Toronto or Philadelphia?

There are two challenges that I have on occassion put out to my readers. The first is to name one positive thing that Bettman has done for the NHL in the past 15 years. The second is, can you point me to an article in which Steve Simmons has anything good to say about the Leafs. Both things are somewhere between very rare to completely non-existent.

Today Steve Simmons has the gaul to suggest that the Philadelphia Flyers are better off than the Leafs. Steve Simmons premise for the arguement is that:

a) The Flyers suck so bad they will get a prime prospect in this June’s draft.
b) The Flyers have sniper Simon Gagne.
c) The Flyers young players like Jeff Carter, Mike Richards and Joni Pitkanen are better.

Point a) is pretty much true but I would like to mention the names of Patrick Stefan and Alexandre Daigle both first overall flops. Drafting first by no means nets you a superstar player.

On point b) let me say that almost everyone over rates Simon Gagne. He is a good player and a good guy to have as a first line winger with a play making center but he is not a bonafide franchise player in any way. His offensive skills aren’t really that much better than Darcy Tucker. He’s got a good shot but needs someone to get him the puck.

On point c) Pitkanen is good, but is he better than Kaberle? And Jeff Carter and Mike Richards haven’t proven squat in the NHL and appear to be no better than second line NHLers. In 110 NHL games Carter has just 59 points. In 112 games Richards has 44 points. On the Leafs side, Steen has 66 points in 125 games and Wellwood has 76 points in 117 games. Would I trade Wellwood and Steen for Richards and Carter? Not a chance.

The Leafs also have Stajan who appears to be a very nice defensively sound player with a bit of offensive ability as well. Colaiacovo if he can stay healthy should be a solid defenseman for years to come and Ian White is looking to have some good upside as well.

Salary cap wise,Toronto and Philly are in similar situations. Toronto has ~$24 million commited to 11 players next season (not including Sundin’s option) while the Flyers have about the same committed to 9 players. Now tell me, which group of players would you rather have locked up for $24 million.

Flyers: Gagne, Hatcher, Rathje, Gauthier, Knuble, Zhitnik, Umberger, Carter, Richards
Leafs: McCabe, Kubina, Kaberle, Gill, Raycroft, Kilger, Wellwood, Steen, Ondrus, Pohl, Stajan

My vote would be for the Leafs easily.

So, aside from the potential of a first overall draft pick (and mid-first round draft picks have also been known to net a star player) there really isn’t anything that is better about the Flyers situation than the Leafs. Now, if this was Sidney Crosby’s draft year the story might be different, but there are no Sidney Crosby’s in this years draft. Or even an Alexander Ovechkin.

This article has 16 Comments

  1. Rathje wont count against the cap. hes gone. and potential-wise, carter and richards could be bette r than steen and welwood. with your points example, u could say that the leafs have the much much better team this year, as well as a better supoprting cast which would contribute to the point totals.

    as for the 1st overall pick. true, but the chancves of drafting an NHL player in the top 5 picks is insanely higher than drafting at #20. or even #10 for that matter. especially this years draft where there will be some good players in kane, esposito, cherapanov, azner, gagner. if i were a betting man i would put money on one of those guys making it to the NHL.

    and about pitkanen. well hes stillyoung so obviously kaberle is better, but pitkanen is making much much less money, and has more potential. hes one of those players u build a team around.

    and please dont compare tucker to gagne. tucker cant make team canada. gagne is a proven goalscoring threat. has speed, and plays a very good two way game. tucker, as u pointed out in one of your articles, scores most of his goals on the PP on the side of the net. if there is a choice between gagne and tucker, i wouldnt think twice. so while gagne needs someone to get him the puck, he is less depandant on that playmaker than tucker. if one of the two had to create something out of nothing, it would be gagne.

    now my opinion is the flyers suck. and will continue to suck as long as they refuse to get a goaltender. on top of that clarke is rumoured the come back as GM after the season is over. and if that happens, the flyers will go though more years of mediocrity. they still have hatcher who is horrible, and aside from pitkanen, have no good, or even decent defencemen. up front isnt any better. aside from carter and gagne, not much on offense. richards is good but is no threat. he will be a role player, a captain, much like a lesser primeau. knuble is OK if he plays with a good center. so unless they make a killing on the free agent market this summer the flyers will still suck.

  2. “and potential-wise, carter and richards could be bette r than steen and welwood.”

    Carter and Richards have done nothing to show they can be better than the two Leafs. Wellwood had 45 points as a rookie and was on pace for 70-75 points this year. Carter and Ricahrds haven’t come close to showing that kind of performance at the NHL level. There is no evidence that either of them will be better than the Leafs.

    “and about pitkanen. well hes stillyoung so obviously kaberle is better, but pitkanen is making much much less money, and has more potential. hes one of those players u build a team around.”

    Pickanen is an RFA this summer and will be looing for a raise. If the Flyers try to get him on a long term deal I’d hazard a guess it will be at least what Kaberle is making. Pitkanen is good and will be a bit better of a shutdown defenseman than Kaberle is because of his size and strength but he isn’t and won’t be substantially better than Kaberle.

    Gagne: 24 goals, 52 games = 0.46 goals per game
    Tucker: 19 goals, 39 games = 0.49 goals per game

    Gagne is a better defensive player, but Tucker has that fiestiness intangable (which isn’t so important in international play). Tucker also spend most of his time on the 2nd and 3rd lines and second PP unit. Had Tucker played most of his career on the first line like Gagne their goal scoring stats would be much closer.

  3. Honestly, with trying to be nice…that is one of the WORST most horrifically defended/reasoned arguments/articles I have ever read. Pure “homer-ism”.

    And I do realize this article is from awhile ago. So to add – now that the Flyers actually have a goalie (and, yes, one better than who the Leafs have), it makes all of what Simmons said that much more legit.

    I will make it clear in stating that I can’t stand Steve Simmons, and without reading this particular article you pointed out, I may be agreeing with him for one of the absolute first times.

    For starters your Gagne comment – RIDICULOUS. I would actually argue he is a BETTER all around player when he doesn’t have a Forsberg to depend on, if you actually were to watch the Flyers he is as good as just about anyone just beneath the “superstar” level in the NHL. Well worth $5 mill a season. Without injuries he easily nets 50 last year and 40 this year, with no Forsberg for a large part and even without the likes of Knuble, etc. As per Tucker, he literally does not compare, almost useless other than when the perfect passes cross crease passes come square on the blade of his stick.

    Carter and Richards, while struggling at times this season, are FAR more talented than anyone on the Leafs in similiar roles/ages, etc. With the exception of Sundin, no Leaf has a shot like Carter’s (not talking power only here). And Richards will be a Primeau/Yzerman-type in terms of leadership, NO Leaf has that attribute, including Sundin.

    And yes, lastly to comment on the first point, the Flyers ARE better off than the Leafs and not solely because of one first overall pick, but because they know NOW they are in big trouble and have already taken considerable steps to correcting that, the Leafs are still in “dreamland” thinking they are “competitive”. Fighting for a playoff spot gets you nowhere, and even if they clinch that spot, getting blown out in the first round doesn’t do much more than push them further down in the draft order and further entrenched in dillusion of being “good” (witness Philadelphia last season).

    What would be great would be for the Flyers to put a huge dent in the Leafs’ “hopes” by effectively ending their season this coming Tuesday. Almost the same as how 2 of the last 3 years have gone for you beloved Leafs. Watching the Flyers end their season.

    This years Leafs are truly one of the most overachieving teams I have ever seen – and they aren’t even in the playoffs. I guess they deserve some credit for that…

  4. The Flyers made some decent trades at the trade deadline but nothing spectacular. Biron should be good, but I am not sure he is anything close to an elite goalie or good enough to win a cup.

    You speak pretty high praise for Jeff ’13 goals’ Carter and Mike ‘8 goals’ Richards. I am yet to be convinced they are better than Stajan or Steen or will be anything better than decent second line players.

    Gagne is good as is Pitkanen but after that there really isn’t much there. Coburn has some potential but hasn’t really shown much so far in the NHL or even in the AHL for that matter.

    As for the Leafs overachieving, hogwash. Name me 2 players on the team that are significantly over achieving. Bet you can’t do it. Sundin will get fewer goals and points this year than last. So will Kaberle and McCabe and Steen and Tucker and Kubina. Wellwood will be about the same as will O’Neill and Kilger. Antropov will only be marginally better and Ponikarovsky a little better. Have the Leafs overachieved? I don’t think so.

  5. Oddly it didn’t post the rest of my message last night. What I was going to say is, Carter and Richards have quite low +/- ratings, and have failed to produce on the power play. They don’t seem any more productive at the NHL in comparison to their peers than they were in the AHL.

    Lets remember that their 04-05 Phantoms franchise won the Calder Cup, so it’s not like they were playing with a weak supporting cast there. Richards had 15 points in 14 games and a +8,

  6. woops… hit submit…

    Carter had 23 points to go with a +10 in 21 games in the playoffs for the Phantoms in 04-05.

    Wellwood had 87 points in 80 games in the AHL with the St. John’s Maple Leafs in 04-05, and 4 points in their 5 playoff games before they were eliminated by Grand Rapids (the top team in their conference). Steen has seen a slight drop in his play this season, and never toiled in the AHL, but his numbers with Frolunda in Sweden were quite respectable and his playoff scoring stats in 03-04 with Frolunda were 10 points in 10 games and a +7 so obviously the talent gap between these four players is not as high as many sports writers would have the Maple Leaf faithful believe.

  7. Oh and lastly, how can you tell Richards turn into a “Primeau/Yzerman” type leader? Firstly, Primeau didn’t really develop into a leader until his 13th season in the league, and while Yzerman won a Masterson trophy, he didn’t really enter his own as a leader until his 14th season in the NHL. I suppose if you want to develop Richards into that type of leader and have Philly win the cup in 2018 you can be my guest… but frankly that’s pretty far down the line. Do you honestly think Philly should be advertising to their fans in such a manner: “Follow the rise to greatness of Carter and Richards… we’ll win the Cup in 2018!” Somehow I doubt that’d sell a lot of tickets.

  8. What a bunch of crap!!!!

    you really bend facts to make your argument….. You leave out sundins 6 million on the toronto side! And you add rathjes 3.5 on the flyers side. That is a 9.5 million dollar swing!!

    Second you mention 1st overall picks and decide to bring up Daigle, and Stephan. Why dont you look at other guys to go top to in the last few drafts.

    1. Erik Johnson
    2. Jordan Staal

    1. Sidney Crosby
    2. Bobby Ryan

    1. Alexander Ovechkin
    2. Evgeni Malkin

    1. Marc-Andre Fleury
    2. Eric Staal

    1. Rick Nash
    2. Kari Lehtonen

    1. Ilya Kovalchuk
    2. Jason Spezza

    1. Rick DiPietro
    2. Dany Heatley

    1. Patrik Stefan
    2. Daniel Sedin

    1. Vincent Lecavalier
    2. David Legwand

    1. Joe Thornton
    2. Patrick Marleau

    Last Leafs have a few young prsopects…. But you compare them to Carter and Richards??? We actually have much more than just them…


    next Gagne needs Forsberg??????? Gagne is a pottential Selke nominee (maybe not this year but normally) He takes care of business in both zones as good as anyone. Second He had NO Forsberg this year and he still hit 40 goals!!!!! The games he had him Forsberg was playing at 60%

    Last with our cap smace we cana afford 3 big contracts. Leafs will be much harder pressed if they want to keep Sundin. Lets say we sign Briere, Smyth, Timonen.

    we look like this

    gagne Briere knuble

    upshall carter smyth

    kapanen richards downie

    sanderson potulny umberger

    hatcher Coburn

    pitkanen kukkonen

    parent timonen




    Dont fool yourself with our abundance of young talent we may take 2 years to really be there but we are in much better shape than the leafs!!!

  9. First off, Sundin will not make $6 million next season. Second, this is a weak draft and there aren’t any players of the calibre of Crosby, Ovechkin, Malkin, etc. in this draft. You mention Bobby Ryan which is interesting because he may be a bust. Yes, Philadelphia should get a good player, but my point was that it is still no guarantee.

    Last with our cap smace we cana afford 3 big contracts. Leafs will be much harder pressed if they want to keep Sundin. Lets say we sign Briere, Smyth, Timonen.

    Those are some HUGE ifs there. Let’s do some math.

    Gagne, Gauthier, Biron, Kapanen, Knuble, Umberger, Carter, Hatcher, and Richards are under contract for a total of about $21.5 million. Pitkanen will need to be re-signed for probably around $5 million or so. Let’s peg Coburn and Kukkanen at a combined $2 million and Niittymaki re-signs for what he made last season, $1 million. Let’s peg Upshall and Potulny combining for $1.5 million.

    That puts the team with this roster:
    Forwards(8): Gagne, Kapanen, Knuble, Umberger, Carter, Richards, Upshall, Potulny.
    Defense(5): Pitkanen, Hatcher, Coburn, Kukkonen, Gautier
    Goalies(2): Biron, Niittymaki

    at a total salary commitment of $31 million to 13 players. If the salary cap is $46 million and you want a $1 million buffer you can spend up to $45 million which leaves in the neighborhood of $14 million to spend on ~6 players. Let’s say 3 of those players can be had for a combined $2 million (i.e. Parent, Downie, type players). That leaves $12 million for 3 free agents to improve a team that is essentially the same as the team that went 6-11-2 in March and April. That could get you Briere and two ~$3 million players. It isn’t going to get the Briere, Smyth and Timonen.

  10. if the flyers signed briere, smyth, and timonen – their future is without question worse off than the leafs, because they would have to sell off carter or richards.

    leafs are no slouches wrt young talent themselves – the flyers’ 2nd overall pick comes in a weak draft, and if this draft is like 96, 98, or 99 – the flyers can only be expected to obtain a better than average player, something along the lines of another carter or richards.

    biron isn’t expected to be their goalie of the future – he’s a stopgap. quite frankly, both toronto and philadelphia’s goalie situations are terrible, and neither team will consistently contend for the playoffs without either A: a serious change in that situation B: a serious change in management style (e.g. build more from within) or C: a serious increase in the salary cap that leaves the poorer teams unable to sign free agents, and puts toronto and philadelphia once again at the top to sign whoever they please.

    toronto has way too much money locked up in non-elite defensemen over the next 5 years – that could be a major impediment to their success.

  11. Joni Pitkanen for $5 million a year? Are you smoking crack? He made $2 million a year last year, was absolutely terrible, I think he’ll get the maximum 10% raise, that is it. The Flyers are still not sold on him, this was his worst year of his three years in the NHL by far. Next year will be a make it or break it year for Joni in Philly.

    That would net the Flyers $15 million to spend, i think the cap is going to $49 million, so tack on another $3 million.

    Toronto is an absolute joke, with those three defensemen tying up so much $$$…Kaberle is the only worthy one of the three.

    Go Flyers!

  12. You Flyer fans are a joke. You might be able to get Pitkanen on a lesser salary on a one year deal. But if you want a long term deal it will cost close to $5 million. In an off year Pitkanen still had 43 points so he ain’t too shabby. That makes 2 straight years in 40+ points and he is just 23 years of age. Again, not too shabby. He certainly has the potential to be an elite defenseman in the NHL and is at worst a #2 guy right now.

    As for the cap, give me a single piece of evidence that the cap will be $49 million. Besides, if it is $49 million that is an additional $3 million for the Leafs too so it is a wash. Plus, a higher cap means higher salaries meaning guys like Briere will be getting even more money.

  13. there is no way joni pitkanen will get a long-term deal at 5 million a season. he was absolutely terrible last season, david. He is not ‘at worst a #2 guy’ – at worst, which he was last year, he barely belonged in the league.

    while i think he recovers from this, i would never sign him to a long term deal, and certainly not at 5 million a year – because that’s not what he’s going to get – he is nowhere near UFA eligibility and while he has arbitration rights, they’re not going to look too favorably on him.

  14. Pitkanen took huge strides backwards this past season. He went from a player with 46 points in 58 games, and a +22 rating two seasons ago, to a player with 43 points in 77 games, and a -25 rating this past season.

    Now, to be fair to the kid, he was only -2 after the all-star break, he had 19 points in that span, only 3 of which came on the power play. Chris Pronger and Tomas Kaberle had the same number of points over that period, but 14 and 10 of their points came on the power play respectively. 5 on 5 he was much better in the last third of the season, and his points per time on the ice are comparable to Phillipe Boucher, Roman Hamrlik, or Wade Redden. Lets not turn the guy into some sort of fifth or sixth man on the depth chart. He was Philly’s 3rd leading scorer, he led their D in ice-time and frankly to compare him to weaker players is silly.

    He’ll be a top 2 D-man in the NHL, and figuring out D in this league is amazingly difficult for a lot of players. Philadelphia would be insane to not re-sign him.

  15. Hey if Philly wants to they can trade him to the Leafs for Bryan McCabe… I’d take Pitkanen long term at $5 mill a year.

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