Every time Jeff Finger pulls on the Toronto Marlies sweater, he’s hoping for two things — that the team plays well and wins, and that he plays well and a scout from another NHL organization takes notice.
“That’s all I have got right now,” said Finger. “That’s all I really have.”
Finger is having a good season with the Marlies — a plus-five with seven points in 19 games. He also brings a physical element to a team not blessed with a ton of bruising defencemen.
But the Houghton, Mich., native realizes that no matter how well he plays, he’s almost certainly never going to see the inside of the Maple Leafs dressing room again. He realizes that, for the rest of the season, he’ll be taking long bus rides to glamorous bergs such as Peoria and Rockford.
All he can do is play hard every night and when his four-year, $14-million US contract with the Leafs expires at the end of this season, try to hook up with another NHL team.
“I know that they’ve already moved on,” said Finger, when asked about the Leafs. He turns 32 years old today (Sunday), not young in pro hockey years, but believes that he still has enough left in the tank to help a team at the NHL level. The Leafs are blessed with depth and youth on defence, and with a salary that pays him $3.5 million a season, Finger is not going anywhere anytime soon.
He was placed waivers at the beginning of last season and then sent down the Marlies, where he has remained since.
Daniel Tolensky of hockeybuzz.com was confused about the signing when he heard Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson’s rationale:
“A lot of people in Toronto are asking me, ‘Who the hell is Jeff Finger?’ simply because they haven’t seen him play. But, [former Colorado coach] Joel Quennville told me he was one of the five best defensemen in the Western Conference last year. He played against the best players on every other team. [Leafs’ coach] Ron Wilson told me he was always on the ice in San Jose games against Joe Thornton. Same thing with Jarome Iginla in Calgary, or the Sedin twins [Henrik and Daniel] in Vancouver. Quennville said [Finger] was his best defenseman in the last half of the year.” – Cliff Fletcher
“I’m not BS-ing. He was the most improved defencemen at the end of the year in the Western Conference. He averaged almost 20 minutes [for the season], and in the first 30 games he didn’t play more than 10 in a game.” – Ron Wilson
Tolensky did a little investigating to see whether there was any truth to these quotes. First, he disproved Wilson’s idea that Finger didn’t play more than 10 minutes a game in the first 30 games of the season. In fact, he averaged 18.37 minutes a game during this time, and was under 14 minutes only twice (12:23 and 11:19). I would say that was missing the mark by a lot, Ron Wilson. I wonder what you would’ve said if you were ‘BS-ing’.
I have a hard time feeling bad for a guy making 14 million to play hockey for 4 years.
He should be sending Fletcher awesome Christmas gift baskets every year for the rest of his life.
You know I’m tired of ppl ridiculing a guy because he’s making millions….first someone had to offer it to him…would you turn it down? At least this guy is trying to still play in the NHL…he could just take his money and not worry about getting back to the show…it’s not his playing in some place where there is only like 30.000 people in town where everyone hangs out at the local wendys….lets give this a rest
Tough to feel bad for a guy making $3.5M for playing in the AHL, but it's still has to suck these last few years toiling away in the minors thanks to a dumb signing by Fletcher. You'd think he'd probably rather be making $1.5M playing consistently on an NHL team that could use his services. He was actually a really useful bottom pairing defenseman.
I don't feel sorry for Finger in the slightest. He is being paid more than enough money to compensate for not being in the NHL...the guy is literally set for life. He is a fringe NHL player being payed like an above average defender.
haha i met his gf down in gainesville FL at the gators seminoles game a few weeks ago. they met in the dominican at a resort. i was on my phone and have a dion background so sure enough she was like wtf ur a leaf fan since thats obviously not too common there. but long story short ya she said exactly what this article entails, he just riding out his contract and hoping to get back in the nhl at the end of it.
I actually do feel bad for him in a way, but I feel worse for Wade Redden.
The money is fantastic, but it's a rare and special thing to be an NHLer, something he basically is, and he has been kept away from that due to some weird circumstances. I feel worse for Wade Redden because he was once an all-star who is 6 games away from 1000 and is probably never going to see the NHL again because of the monstrous contract he signed, even though he can still sort of play.