Friday, July 05, 2013

Free Agent Frenzy!

They call it a frenzy because they can't think of other F words that work. Fustercluck?

It's free agent day in the NHL. Lots of players get overpaid and everyone gets to complain about their team. Man, hockey is truly the sport that never has an off-season.

The Leafs managed to re-sign their #1 Centre, Tyler Bozak. They also picked up David Clarkson, a power winger, Toronto native, and one-time 30-goal scorer. Yesterday they dumped Grabovski to free up some money. I like Grabo. He'll do fine wherever he lands.

So, as is typical in Hogtown, the Leafs fans are bitching about the signings.

First, Clarkson - 7 years and $5.25m/yr. The general consensus is that 7 years is a long contract. Especially in Leafs land. I agree. But those extra 2 years are what it takes to get the top UFA this season. Hell, $5.25 million is a bargain in this market. The Leafs aren't looking for a 30-goal scorer in him either. 15-20 goals and his tough play will be enough to make fans happy. Lay down some hits. Get knocked down and jump back up. Occasionally put the puck in the net when it matters, and he'll be loved. But of course, the fans are jumping on this as a terrible overpayment for a mediocre player who will never pay off. He's actually exactly what the Leafs like and the fans cheer for. Sigh.

Remember, these are the fans that think Phil Kessel is awful. Because they're idiots.

Which leads to Kessel's buddy - Tyler Bozak. They were dubbed Bert & Ernie in the locker room. They live together (Bozak didn't have an apartment and the season was short, so Phil offered him a spare room.). They've played on the same line for 2.5 seasons now. It's called chemistry. It's what makes a team.

And $4.2 million for 5 years is just fine. It's a small overpayment for the guy, but hardly ridiculous. But the knock on Bozie is that he's not really a first-line centre. He doesn't have the size, or the points apparently.

Fuck that.

I've covered this before. The top-line centres that had better numbers than Bozak tended to have names that will be in the hall of fame one day, or played with  a pair of guys who sit atop every scoring category. And guess what? None of them were available. So if you lose Bozak, you end up hoping Kadri is ready to play every day on the first line. He may not be there yet.

Bozak had a decent faceoff percentage. He made plays happen. And he ALWAYS knows where his linemates are. He took every damned defensive zone faceoff.  He was a major key to the Leafs getting to game 7 in the first round, and his absence was a possible reason why they couldn't get to round 2.

Sure, I'd love a Crosby or Staal or Stamkos or Datsyuk, Getzlaf, or Toews on our top line. Ain't gonna happen. So I'm happy with a solid all-around 2-way player with some heart and a desire to play for my team any day. Leave it to Kessel, JVR, Lupul, and Kadri to rack up the points. Or hell, maybe Bozak's one of those guys who will actually try and be worthy of his contract and prove all the naysayers wrong. He stepped it up in the playoffs when the "we lack a centre" talk was getting louder, here's to a career year in 2013-2014.

So he doesn't fit in the big #1 Centre mould?  So what? Change the game. He's a playmaker who can win faceoffs. With a top-10 scorer on his wing that likes playing with him. If a team can't make that work, then the coach has issues. If the fans can't see past the "he's not 1st line centre" mantra, then they should open their eyes, because guess what? He's ours.

$4.2m/year for 5 years? I can live with that.