort in Buffalo when the Habs dropped a 2-1 shootout loss. And the big question is – how did the Detroit Red Wings lose to the Leafs a couple of nights ago?

 

Montreal showed all the signs Habs fans have been looking for, especially the potent power play, firewagon hockey, a cavalcade of chances, and the way newcomers Alex Tanguay and Robert Lang have come through so far.

 

The Leafs, to their credit, hit three or four goalposts, but Montreal also hit a few, and they had enough chances to make this a 10-1 game, which wouldn’t have sit well with Don Cherry.

 

Don didn’t like the idea that the Canadiens kept pouring it on late in the game with the score 6-1. I say pour it on. Help Kostitsyn get his hattrick. Pad the stats of the power play with a couple more. Let Kovalev pop another because for the Habs to be successful Kovalev has to be as good or better than last year, and that’s a big order.

 

Hell, let everyone pad their stats. It’s a long year, with dry spells along the way. Get em while the gettins good. The hell with the Leafs and Don Cherry. This is a business, not a San Francisco love-in.

 

Cherry had another rant on Coach’s Corner when he went on with another classic but somewhat tired bit about European kids taking Canadian kids’ jobs. Basically, I agree with a lot of what Don says. Not all, but a lot. But I think it’s all starting to get a bit old now. Maybe him and Bob Cole should join a lawn bowling league.

 

On Monday the Canadiens are in Philadelphia, and this will be a huge test. For those with short memories, it was the Flyers who knocked Montreal out of the playoffs last year. And TSN hippie Pierre McGuire predicts Philadelphia, not Montreal, to win the Eastern Conference and challenge Detroit for the Stanley Cup.

 

So there’s big motivation for the Canadiens to win on Monday. And it’s always good when McGuire is proved wrong.

 

GAME NOTE: Montreal starts the season off with three points out of four.

SURPRISING TEAM OUT OF THE GATE:  Vancouver Canucks

 

Important yet Bulls**t Story About Mat Sundin

Yes it’s laziness to copy another story, but in this case, I thought it a pretty good idea. Because this story, although denied, is the first little sniff in the Mats Sundin saga in about a week. Which means maybe Montreal still has a shot. But like I said before, the guy stands a good chance to suffer injuries.
But Mats Sundin would be a good addition to the Habs. And as long as he stays healthy, they could even win the Cup with him. (And again, please excuse the lack of capital letters in this paragraph. I’ve no idea.)

Sundin’s agent confirms no deal with Canucks

Last Updated: Sunday, July 20, 2008 | 7:17 PM ET

The North American agent for Mats Sundin, above, denies a claim that the centre will play play for the Vancouver Canucks next season.The North American agent for Mats Sundin, above, denies a claim that the centre will play play for the Vancouver Canucks next season. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)A Swedish newspaper has reported that Mats Sundin has agreed to a deal with the Vancouver Canucks, but the centre’s North American agent has denied the claim.

J.P. Barry, Sundin’s North American agent, has confirmed to CBCSports that the report by Dusan Umicevic in Sweden’s Daily News is false.

In an interview with a Vancouver radio station earlier this week, Canucks general manager Mike Gillis expressed confidence that Sundin, who became an unrestricted free agent for the first time in his career on July 1, would still accept the club’s offer of a two-year contract valued at $20 million US.

Sundin has been the subject of intense interest from several other clubs including the Montreal Canadiens, Detroit Red Wings and the New York Rangers. A return to the Toronto Maple Leafs also remains an option.

The Swede has posted 555 goals and 766 assists for 1,321 points in 1,305 NHL games with Toronto and the Quebec Nordiques. He was selected first overall by Quebec in the 1989 draft and traded to Toronto five years later.

Sundin, 37, has yet to play in a Stanley Cup final. He earned $5.5 million last season on a one-year deal that included a no-trade clause.

Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher had given Montreal and the New York Rangers permission to talk to Barry prior to July 1 in hopes of working out a deal.

The Vancouver offer would make Sundin the highest-paid player in the NHL. Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh and Alexander Ovechkin of Washington currently top next season’s salary list at $9 million US apiece

When Cliff Fletcher Says Exclusive, He Means It For Everybody

I distinctly remember hearing it only two and a half days ago. “We have given the Montreal Canadiens exclusive rights to talk to Mats Sundin,” said Leafs Sort-Of-General Manager Cliff Fletcher to the interviewer at the draft in Ottawa.

 

I remember he said “exclusive.” He said it plain as day. I heard it and remembered it. “Exclusive.” This means Montreal would be the only one, doesn’t it?

 

But when I was up at four in the morning getting ready for work, there, on my TV, were the words at the bottom of the screen, “Toronto has given the New York Rangers permission to speak to Mats Sundin.”

 

So when Cliff Fletcher gave Montreal “exclusive” rights to speak to Sundin, he meant exclusive for two and a half days. Then another team can join the elite group of exclusive teams. I’m pretty sure that’s not being exclusive.

 

So now I’m not so confident about Sundin joining the Habs. He could very easily pull a Brendan Shanahan, who came within a whisker of joining the Canadiens before he signed with those same Rangers. You know, the ones who are also exclusively talking to the Swede.

 

Pretty soon the Red Wings, Ottawa, Tampa Bay, Vancouver, and another 20 or so teams will also have exclusive rights to talk to Sundin. Only 29 teams will have exclusive rights to talk to the player. No one else, just 29.

 

So if I’m Bob Gainey, I’d be slightly taken aback by this new Rangers thing. And if we miss out on Sundin, do we really want Marion Hossa, who obviously plays only for the money and would disrupt the fine chemistry in Montreal right now?

 

Hossa would probably be the highest paid on the team, and would likely bolt to another club willing to pay, after only one season.

 

No, we want Mats Sundin. And we want to be exclusive. Am I wrong to think this?

 

Please note:  From time to time, and with no rhyme or reason to it, my little computer decides to change to a smaller font than normal. This isn’t me adjusting things, it’s just the computer deciding on its own that it would like something different. I don’t know why this, but it’s happened two or three times now. I’m sorry if this story was slightly hard to read. I hope I didn’t damage your eyes.

 

 

 

 

The Circus Is In Town: Montreal Takes On The Leafs

This might not be good for the Montreal Canadiens. They play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night, and because the Leafs just got pasted 8-0 by the Florida Panthers, of all teams, they won’t be feeling good right now. This is a team in turmoil, has been all year, all decade, all several decades, and we’ve seen this scenario before. A team gets embarrassed, humiliated, laughed at, and dismissed, and comes out next game and plays like gangbusters.

The Leafs usually play well against the Habs anyway, so when I think about it, this game could smell. 

But it shouldn’t. The Habs are hotter than Angelina Jolie in heat, and are 16 points better than the Leafs, who are as cold as cold can be.

If I had a say in this, I’d want another 8-0 loss for the Leafs. I always have great evenings when Montreal scores a lot.

The Leafs in turmoil is part of being a Leaf. Even in the ’30’s, ’40’s, and ’50’s, Owner Conn Smythe was hiring and firing and mouthing off to the press about players like Busher Jackson and coaches like Dick Irvin and Billy Reay. There were the fights between Punch Imlach and various players such as Frank Mahovlich in the 1960’s. And Harold Ballard took turmoil to new heights in the 1970’s and ’80’s when he fought with Darryl Sittler and had his ‘C’ removed from his sweater, and when he ordered coach Roger Neilson to wear a paper bag over his head. (Neilson refused, thankfully.) Or Ballard going on about hating European players and how he wouldn’t let the Russians ever play at Maple Leaf Gardens. (He did anyway.)

Then there was the boardroom backstabbing, with Ballard trying to make his girlfriend Yolanda, who knew nothing about running a hockey team, a principle shareholder.

Frankly, I’ve never understood why King Clancy remained so faithful to the miserable old coot all those years.

Now, this year, GM John Ferguson Jr. has been fired, (probably rightfully so), and Cliff Fletcher has been brought in to restore some sanity to the asylum. Coach Paul Maurice’s job is hanging by a thread, and the Leafs’ best player, Mats Sundin, is the only one in the free world who thinks he’s staying put and not traded.

It’s all wonderful stuff.  And it’ll be even more wonderful if the Habs clobber them Thursday night.