Dreger's Mailbag: Leafs, Flames facing tough questions

Darren Dreger
4/6/2012 11:24:04 AM
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Dion Phaneuf got some flak with a reporter last week about whether or not he should be captain of his team. Do you think the Leaf front office might be thinking about giving the 'C' to someone else just so he can concentrate on improving his game?
Brampton, Ontario

A:  No.  Generally, the Leafs believe Phaneuf is a very good captain, both on the ice and off.   Phaneuf's play this season was fairly consistent and while more is expected from leadership across the board, Phaneuf's play, good, bad or otherwise is not the reason the Maple Leafs collapsed. 

Management points to a number of concerns as contributing factors: subpar goaltending, a horrendous penalty kill, lack of size up front, a sense the game shifted to allow for more obstruction, and on and on it goes.  So, while Phaneuf is an easy target because of the letter on his sweater, he shouldn't be singled out.  This season's debacle will be shared by all, from ownership down. 

Hey Darren,
Has the NHL stepped in to issue any warnings to the Penguins and Flyers about the chance of more bad blood on Saturday - and perhaps the playoffs? This is getting downright nasty!
A:  Jamie, as we've discussed this week on TSN, the NHL holds pre-series calls to explain the logistics surrounding each game, postgame and the protocol for discussing the issues that inevitably surface in the heat of battle and yes, to a degree warnings are issued. The Penguins-Flyers series is what the hockey world describes as a "hot-spot" because of the rivalry and natural dislike that exists between the two teams.  The league sees the value in the rivalry, but won't tolerate the bench antics we saw last weekend or late game message sending if either team gets the upper hand as the best of 7 unfolds. 

As long as Philadelphia and Pittsburgh keep it respectful, the league will have no problem with the heat reaching white-hot status.  There's nothing wrong with a little hate in hockey.

Hi Darren,
Now that the Flames have been eliminated from the postseason for a third straight season, do you believe that they will finally decide to rebuild, and if so how do you think they would approach it? Thanks, your input is much appreciated!

A desperate Flames fan
A:  Kevin, your title of "a desperate Flames fan," is shared by other season ticket holders, however, embracing a full-on rebuild isn't easy because of the time and patience necessary to do it correctly. 

First, ownership has to buy in and trust in the direction of management who must sell the hope of a much brighter future to Calgary's fan base.  The future doesn't include either Jarome Iginla or Miikka Kiprusoff, who both would have to get moved to maximize return and help construct the foundation of this rebuild.  It's difficult to imagine the Flames or Calgary without instantly associating the two with Iginla who can't do more than he has over the years to keep the team in the mix. These decisions won't be made swiftly.

Unless there is change in senior management, traditionally, Calgary waits a couple of weeks after the end of the season to address the media and by extension, its fan base.  There will be many questions that require answers.

I'm a big fan of goals and PIMs. Two guys stand out as really improving this year. David Clarkson (30 G, 138 PIM) and Wayne Simmonds (28 G, 112 PIM) have both really upped their goals from last year while also feeling more shame. My question is this – when guys like this get to the negotiating table how are their PIMs viewed? Would the GMs use those minutes spent in the box as an argument to drive down the salary expectations, or would they recognize this as positive evidence of a gritty player who plays to 'the edge' in order to get himself scoring chances?
Blair Cunningham
Oakville, ON
A:  There would be examples of players whose penalty minutes are counter- productive and may be used in determining the value of the player, or his worth in certain free agent scenarios, however, David Clarkson and Wayne Simmonds do not fit into that category.  As you've pointed out Blair, Simmonds and Clarkson bring an aggressive, tough element to augment what they provide offensively, and both are key ingredients in their respective team's success.


If goaltending is what the Leafs need to improve on first, what options are out there? Any chance they stick with Scrivens and Reimer next season, or do they go the UFA/trade route? And why are the fingers suddenly pointed at Francois Allaire for the Leafs' woes in net? The guy molded Giguere and Roy!
A:  Nelson, depth in goal may not be a long-term concern for the Maple Leafs assuming Reimer returns to form, or Ben Scrivens emerges as Toronto's goalie of the future.  Unfortunately, the Leafs don't have time to wait and will have to either spend assets to land a number one via trade, or use cap space to sign a goalie through free agency. 

Toronto would love to land an experienced goaltender who can mentor Reimer/Scrivens and provide stability for as long as the next four seasons.  Nashville's Anders Lindback and Vancouver's Cory Schneider may be among the trade targets, but to lure either east is going to require a collection of young assets Toronto may not be able to part with.  At the moment, the list of potential unrestricted free agent goalies includes Martin Biron, Dan Ellis, Tomas Vokoun, Josh Harding, Brent Johnson, Michael Leighton, Chris Mason and Johan Hedberg.  The trade market will be fully investigated by the Leafs brass before July 1 to determine the need for diving into the free agent pool. 

As for Francois Allaire, the heat comes with the territory.  He's a hands on goalie coach with a very distinct style of coaching. He's not responsible for the Leafs inconsistencies in net, but he does have to shoulder some of the blame.  You can't work for the Toronto Maple Leafs and survive an epic free fall without accepting your share of the responsibility.


Darren Dreger


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