Custom Search

Yes Mr. Dudley, we “average fans” do understand more than you seem to think…

I guess some people just can’t help being—or at least sounding—arrogant.

It‘s no surprise that Rick Dudley has left the Leafs to join the Habs.  Everyone knew this was happening weeks ago.  And it’s even less of a surprise that he has continued to pump the tires of the Leaf prospects (prospects that, let’s face it, for the most part, he had nothing to do with…).  I mean, that’s what you generally do when you are accepting a nice salary with not that much to really do in an organization with as much money to throw around as the Leafs.  You say the standard nice things about how good all the young guys in the organization will be some day.

And as fans, we tend to accept it at face value, because Dudley is a “respected” hockey guy, a personnel guy with a track record of sorts (including a track record of moving from job to job, but that’s a story for another day…).  And we’re desperate to believe that the system is indeed stocked with solid young prospects. 

Hey, I’ve long liked Dudley as a GM.  I think he did good things at a number of different markets, including Atlanta.  And as for the Leaf prospects, I believe we do have some legitimate ones, as evidenced in part by the success of the Marlies this spring. (Making it to the Calder Cup finals isn't too bad, eh...)

But I take some of his grand comments about the Leafs and our prospects with a bit of a grain of salt.  He had already said weeks ago Colborne would be a second-line guy next season.  Now he backing off a bit and saying “if” he improves his conditioning and if he improves his skating, he will be a solid number-two center, etc.  We'll see.

Again, what is he supposed to say?  Trash the organization and our prospects on the way out the door?  Heck, he was just happy to be released to sign with the Habs.  He was just biding time in Toronto.  It’s a promotion, though I doubt he’ll stay long in Hab-land, either.

In any event, allow me to nit-pick a point he made in his interview with the Globe’s David Shoalts this week, quoted below.  He is talking about (and here was his last effort at playing the role of Burke protector as part of the ongoing Leaf spin-control campaign) why the LA Kings were basically not your “typical” 8th place seed.  (Burke, of course, had famously said at the deadline this season that there was no point making trades so the Leafs would edge into the playoffs, only to get eliminated in four straight…)

Here is the Dudley quote:

“All you can say is the Kings played well below their capacity [in the regular season], which the average person doesn't understand,” he said. “I can guarantee you when the Vancouver Canucks drew the Kings [in the first playoff round] they weren't happy.”

Burke felt compelled to protect himself from fan criticism when he spoke to Damien Cox at the Star a couple of days ago:

“If people want to look at the Kings and try to turn what I said back on me, that’s just an ignorant comment,” he said from New York on Thursday. “I’m not going to retreat from my comment. If people want to take it out of context, fine.”
Look, I don’t blame Burke for resisting the urge to “just” get into the playoffs.  If we had made it this season, we probably would have been hammered.  “Making it” would likely have delayed the end of our season by a week at best—and maybe created unrealistic optimism going forward, as we experienced a year ago (and we’d have lost some assets in any trade to bring in veterans, too…).

To be clear, my criticism of Burke over the years has primarily been about his unnecessary barrage of public comments, including things like “I could have traded for four-first round draft picks” at the deadline this past season. 

Well, if he could have dumped Armstrong, Franson, Komisarek, Connolly, MacArthur or whomever in separate deals for a number of first-rounders—when the team wasn’t going to make the playoffs anyway—then by all means move those guys and build up the young asset base even further.  Those kind of trades a lot of us could have supported.

But back to Dudley’s point.  How arrogant to say, “the average fan” just doesn’t get it.

You mean, Rick, we don't get that the Kings did not play well through a big chunk of the season?  Or that they were under-achieving enough that they fired the coach?  That they traded for Mike Richards?  And that they have an elite goalie, or have played really well as a team, or got hot at the right time, or embraced the “message” from their old-school coach- and caught a lot of nice breaks along the way?  We don’t get that the Leafs would not have been the same kind of 8th place team?  Really?  We’re that dumb?

No, we get it, Rick.   The problem isn’t that we can’t discern the difference; it’s just that after listening to a lot of brave talk since Burke assumed control, (and we can check the quotes:  we were supposed to be a playoff team in 20010-’11, and this season again…) a lot of fans simply wanted to see the Leafs make the playoffs this past season in the really mediocre Eastern Conference.  No one was expecting a Stanley Cup.

We don’t pretend that we could have been the Kings.  But some (not all, I well realize, as many fans are big-time Burke supporters who like his public bravado) feel that, after going on four years on the job, we could maybe have a playoff team by now under Burke- while still building a championship team for the future.

Of course, we assumed that, as part of the Burke “plan”, the “build” strategy, we weren’t going to just jump to being a Cup winner right away.  We knew it would take time.  We just figured we might get a playoff round in first, before we had the actual parade.

Yes, many Leaf fans just wanted a playoff appearance in the spring.  No one expected a “run” to the finals.  No one thought we would do what the Kings have done.

Oh well.  Long story short, I’m just not a fan of arrogance—so to be told that we don't get it, well, good luck Rick.  I guess we’ll miss you, though we barely knew you—and don’t much know what you did here other than get paid really well for a year while waiting for your next job.


  1. Well I think I am above the "average fan" with my generous dose of statistics and knowledge of prospects....the Kings fooled me.

    Last year I saw them in the playoffs and thought the were well on the way of being a really good team. They gave SJ all they could handle in the playoffs.

    For most of the year, I thought they screwed up that good team. I really liked Simmonds. I didn't think Sutter would work out and I thought the arrival of drinking buddy Carter would mean back to the party animal days for him and Mike Richards.

    I thought Vancouver would take LA in 5 or 6 games...and a healthy Vancouver might have done that, but they weren't healthy.

    Nolan and Dwight King playing that well? I didn't count on that either.

    Playoff runs come together in surprising ways and sometimes you don't really understand it until it's all done.

    And yes Dudley is arrogant and a shrewd judge of talent...(Evander Kane?)

    Burke is loud-mouth, blow-hard...who said he didn't want a slow rebuild but seems to be doing an excellent job at just that....just look at the Marlies and the well stocked prospects.

    Even some of his college prospects "found wallets" seem to be working out: Bozak, Frattin Scrivens?

    Even good, competent people sometimes wish they hadn't said things that seem to stick to them like glue.


  2. While I'm far from on board with many of Burke and Co.'s comments and bravado, I'm also not on the level with people using the LA Kings example to berate his “Championship is the goal. Not to get in the 8th spot and get your ass kicked” quote. You put .946 goaltending behind basically any team in the league and they're going places.

  3. Hey Michael, I just wanted to say two things:

    1) You're not the average fan, clearly. You run this blog and do a lot with hockey. I'm sure either through Twitter, real life encounters, or whatever, you have heard a lot of people bring up the LA Kings, the 8th seed and the Leafs. I know I have. Those are the average fans, and I hear that garbage from them regularly.

    2) The only player that you listed that could have been moved for a first round pick was Clarke MacArthur. And it was a conditional first rounder (what the conditions were, I do not know. Who the team was, I do not know). All the other dead-weight veterans you listed, we didn't hear much about other teams wanting them. Apparently there was some interest in Armstrong. But Komisarek? Connolly? etc. This was not their opportunity to dump those guys.

  4. Hi Anthony...You're right, some fans have probably suggested that the Leafs, if only they had made the playoffs, could have advanced as the Kings have. I think most of us are realistic enough to know that was not going to happen.

    My comment regarding Burke and the four "supposed" first-rounders he could have acquired is more aimed at his exaggeration- no one in hockey believes the Leafs were really getting those kinds of offers, but Burke felt the need to promote the idea that he was batting away all these trade suitors as proof that he was sticking to his "plan".

    Glad you found the time to drop by Anthony. Thanks for posting.

  5. What LA has, what every winning team ever has, what NJ has, is a core of drafted players, a core of gys who are good AND owe allegiance ONLY to the home team. Not like TO, with Boston's Kessel, Phaneuf of Calgary, Anaheim's Gardiner and Lupul, Colorado's Liles. No, they have Kopitar, Doughty, Brown, Henrique, Quick, Brodeur, Parise, Zajak, Elias... Sure they have pieces to help, but the core, the winners, are draft picks. When will Burke learn?

  6. Thanks Anon....There's no question the draft is the backbone of most of the elite teams who have achieved championship success. Going back to when the universal draft was really first instituted, the expansion Islanders built patiently with draft picks and it eventually turned into four Cups. Oilers followed suit....the same generally holds true to this day.

  7. Anon you are correct LA doesn't have Richards from the Flyers, Carter from the Jackets and Penner of Edmonton Oilers. Building through the draft is the only way to build a team. Ask the Oilers and Isles how well that is working out for them.

  8. In fairness, Anon indicated that the Kings had certainly added pieces, along with some solid drafting.

    With regard to the Oilers, I think the jury is still out, Phrank, as to whether their "approach" will work in the end.

    My own criticism of the Oilers would not be that they have drafted poorly (they have had the pick of the crop for years and obviously selected some outstanding players) but that they have somehow managed to be the worst team in hockey (or close to it) for four years in a row. So I'm not sure it has been their "plan" as much as it has been incompetence on the part of Lowe and Tambelinni.

    Thanks for posting.

  9. This is the stuff that really bugs me about the Leafs. I look at one of Burkes other statements from the Cox interview as the the real point of this whole farce. He says something to the effect that LA is not a typical 8th seed, they are a really big team, a fast team etc. Well excuse me but is nearly every player on the Leaf roster a Burke player (one he brought in)? Much has been made how only 3-4 players are left from the regimes before him. So who's fault is it the Leafs aren't a big team? Santa Claus'?

    He talks about how LA fired a coach and found thier stride, but didn't the Leafs fire a coach? How come they didn't find thier stride? He talks about how different the Kings are from the Leafs but who the hell's fault is that?

    The simple fact is that after 4 years of Burke the Leafs can't even get the same amount of points they got 4 years ago. Listening to these guys talk the Leafs aren't big enough, good enough and more than a few pieces away from competing (or else they could have made some trades at the dead line), so really why are they talking about how the Kings are a better team? They should just shut the hell up and focus on making the Leafs better.

    PS. about the Marlies, good on them. I'm still not convinced that other than Gardiner and Frattin they have any guys who are going to make signifigant contributions at the NHL level. Espicially next year. History is littered with guys who were very good AHL players who could not make the jump to the NHL. Show me, until then it is just so much hot air.

  10. Good to hear from you Willbur- some of us would agree with you: less talk and less excuses from the brass about why we aren't like some other team. Just do the job.

    And why denigrate the fans along the way- the fans are the ones that keep this crappy ship afloat....because we keep paying (in so many different ways, including financially) and believing.

    Thanks Willbur....