The long rumoured signing of arguably the best coach in the NHL today, Mike Babcock, by the Leafs must not change what the plan has been for the team. Shanahan had leafs fans committed to a long rebuild, which includes stripping it down to bare bones.
They said a lot of the right things at the press conference that it will be a long process, that there is pain in store for the team, and that Babcock wanted a commitment to sticking with it.
The problem is that immediately there was a shift in the media in what Babcock could do for the players on the team. Where Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak, Kessel were all on the market now there is a sense to see what Babcock can do with them.
The Leafs need to accumelate high end prospects and grow through the draft. They need to develop high end Leaf players. Which is to say all have learned the Maple Leaf way to play. The leafs have acquired numerous players drafted high by other teams. Bernier, Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul were all top 12 picks, from other teams though.
You can't put off a year of rebuilding to see what Babcock can do with the players. The Leafs should only keep players whose trade value could go up in a year. Phaneuf's value isn't going up, unless he has a Norris type season which means you won't trade him which doesn't help the team long term. Bozak is what he is his value isn't going up either.
Kessel's value is at its lowest, but would still command the most. Right now he could fetch a 1st rounder, a prospect and NHLer. He is a guy you see if Babcock could get through to. If he rebounds to 35 goal, 75-80 points his value on the market becomes a 1st rounder, 2 prospects and decent NHLer.
Lupuls value only increases if he can stay healthy. It won't depend on Babcock at all. Polak and Robidas value is what it is and make sense keeping for veteran presense and trade deadline type deals.
Another thing reported is the ability for Babcock to attract high end free agents. With Cody Franson already making waves saying he'd welcome a return to the Leafs. This is something the leafs should stay away from. They should be looking in the bargain bin for players like Mike Santorelli, David Booth, Mason Raymond and hope they have bounce back years that can then be dealt for middle round picks and/or prospects.
Don't make the same mistake Brian Burke did and quick fix it by signing Beauchemin, Komisarek and making a trade for Kessel. Be patient and let the team grow through the draft. Its not a 3 year process, its 6 years. It took Pittsburgh, Chicago, L.A. 5 years of high picks before they were serious contenders