Let’s face it, with how inconsistent this team has been over the course of this year (and the last 2), we can basically be assured that Ron Wilson will not be the coach of the future for the Toronto Maple Leafs. His “systems” make for some exciting hockey, but the run n’ gun offense will not survive in today’s NHL. Players these days have far too much skill and a goalie cannot be expected to stop odd man rush, after point blank shot, after breakaway, on a nightly basis. His system relies on speed, and puck movement, which is very tough to keep up consistently. To be maintainable, the players need adequate rest and recovery time, because if they show up gassed, the game is as good as lost (as we have seen too often this year). Even if we somehow make it to the playoffs, the intensity and frequency of the games will not allow us to make it out of the first round. So what do we do?
As I have already stated, Wilson needs to go. He refuses to change the system, and the system doesn’t work. Stubbornness is fine, when the product produces. His doesn’t, end of story.
So let’s assume that he is gone at the end of this year. So what should be done with the current roster? Do we sell the assets or buy more? One thing is for certain, we are not interested in mortgaging the future for any player, aside from a bona-fide top line winger or centre (preferably centre).
In the past month I have heard everything from “sell the farm for Nash/Parise/Ryan/Getzlaf/Staal/etc…” to “Trade away everyone of value (Kulemin, Mac, Connolly, Grabovski, etc…) for picks and prospects!”. The possibilities to buy are out there, although it would probably cost more than most Leaf fans would like to give up. Selling would most likely prevent a playoff appearance not only this year, but quite possibly the next too. A tough situation to be in for Burkey.
My idea is to do none of the above. With a new coach comes a new team. There may be no changes necessary to produce a winner with the team we currently have. With a ne w system, players can break out in ways we have yet to see (Lupul is the perfect example). Other players may have been held back by Wilson’s offense first system (i.e. Schenn).
One of the bigger concerns fans have had is with who we have between the pipes. It may seem shocking to most of you, but this is not nearly my biggest concern. I am quite happy with the progress of our goalies (my personal favourite is Gustavsson, but by no means does that mean I don’t value Reimer). Yes, I realize that the numbers have not been great, but I cannot completely fault the goalies on this. Both have managed to maintain above a .900sv% so far this year, despite a complete lack of defensive structure. Both goalies are hung out to dry on a nightly basis, and given the lack of support I would like to give them a fair shot.
A perfect example of how a goalie’s fortunes can change would be when looking at the Phoenix Coyotes. Ilya Byzgalov was a Vezina runner-up in Phoenix’s system (just last year), which plays tight defensively and supports their goaltender. Since leaving the team, he has struggled mightily, his numbers dropping from a .921sv% from last year, to just .900sv% this year.
On the other side, take a look at Mike Smith. This was a goalie that struggled regularly during his time in Tampa. Just last year he posted an .899sv%, only to have his numbers jump to an astounding .928sv% under Phoenix’s defensive system.
Granted, I don’t expect this drastic of a change should Toronto switch to a more defensively responsible system next year, but my point is Who Knows!? Who knows what our team will look like at all should we bring in a new coach with a new system? Will we regret letting guys go like Kulemin, Grabovski, or Schenn? Will we regret trading the farm for a guy like Rick Nash?
Personally, I would rather re-evaluate the team under the coach that will shape the future of this team. I am all for holding off until next year before any drastic changes are made. Others may think that enough is enough and a playoff appearance is needed now. I am willing to hold off if it is good for the future. What say you?