As heard on Leafs This Week...
Andrew: Today, I have Pierre McGuire from TSN and NBC joining us. Welcome Pierre, it's an honour to have you here.
Pierre McGuire: Thanks for being with you Andrew.
Andrew: Let's get this interview started. Tell us a little about yourself and how you got to where you are now.
Pierre McGuire: Well, that's a pretty loaded question. I was very fortunate to have parents who supported me in terms of all my goals and dreams and never really crushed my desire to be involved in sports; especially hockey. I left home at a very early age. I left home at 15 and moved to a lot of different places. I played football, hockey, and baseball in university down in the United States. I played professional hockey in Europe. I was signed by the New Jersey Devils and went to training camp with them. In fact, in the early 80's, I didn't make the team, and instead of going to the American Hockey League, at the time when things were a little different, I had a coaching opportunity in college in the states and I took that and started coaching. I coached six years in the United States in three different universities and then was found by Scotty Bowman and the late Bob Johnson in Pittsburgh and went to work with the Pittsburgh Penguins and was fortunate enough to be part of two Stanley Cup winning teams in '91 and '92 with Pittsburgh. Then I went to Hartsford, and from Hartsford I went to Ottawa, and from Ottawa I went to coach one of St. Louis' farm teams, and then I got a call about broadcasting from the Montreal Canadiens; they asked me to come home. They were making significant changes in their radio broadcasts and I did that. From there, TSN Gord Miller, and Dave Hodge gave me an opportunity at TSN and the rest is history.
Andrew: It looks like you lived a really interesting life. Now I'd like to hear your opinion on some current events surrounding the Leafs. First off, what do you think about the Leafs goaltending. Should they keep or trade Toskala? Call up Justin Pogge? What do you think the Leafs should do to fix their goaltending problem?
Pierre McGuire: Well, first off I think Brian Burke's going to be really aggressive in terms of goaltending. He found out how important a goalie is when he had J.S Giguere in Anaheim and that helped him win a Stanley Cup. I think the one thing you have to do if you're Toronto is because you're not or potentially not going to make the playoffs is get Justin Pogge playing. The big thing is to find out whether he can be a guy that can help you win gold or if you're going to have to go outside the organization and make some moves to make your goaltending situation better. Vesa Toskala is an interesting dynamic because he hasn't played at the same level this year as he did a year ago, so that's clearly something that's going to have to be evaluated by Brian Burke and the entire hockey department of the Leafs. [Brian Burke]'s very aggressive and [Brian Burke]'s not going to sit back, and I expect he's going to do a real good job with Toronto, but it's going to be imperative to get Justin Pogge playing, that's really important.
Andrew: How long do you think it's going to take for the Leafs to become Stanley Cup contenders?
Pierre McGuire: I think it's going to take three to five years, there's no quick fix in the NHL. The last quick fix belonged to the Philadelphia Flyers and the only reason they were able to have a quick fix is because a lot of teams made mistakes on Mike Richards and Jeff Carter in terms of where they were drafted. So Philadelphia is the last great quick fix and you're not going to have that anymore, all that stuff took place at a time when it was different, when the NHL wasn't facing the same amount of economical problems as it is now, not just in hockey, but in the rest of society. The salary cap has become a major issue in terms of how fast you can rebuild, so there's a lot of stuff that has to happen there, but with Brian Burke there I think you're looking at probably three to five years and probably somewhere in the middle, so four years to have this team up and running to where the levels of Brian will find acceptable.
Andrew: Interesting thoughts. This one's about the draft, if the Leafs were to end up with the number one pick in the '09 draft, who would you say they would benefit the most from; John Tavares or Victor Hedman.
Pierre McGuire: Most teams have a hard time looking past the 6' 6'' defenseman who can skate like the wind and handle the puck, but in this case because [John Tavares] is a local guy and because Toronto doesn't have Mats Sundin anymore, because they weren't able to get Steven Stamkos last year, because they drafted Luke Schenn, I think the direction you ought to go is John Tavares, which is a good choice. John is a really good player, he's got a tremendous upside, he's got all kinds of focus, he's maturing day by day...in a good way...which is normal, and skating isn't much of an issue, so I think the big thing for John is, if in fact they draft him, bring in some veteran guys to support him and insulate him, and I'm sure Brian Burke will do that, but if Tavares isn't there and they have let's say the second pick, I'd say take Victor Hedman.
Andrew: If the Leafs were to get the third pick, who do you think would fit best in the roll of playing in Toronto; of course excluding John Tavares and Victor Hedman.
Pierre McGuire: There's so many players out there, Jared Cowen's out there, Evander Kane's out there. It's pretty obvious who the first two guys are, and after that it comes down to what your scouts think. It's just like last year's draft, the '09 draft's stacked up and ready to go. It's a tremendously deep draft. You know, probably the most unsung guy in terms of drafting is Ryan Ellis, people are a little afraid because of his size, but he plays for the Windsor Spitfires and he's just an unbelievable offensive force, and he's one of those puck movers and pace pushers you gotta have in the NHL today, but it's probably a little too early for him. A team like the Detroit Red Wings have a chance to deal and add a player like Ryan Ellis. Let's say Detroit can trade up and get the third pick overall, can you imagine how great he'd be on a team like the Detroit Red Wings? So I think that's something you're going to have to look at when you're out there and trying to make deals, and I think out of all the players that are out there, the most unappreciated is Ryan Ellis.
Andrew: Thanks, this question is about the captain issue. As you know, the Leafs currently have no captain. Sinca Mats Sundin's departure, they only have three assisting captains. From the current roster, who would you say is more eligible to be the next captain?
Pierre McGuire: That's a hard one for me to answer, only because I'm not in their room everyday, and I don't travel with their team. I'm not a local broadcaster, I work on the national station, so I don't have a chance to interact with these players and see what they're like everyday, see what they're behavior is like when during practices, in the lockerroom, charter flights, and check ins at hotels. I don't think I'm the right person to ask that question just because I don't have enough knowledge to understand what would go into making a good captain in Toronto, I just don't know the players well enough in terms of interacting with each other.
Andrew: Whenever you watch a Leafs game, is there a player that you think stands out? A player who's different that the rest...in a good way?
Pierre McGuire: Dominic Moore's had a tremendous year, he's really stood out, I think he's been outstanding for the Toronto Maple Leafs, I think he's done so many things so well, in terms of penalty killing, forechecking, generating five on five offense, playing a depth role, being able to play with the elite players, he's been fantastic.
Andrew: Interesting thoughts. As you know, Luke Schenn is an untouchable. Do you think there are any other untouchables on the Leafs roster that are certainly going to contribute to the rebuilding?
Pierre McGuire: Nah, I don't think there are any untouchables on the Leafs roster. In fact, I think every single player is in play, the one guy that is untouchable is Schenn. Schenn's only untouchable because his future's so bright it's amazing. But I think since you're in a major overhaul of a rebuild, every player's available. Why would you want to cut short your teams' ability to make it better when you could trade, let' just say for the sake of the argument, Matt Stajan. We've already seen Brian Burke going out and adding Brad May, that was an important component for him because he wants to address the leadership issue and toughness issue, so look for more trades like that bringing in tough guys that will help keep Toronto respectable while they are in this rebuild and a guy like Brad May will support and protect the younger players which I think is important.
Andrew: With the trade deadline coming up, do you think Tomas Kaberle and/or Pavel Kubina are going to wave their no trade clauses before the trade deadline?
Pierre McGuire: I think both of them will because they're so close as friends. I think Kaberle's already said he doesn't want to stand in the way of the organization and I think Kubina would probably be on the same boat. I think they're realists too, they understand that this is a rebuild, and they're not getting any younger. I think Kaberle would love to win a Stanley Cup, Kubina's already done that with Tampa Bay, but I'd guess he'd like to win another one too. I'd be shocked if one of them didn't wave their no trade clause, I think both of them will.
Andrew: Final question of the night, have you heard any trade rumors regarding the Leafs from a reliable source or a pretty reliable source?
Pierre McGuire: haha, no I haven't. I've emailed and talked with Brian Burke since he's become the manager of the Leafs, but Brian doesn't share a lot of information and I don't expect him to. My friends that are General Managers around the league, a lot of them haven't done any business with Brian, just because it's still a couple of weeks away from the trade deadline, so I think as we get closer to the middle of February you'll start to see things peculate, but until that point, I don't think you're going to see or hear much.
Andrew: Thanks for your thoughts, it was an honour to have you here.
Pierre McGuire: Thanks Andrew, good luck to you and your Leafs.