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  • TORONTO – He was the home run acquisition in the summer of 2009. Swell Drinkfles . Formerly a member of the rival Canadiens and a noted thorn in the side of Mats Sundin, Mike Komisarek signed in Toronto for five years and a hefty $22.5 million. It was four years later, almost to the day, that Komisarek had his contract bought out by the organization, the American defender unable to realize the nasty game which brought him to the Leafs, seemingly weighed down by the burden of his sizeable contract. When free agency opened this past summer it was David Clarkson getting the big deal in this city, inked to an even grander pact which extended over seven years and was worth upwards of $36 million. Wary of the effect large contracts – and their respective pressures – can have on athletes Randy Carlyle took to drawing a red line on the expectations for Clarkson prior to his exhibition debut with the club on Monday evening. "We dont want him to be anything more than David Clarkson," said Carlyle. "Theres a trap at times when players do change teams and contracts become something notable, the first thing they try to do is change the way they play. Thats one thing we want to guard against. We want David Clarkson to play the way hes capable of playing and [do] the things he normally does, not try to be anything more than what hes been before." "I dont read anything or look at anything," Clarkson said of the expected pressures. "All Im going to do is go out every night and give everything I have. Am I going to be perfect? No. Im going to make mistakes. But Im going to play that same kind of style of hockey that got me here." Clarkson delivered such a brand in his first game with the Leafs. He played with a physical edge, he chirped the opposing bench, he had his opportunities offensively and was generally an irritant. Thumped at one point in the second frame by Nicklas Grossman, the 6-foot-4, 230 pound behemoth on the Flyers defence, Clarkson went about roughhousing with his much larger opponent. "It was like trying to move a fridge," chimed Clarkson, listed at an even 200 pounds. "It was just more that I didnt like getting hit like that." Whether Clarkson can live up to a contract of serious proportions will remain an open question, but one the organization isnt contemplating. "Im not worried about [years] six and seven right now," Leafs general manager Dave Nonis said of Clarkson, hours after the signing was announced in early July. "Im worried about [the first] one and year one I know were going to have a very good player. "I believe that hes got a lot of good years left in him," Nonis continued. "Hes not 35 years old." Clarkson scored 30 with the Devils two years ago, adding 15 in 48 games last season. The Leafs arent hedging their bets strictly with offence though instead looking to their free agent add to provide decent measures of truculence, leadership and many of the intangibles which cant be measured. "If David Clarkson doesnt score 30 goals in a Leaf uniform, but provides all the other things that we know hes going to provide were pretty comfortable were a better team," Nonis noted. It was fitting then that Carlyle would nod in approval when questioned on Clarksons unlikely exhibition scrap with Grossman. "Hes done it all his career," he observed. "Thats why he is what he is." And all the Leafs want him to be. Five Points 1. Clarksons choice A teammate of Clarkson while the two were in New Jersey, Mark Fraser was far from surprised when he got word that the Toronto native had landed with the Leafs. "It was no secret that [Clarkson] was a big fan of the blue and white," Fraser grinned. "There couldve been 29 other teams in the running and I think I knew who he wanted to sign with more." 2. Bernier debut Jonathan Bernier made few, if any, changes to his pre-game routine ahead of his first start with the Leafs on Monday night. "Its pretty much the same," he said. "Actually the only thing that changed [is] we have meals here and then I go for a little nap. Pretty much the same routine as usual." Bernier said the most difficult adjustment to a new team, new city, new everything really, was actually on the ice, getting a read on the system his team employs. "Youve got to make sure that you know where your [defencemen] are going to be," he said, noting the need for understanding of such tactics on the penalty kill and opposition forecheck. "For me especially, handling the puck, thats a big adjustment." Bernier stopped 15 of 16 shots before he was replaced by Drew MacIntyre midway through the game. 3. Gardiner revival It was sophomore year at the University of Wisconsin, the last point that Jake Gardiner felt his confidence dip to where it plunged last season. But after some redemption in the playoffs and an offseason spent back in Minnetonka, Minnesota, Gardiner is feeling revived heading into his third pro season. The 23-year-old looks back to his experience in 2013, one that saw him bounce between the Marlies, Leafs and press box, as likely to be beneficial over the long run. "It was nice to have a down in my career just to know what its like," he said earlier this week, "try to never experience that again obviously and just keep moving forward." Following that disappointing second season with the Badgers in college, Gardiner returned as a junior and dominated, finishing second to teammate Justin Schultz in scoring among all WCHA defenders. 4. No Maintenance Troy Bodie has at least one fan in Randy Carlyle. "Hes a no maintenance guy," said Carlyle of the imposing 6-foot-4 winger, inked to a one-year deal this past summer. "Hes one of those guys that you think if there was a model for your younger players to model themselves after Troy Bodie would be one of those guys. Coaches love no-maintenance players." Carlyle coached Bodie for parts of three seasons in Anaheim, the now son-in-law of MLSE President Tim Leiweke spending the past two seasons in the American League. "Hes not a flashy guy," continued Carlyle of Bodie, who played for Dallas Eakins and the Marlies in 2009-10. "I would say hes an up-and-down winger thats going to take the body, good teammate." Opportunity may just be knocking for Bodie with fellow fourth line element Frazer McLaren scheduled to miss at least two weeks with a fractured pinky finger. Carlyles fondness for the brash ingredient is known and because of his familiarity with the player, Bodie could sneak his way onto the roster. "I know what he expects," Bodie said of the Leafs coach, "so its nice for me not to come into this camp blind. I understand what he expects and what kind of player he would want me to be if I was there playing for him." 5. A brief on T.J. Brennan The Leafs represent the fourth organization T.J. Brennan has been apart in a matter of months. Drafted and bred by the Sabres (a second round selection in 2007), Brennan was finally shuffled off to Florida this past March. He went on to play 19 games for the Panthers, posting a couple goals and nine points. A restricted free agent, he and the front office in Sunrise couldnt come to terms on a new contract and thus Brennan was on the move again, this time to Nashville for Bobby Butler in mid-June. The Predators opted not to qualify Brennan and aimed to sign him to a two-way deal. Brennan though, desiring some level of control, declined and became an unrestricted free agent. Sensing some opportunity and a good fit, he signed with the Leafs for one year on a one-way deal. "It seemed like a good partnership here," said Brennan, who played 22-plus minutes on Monday, paired with Gardiner against the Flyers. "It definitely seemed like somewhere I could grow and really settle in and take the things Ive learned from Buffalo, Florida and the minors and really establish myself."  The Leafs like the edge and offence Brennan can potentially provide – he scored 14 goals with Rochester in 2013 – and see his addition as an opportunity to inject depth on the blueline. Quote of the Night "I wouldnt say it was a classic NHL game." -Randy Carlyle on his teams 4-3 loss in the shootout. Up Next The Leafs travel to Ottawa for a Thursday clash with the Senators. Swell Waterfles Kopen . -- The Orlando Magic have made no secret that the future of their franchise will depend on how well they can develop their young players. Swell Goedkoop . Alen, 28, hit .315 with five home runs, 59 RBI and a career-high nine stolen bases for the Goldeyes last season. He is the longest serving catcher in Goldeyes history, having already spent five seasons with the organization.My uncle Rolly would say "a tie is like kissing your sister" and though I did not have a sister, and kissing anyone was a wholly unappetizing prospect, I got his drift. Nobody is happy with the outcome. To its credit, in the late 1990s, the spry brain-trust at the National Hockey League recognized this fundamental drag on its product and vowed to improve a flawed system. Various solutions and quick-fixes were considered in the ensuing years, and the League, largely during semi-regular work stoppages, decided on a blended approach. (This new three-pronged approach, despite coinciding with league expansion and record revenues, would trigger the erosion of my interest, until I eventually stopped watching entirely.) Change Number One: Four Skaters and a Goalie The number of skaters decreased to four a-side during the overtime period, opening up offensive manoeuvrability and theoretically ending more games with game-winning tallies rather than endless dump-and-chase neutrality. Verdict: Wow. This was a major move, altering the five-on-five structure basic to the sport, and it was a winner. Instead of labouring through increased late game conservatism, skilled players could find themselves better able to deke and shimmy and strut their capabilities, particularly in the games most crucial moments. It also encouraged the reversing of a trend which had taken hold across the league, one where teams were playing "not to lose" and overtime periods were getting increasingly dump-and-chase ho-hum. Overtime would be meaningful again! Sha-la-la-la! Success. Change Number Two: If At First You Dont Succeed, Shoot Again The NHL introduced the controversial, internationally-tested shootout as a means of concluding deadlocked matches. Already in use at NHL All-Star Games, the League took a baby step, opting for three shooters per side, rather than the five per side standard in international play. One in seven games ended in a tie in 2003-2004, so this was going to have a major impact. Verdict: Surprisingly decent move. Fans get a thrill and hopelessly tied games get a victor. Two for two, by my count. But the NHL is not in the leave-well-enough-alone business. In classic League fashion, a third branch of tinkering was offered up, one in which the basic worth of winning or losing would be altered. It is this final alteration that persists to today, defining the current system, and for this hanging-by-a-thread fan, produces a result which is laughable and has firmly pushed me to the periphery of support. Change Number Three: The Three Point Game Shudder. In the former system, a win was worth two points for the victor, zero points for the vanquished. A tie meant a point to each side. Two points per game to be won, lost or split. In the current system, two points continue to be the victors spoils, but depending upon how the loser loses, the losing team may be awarded one or zero points. The pertinent extrapolation — particularly in a conference-based playoff system — is to recognize that some games are then worth three points and other games worth two. This imbalance is a black eye on the game which needs immediate attention. The rule change emerged from what was termed the "Dead Puck Era" or "The Decade Hockey Turned To Crap". Overtime periods had become interminable with each side playing for the tie rather than chance going home pointless. So the NHL made tie games at the end of regulation worth one point to each side to encourage vigorous overtime play for an additional point. The change did not have the desired outcome. The risk-averse playing just starts earlier. Now the second half of the third period is the play-it-safe spot. (For those following at home, the second half of the third period was traditionally also known as the "end of the game".) So now this "end of the game" segment is like a Benjamin Moore product demonstration. Not coincidentally, since the current system launched in 2005-06, there has been a major weakening in the Mike Gallay-watching to hockey-on-television corollary. Whatever, It All Shakes Out in the End If the very nature of consolation points doesnt enrage you, consider this: not only should the Los Angeles Kings not have won the Stanley Cup in 2012, they should not have even been in the playoffs. Swell Fles Kopen. In 2011-12, the Kings finished the regular season in the 8th seed of the Western Conference. Their record of 40-27-15 really meant they finished games 40-42. In 10th place languished the Dallas Stars (42-40) and in 11th, the Colorado Rockies* (41-41). In any season prior to the three point game initiative, the Kings would not have been in the post-season. (*I am an indefatigable purist in some regards.**)(**I realize if that was truly the case I should refer to them as the Quebec Nordiques.) This is not a one-off situation. It happened to Vancouver and Los Angeles in 2005-06. To Colorado and Montreal in 2006-07. To Carolina in 2007-08. Dozens of teams have received unmerited seedings over the years, all because of the preposterous three point game. Et tu, Baseball? Whats that gang? You all are expanding to 30 or more teams?Hey, we can too!Sure weve heard of Atlanta. The NHL has long been a follow-the-leader organization which makes the three point game more puzzling. It has no relevant precedent. MLB games cannot finish in ties and, bolstered by its non-contact, non-cardiovascular setup, teams may play endlessly into the night. Hell, if necessary, theyll just keep playing tomorrow. Quite reasonably, the NHLPA would not approve potentially endless overtime periods because of potential injury and fostering competitive imbalance (ie. when a rested team plays a team which last night played seven periods). In the NBA, there are no ties and overtime periods are rare and captivating. Hardwood scoring is more plentiful than hockey scoring, so the likelihood of limitless overtime periods is slight. In the NFL (AKA "the league that gets things right") surprisingly there is allowance for ties, but league-wide there have been only two in the past five years. The anomaly of the football tie makes it bizarre and accepted as it functions more as a novelty than a drag on competitive balance. If every team averaged even one tie per season, oh yes, the NFL would have torched it long ago. Dumping & Chasing Dreams I try to get excited for hockey. I remember my youth, endless slapshots against a laundry room wall. I check out the standings to see who is jostling for—nope, cant do it. Right now, RIGHT NOW, of the 30 teams competing only 7 have losing records. Last year, by seasons end, same result, only 7 had losing records. In 2009-10, only 20% of the league had a losing record. Stop this madness. Its humiliating when grown men playing a grown mans game require the systemic equivalent of an orange slice and a plastic participant trophy. Are savvy Hockeytown fans sincerely fooled that their beloved Red Wings 30-24-13 record doesnt mean their team is a 30-37 loser? Their skaters headed to the locker room showers pissed off 37 times this year. Fact. Deep breath. I have heard all the reasons, some logical, some inebriated, on how to remedy this situation. The League and the PA and the broadcasters all have a say. But the solution is barely a tweak on what exists and would solve everything: Ten minute overtimes with four skaters a-side and a best-of-5 shootout. Winner gets two points. Loser gets a Tim Hortons special. Fans get a better reason to spend hundreds of dollars to attend. If you cannot win a game after seventy minutes then you earned the uncertainty of a shootout. The shootout, exciting as it is, might as well be five shooters a-side to give it more weight and the fans more thrills. The League only introduced regular season overtime in 1983-1984. Crucial, fundamental changes like this happen frequently. When the three point game was introduced it was to be rid of ties, to be rid of the indecision of such an outcome, but we wound up with a greater ingrained indecisiveness. This can be fixed. This should be fixed. This will improve the game. It might even make me forgive what those morons did to the conferences. Gallays Poll #3 If you were the NHL commish (my condolences), how would you remedy the current point system? (A) Leave it as is because I value tradition and systemic imbalance.(B) Take Gallays suggestions to make every game worth 2 points. 1 Winner. 1 Loser.(C) Go back to the system with the ties we all loved so much. Everyones a winner.(D) Abandon points altogether for a ranking system based entirely on scrapping. ' ' '
      August 9, 2019 10:17 AM CEST