Random thoughts as we all prepare for the first night of the NHL Playoffs. Can't wait!
- So, Mikhail Grabovski wants the money, does he? According to Burke, negotiations have "not been successful" and he wouldn't be surprised if arbitration is required. The Leafs may have to overpay for Grabovski, but even through arbitration, he won't garner anything close to a lucrative contract. He scored 20 goals and 48 points as a rookie, but he's also 25 years-old, not 18. I think he can be a serviceable 2nd line center for the Leafs, so whatever happens, he'll be worth the trouble - for now, atleast.
- The New York Islanders have won the NHL Lottery Draft. No surprise there. The Leafs remain in the 7th position, and Burke has vowed to try and trade up, targeting John Tavares as the Leafs' second franchise player - yeah, that's right, Luke Schenn FTW! As many analysts have pointed out, is this really necessary for the Leafs? The Leafs have been importing youth via collegiate hockey players, but the prospect cupboard ain't exactly ... ripe, yet. John Tavares is an elite forward in the Ontario Hockey League, but he's not exactly a Sidney Crosby-caliber player. Don't get me wrong, I'd loveto have him in the Leafs line-up - I'd friggin' love it, actually - but he's not worth two first-round picks, a second and a prospect, or whatever ridiculous price tag Garth Snow will demand for him. The Leafs have the 7th overall pick, and last time I checked, that's a pretty good spot to be in! Instead of trading away our picks and prospects, why don’t we trade Kaberle and/or Kubina, acquire even MORE draft picks, and then start adding some depth to our prospect pool, baby!
- Burke has made it clear that the playoffs are the objective next season. Last season was fun, but it was more of a trial and error scenario. Next year the Leafs will have a better understanding of their team's strengths and weaknesses. Burke won't be able to build the Leafs into a Stanley Cup contender by the snap of his fingers, but Leafs fans can expect more positives next season. Expect better goaltending. Expect better defense. Expect better offense. And, last but not least, expect more youth. Call me crazy, but I don't think the Leafs will be in a top 10 draft position this time next year. I expect them to land somewhere between 7th-9th place in the Eastern Conference, but then again, the team hasn't even been assembled yet, so my prediction is based purely from Burke's statements.
- I've openly supported the prospect of having Justin Pogge as the Leafs' back-up goaltender next season, but if the Leafs can get their hands on Swedish-prospect, Jonas Gustavsson, I'd wouldn't have a problem with Pogge playing one more season in the American Hockey League - as he has clearly not earned a spot at the NHL level yet. If Vesa Toskala returns to form next season, the Leafs could have, potentially, a solid one-two punch between the pipes - something we've not seen in years.
- The Leafs have always had -oh, how shall I put this- less than successful signings when it comes to the mayhem of July 1. However, Cliff Fletcher did manage a great signing in Niklas Hagman, who has flourished under Ron Wilson's coaching. Burke understands the Leafs, though. He understands the club has lacked depth in their farm system; he understands the Leafs' defense is mediocre at best; he understands the Leafs need to rebuild to even THINK about competing for the Stanley Cup again. And that mentality will be the turning point in this long soap-opera that has been directed by the fine folks of MLSE.
- If Mats Sundin makes it far with the Vancouver Canucks, I will be proud of the Big Swede, - as I prepare the noose, that is ... kidding, kidding! - and I sincerely hope he succeeds in his quest for the Cup. He deserves it, and we owe it to him, for all the bullpoop he had to put up with during his tenure with Leafs, to atleast be happy for him. Good luck, Mats! (But I still hate you.)
That's all for now. Enjoy the playoffs! I'm personally looking forward to the Bruins/Habs series, it's going to be a blood bath, I tell ya', a good ol' fashioned blood bath! ... and I picked five players from the Bruins in my pool - insanity I tell you!