Thursday, October 25, 2007

And the cradle will rock!

(Suggested video for John Ferguson Junior’s iPod Nano)

When things go wrong with any NHL team, the first suggestion is to maybe give the youngsters a chance. A solution which on Thursday night seemed to pay off for the Toronto Maple Leafs, who found some much needed goal scoring from the youngest of Leafs.

Led by goals from recently promoted Jiri Tlusty, the Leafs took charge of the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday and collected two points on the strength of a 5-2 victory in Pittsburgh.

Of course, that splurge from the youth seemed to fit in with the various themes that have been coming out of the Maple Leaf camp the last few days.

Ten games into the NHL season and suddenly it became the silly season at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the cadre of media types who follow every shrug and whisper there. A couple of days ago it was the never ending suggestion that it’s time to move Mats Sundin, while his value is high and the potential to pick up some valuable younger assets is great.

While Maple Leaf fans were busy debating the merits of such a move, a new and intriguing plan was being reported on, the supposed bid by the Maple Leafs to make an end run around their NHL partners and sign teenage phenom John Tavares to an AHL contract with the Marlies.

David Shoalts provided some details on the Tavares plans, designed to bring the teenager who is burning up the ice with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL into the Maple Leaf fold. Tavares who misses the deadline for inclusion in this years draft by a few days, will have to wait until 2009 to find an NHL team to call home. His agent has held preliminary talks in the hope that the NHL might waive their age ruling in this one instance, allowing Tavares to be up for the draft this year. But it's unlikely that the league will do so and lately that option hasn't been getting much in the way of publicity from the Tavares camp either.

For now, he skates among his own age group, a talent that is proving to be a bonus for the OHL but one who probably would benefit development wise from a more challenging environment to showcase his talents. This week there were rumblings of a potential relocation to one of the European leagues, or we assume if the Leafs can swing the deal, a trip to the Ricoh Coliseum and a locker with the Leafs farm club the Marlies.

It’s not clear how things would work in sneaking Tavares into the clutches of the Maple Leafs, some suggest that GM John Ferguson Jr. has some kind of loop hole in mind, while other like minded co-conspiracists believe that in the end, Tavares would refuse to sign with whichever team selects him in the amateur draft of 2009. A move that would leave the drafting team to negotiate a deal with Toronto, for the player many say may be the next big thing. Failing that, the Leafs it is suggested, threw out the idea that Tavares could play for the Marlies until he becomes a free agent in 2011.

It’s all very interesting, if not slightly weird and unlikely. For one thing if Tavares is as good as many say that he is, there will be no shortage of teams jockeying for his affections on draft day whenever that day comes. If the Leafs think that a young player just starting out his NHL career is going to purposely sit out the first few years of his career, just to pull on a Leafs uniform, then somebody had best check the ventilation system at the Air Canada Centre.

It’s been a rough start to the Leaf’s season so far, the team has struggled on the ice and the whispers are getting louder and louder about major changes set to come. Included in those whispers, is the prospect of a change which may include the replacement of the General Manager.

Maybe the story about the young phenom and the Leafs is but a diversion to take the minds of the Leaf Nation off the struggling state of the team these days and to buy their embattled GM a bit of time.

Not since the WHA brought the young lads in swaddling clothes into professional hockey in the seventies has the potential of a youth movement created such a storm.

But sending a young man just into the beginning of his career into the confusing and somewhat anarchistic state of the Maple Leaf Nation just doesn’t seem right. Surely there are child protection laws in Ontario that will spring into effect, designed to keep the young from suffering at the hands of the unscrupulous.

We suspect that a child protection order is being researched as we speak.

Below are some of the theories on just what it is that the Leafs may be up to:

The Canadian Press: Leafs looking at signing Tavares to AHL deal? Don t bother says AHL prez
The Toronto Star: Leafs making eyes at Tavares
Toronto Metro: Leafs target Tavares Tavares deal pure fantasy Tavares-Leafs story doesn't make sense
CBC Sports: Leafs chasing phenom Tavares: report

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