Saturday, August 29, 2009

Goalie Haikus and dispelling myths with Jason Allison

There is our new monster, Gustavsson, striking fear into the hearts of the rest of the league, here personified by Godzilla.

Faithful Remnant! There is so much to say. So much to do. Leafs nation has just received the equivalent of your long lost uncle showing up at your door and asking if he can stay for the next 82 games--and we have rightly said, "um...let's see how September goes first, ok Uncle Jason?" Yes, unless you have in the Jeux Canada Games broadcasting live from warm sunny Prince Edward Island, you will probably have already heard that Jason Allison--poster child of the old NHL--has asked if he can try out with the Leafs in hopes of playing next year. Unsurprisingly this brought all of those deep-seated, traumatic, scars-of-the-past to the surface of the collective Leaf consciousness. Don't worry, Leafs nation, we here at TOV will continue our quest to return you, the Leafs fan, to the proper state of logical, Stoic/Yoda-like contemplation on all Leafs matters.

But first, let us calm our hearts and minds by drinking in the sweet waters of the last installment of our Leafs Summer Haikus: Goalie Edition.

Vesa Toskala

A new robo-groin!
Think the funniest guy in
Finland can bounce back?

Jonas Gustavsson

Every time you make
a highlight reel save you can
pillage a small town

Ok, now that we have talked about groins and world destruction, we can get down to business. We admit that when we heard that Jason Allison was going to be coming to training camp in order to try to win a spot on the team we went through all of the hockey related cliches that we Leafs fans go through every time something like this is announced: "Oh no! We are returning to the old days of old players trying to make comebacks with their childhood fantasy team," and "blarg! Surely this will take away much needed ice time from our lil smurfs' development!" and also "but, but, but...the new NHL is all about speed. Captain Molasses will be one step behind and will drag the team down with him."

However, when the initial panic and lashing out in fear left us, we sat down and stoically reasoned through these three prevailing hockey arguments and decided that a) they are not entirely accurate and b) that Jason Allison on the team would not be a bad thing. Let us show you!

Myth #1: The Leafs never change/we like old dudes

We know this argument well and it comes to us in many different forms--mortgage our future for the present, we love those whose best days are behind them, we need more "veteran presence" etc. And because of this legacy we Leaf fans have developed a "if they are older than 32, they must be a bad idea." We have seen old guys come in before and not play to the level that they had played elsewhere. We are scared that we are buying high, having sold low in order to get them here. We are scared of making a big ol mistake again.

Well, in this situation, this is the easiest of the three myths to dispel. Allison will be coming in as a guy who hasn't played in three years, is desperate to make the team (and get a paycheck) and who will most likely take a league minimum 2-way deal in order to suit up for the year. He's not going to cost us a Brad Boyes or a Alyn McCauley. Right now he is kinda like a company that has almost gone bankrupt. His stock price is pennies. We can buy him and the only risk we have is the initial purchase price, which we have noted is going to be low. Worst case scenario, we pay him 500k to sit in the box and remember the good ol' days. And the upside is obvious--he scores on a point-per-game pace that he had last time he was here.

So this isn't the patented "Leafs only look to old guys" move of the past. The team makeup is not the same the last time he was here when we got him, O'Neill, Lindros, Khavanov, and Czerkawski. That was like having a whole team of penny stocks. Anyone can tell you that a portfolio of only penny stocks has a slim chance at making you a millionaire and a great chance at revealing your stupidity. Leaf fans, we are not in that old boat, so the old argument does not apply.

Myth #2: He's stealing icetime

This is a seemingly compelling argument. It goes as follows:

1. The Leafs only have a limited amount of ice time
2. The ice time is divided according to those who deserve it
3. Youth grow by playing more
4. Older players have hit their plateau and, although having less potential than young players, they are at the present time better than the learning players, due to experience and by having previously proved themselves
5. The older players therefore get the ice time due to argument #2.
6. A team with older players stunts the growth of younger players.

This is the argument that is bandied about in one form or another. And it applies to this situation. If Allison joins the team he as a center bumps Stajan down a line, who in turn bumps a young guy like Tlusty or Bozak down a line and they either don't play for the club, or they play super limited amounts of time and their growth is stagnated.

However, this argument is based on one major fallacy. That fallacy is that by playing in the NHL you become an NHL caliber player. This is not necessarily true. We like to think that by taking a fresh 18 year old with tons of skill and potential and by throwing him into the fire that after a few seasons of trying to play with the big boys, he eventually will. "Let Bozak have the second line this year. Even if he sucks, he'll get tons of experience" except we fail to remember that the only experience he is getting is the experience of being a crappy NHL player, struggling to keep his head above water.

Now, sometimes this works. Look at Schenn last year--he just got better the more difficult situations he was in. Good for him and lucky for us. But we had a backup plan in case he didn't fare so well and had to go back to Jr. (The backup plan was named Frogren, who, because Schenn rocked, didn't get lots of playing time.)

You don't become a great player by being a crummy young player amongst great players. You become a great player because you have been tearing it up in a league that is below your standard and you are so hungry for success that when you finally get called up to the big leagues you are determined to never, ever get sent back down to the AHL. This has been the story line of Bobby Ryan, a Burkian success story.

So you may think that Jason Allison is stunting the growth of our players, but we suggest that not having Jason Allison opens up our players to risks that they should not have to shoulder. If Bozak makes the team, he makes the team because he beats out a proven vet who is hungry because...well...because he hasn't been paid in three years and is probably literally hungry! Without Allison, Bozak makes the team because he beats out another unproven rookie and he is just the best of the rookies.

We here at TOV maintain that signing Jason Allison helps the kids grow by keeping them down and letting the pressure build in their little hearts.

Myth #3 Dude is Sloooooow!

This has been the knock on Jason Allison: he is very, very very slow. And it is true. He's not a fast skater. When he played for us he would trail behind speedier wingers who took the puck into the zone and would be driving to the net when he was plowing over the blue line (which meant he always made it to the net in time for rebounds.) "Speed kills" is the unofficial slogan of the new NHL. We need a team of lil speedy guys buzzing around to be successful. And this is true. And the Leafs are now a much faster team. When Allison played for us before, he was a slug amongst slugs. But if he plays for us again he will be a slug amongst...I dunno...ponies or something...

In other words, he will be an offsetting player. He will alter the flow of our attack on the line he is playing on. In other words, because a man will have to cover him, he will open up the offensive zone. He'll pull a defender with him and slow that defender down. Or if the defended ignores him, he'll take his massive body in front of the net and bang away. When he gets the puck, he'll do what he has always done really well (something Kovalev has mastered when Kovalev is the master over his apathy) he will slow the game to his level (something I wanted Wellwood to learn when he was here.) Allison's slow attack will offset our fast attack. He will make the other team have to think and react and make mistakes. If all four lines attack in the same way, they are easy to defend.

Now, because he is slow, he will make a great secondary attack. He can't, nor should be our top line guy. But he will put up points (especially on the PP). Stajan should learn his game because they are similar players. He will force the smurfs to have to work harder to make the team. He's got a wicked beard. Also, we don't have a veteran point-getting forward. We got tons of I'm-a-gonna-squish-you veteran forwards. Who does Grabovski have to look to for inspiration when he gets in a goal slump? Primeau? Allison should be a good role model for the offensive guys.

We hope that these myths have been dispelled for you, especially the myth that "the younger you are the better a team you are."
So for these reasons we here at TOV give Jason Allison our stamp of approval.

Do you?

Til we meet again, keep the faith.


Kleric said...

Whoa ... slow down a bit. Allison was granted a tryout not a contract. Lets reserve judgement until he actually proves something.

Providing that he is up to snuff and can be a contributor to the team I, like you, have no issue with the Leafs signing Allison.

Yes he is slow. Yes he is like watching a mentally challenged bear on skates. But, he would be one of the biggest forwards on an average sized offence. He knows how to control the offensive game. He could teach the young bucks by example. (Akin to Roberts when he was here. And I know he is no Gary Roberts, but he could fill that role) Blake is no teacher. Neither is Poni, Stajan or anyone else. This alone would make this a good signing. Again, provided that he can prove that he is up to snuff.

Thank you for busting the leaf related myths. The current context of the Leafs, where they are now, is what is at issue with this team. Not the general hockey philosopy about what "x" team should do in "x" situation. If the prevailing philosopies of how to build hockey teams were air tight why wouldn't every GM act in the same or similar ways? The draft is important but not at the expense of almost every player on the team. (See most hockey blogs from last year regarding what the leafs should do). Not all older players are over the hill and taking ice time away from rookies (Chelios anyone)? A team could have signed Chelios to ten year contract ten years ago, and it would have been money well spent. Evaluating the available talent on the current roster and what may be available is what ultimately matters. Remember: Alexandre Daigle was touted as being the next Sakic. Disernment matters.

Burke is currently doing this. This is his greatest asset.

Thank you St. Burke.

(And if you screw it up, prepare for pitchforks, torches and a whole lot of yellin')

Wasted Years said...

Nah, sorry bro but I can't get on board. I don't even like it knowing it's just a tryout.

Some of that has to do with the "myths" you listed above and some has to do with the amount of times he f***** me in hockey pools, but none the less....I don't like it.

bkblades said...

Little late to the party, but one of the better justifications of Jason Allison's possible inclusion on the Leafs I've seen anywhere. Though I don't necessarily agree on every point, specifically the part about player performing so well in the minors that they're bound to stick to the NHL as a result, this tryout move for Allison really isn't a bad move for the Leafs at all.

GBDonaldson said...

But isn't that exactly why we have the minors? So that the kids will overperform there and have enough confidence that they take the NHL by storm?

Kleric said...

Yeah, this is what the minors are for, provided that each player does not peak their development there. For example, Kris Newbury was great in the AHL but just couldn't hack it in the NHL.