Wade Belak: Canadian Hero
Wade Belak must have left a favourable impression on John Ferguson. Right when I thought the last of the Quinn loyalists were finished in Toronto, Ferguson goes out and signs the lanky fighter to a one-year contract extension through 2007-2008.
Truthfully, I don’t know what surprises me more, this or the Kubina contract. Belak is referred to as a “utility player”, but to me, that just means he plays defense and forward with equal crappiness. I guess he rates as a decent enough enforcer, but the way other sluggers lost their spots around the league last season, I thought his days had to be numbered with the Leafs. I even speculated he might be a buyout target along with Domi, another casualty of the “new NHL”.
On the other hand, with Domi booted to the curb, if Belak isn’t kept around, there aren’t many others left on the team who will drop the gloves. (And no, Tucker doesn't count, the enforcer role can't be assumed by a one hundred and fifty-pound player.)
Oh, and last fall, when struggling to remember something positive about Belak, Pat Quinn said:
“He’s our fastest backward-skating defenseman.”
So I guess that seals it right there. I mean, you can never have enough speedy, backward-skating guys who take bad penalties and don't score any goals. Am I wrong? Am I wrong?!
Or maybe Ferguson was simply spurred into action by Chris Neil’s signing today:
The scene: John Ferguson’s office. He’s smoking what he calls his “Victory Cigars”, something he’s been doing on a daily basis since he fired Pat Quinn. He’s watching a television in rapt concentration.
Paul Maurice: Ferg, did you see on TSN –
Ferguson: Wait – shhh! Hold on, I love this part. Wait – okay, here it comes!
On the television, Jeff Daniels screeches with pitiable abandon, emptying his bowels into a toilet, kicking his legs in spastic hysteria. Ferguson thumbs his remote control at the television, pausing his movie.
Ferguson: BWAH HA HA HA! Oh man, that is the greatest! I love that scene! Is there even such a thing as “Turbo Lax”? Can you imagine, Paul?
Maurice: Uhm, yeah. Woah. I didn’t mean to interrupt anything here.
Ferguson (wiping his eyes): Hey, no, not at all. Whoo! What’s on your mind, bud?
Maurice: I just saw that Muckler gave Chris Neil a three-year deal today.
Ferguson: Neil? He’s a punching bag! He looks like this kid I remember who used to steal lunch money when I was in grade four. Three-year deal, are you serious? Domi always kills that guy!
Maurice: Yeah, but we don’t have Domi anymore.
Ferguson: Eh? Oh. Oh! Yeah, you’re right. Hmm. Well, we still own Belak though. Let’s extend him another year, how’s that sound?
Maurice: Great idea, Boss. Hey - just when I think you couldn't get any dumber, you go and do something like this. AND TOTALLY REDEEM YOURSELF!
Both men explode in laughter, slapping each other in the back, staggering around Ferguson's rather messy office.
Ferguson: (blowing his nose) Oh, man. That was fantastic. Classic. Great one, Paulie. Oh shit, I think I peed my pants a little. Hey, wanna watch the rest of Dumb and Dumber with me?
Maurice: No, I gotta go come up with some game plans. We need to be organized if we’re going to score any goals this season.
Ferguson: Yeah, you do that. Turn off the light on your way out, willya? I hate seeing movies with the light on.
Yes, I'm pretty sure this is how it all went down.