This is the the way I see this ship veering. Perhaps with a few of my own thoughts and theories, however this is the path upon which I believe the Leafs are embarking.
In an attempt to add addition draft picks or in order to move up further into the top 10, Toronto General Manager Dave Nonis was hard at work pumping the phone lines and attempting to deal off some of his veteran players. Though the draft yielded no enthralling trades - Gunnarsson was shipped to St. Louis for defenseman Roman Polak - I have the feeling Nonis is not done stripping away some players from last seasons roster.
Arriving at the dawn of free agency, Shanahan and the rest of the Maple Leafs brain trust were again working the phones, this time with agents and players as opposed to other general managers. However the hockey club didn't seem to get a whole lot better this past Canada Day, with the exception of bringing back fan favorite Leo "The Lion" Komarov.
The Robidas deal seems to have left some fans scratching their heads. I'm guessing the management team viewed this as I do. A temporary stop gap while players like Granberg and potentially MacWilliam are given time to be properly groomed as defensive defensemen in the NHL. I would assume that giving Robidas that type of term was the only way Toronto was going to get him into town.
With these new pieces assembled and the return of Matt Frattin via trade, some of you may be wondering when this new direction is coming, especially since two of these three guys where with the team two seasons ago. However there is a new direction hidden beneath all of this smoke. Beneath all of this smoke lies a blimp crashed into the ground in a fiery wreck.
The management team of the Toronto Maple Leafs are collectively hoping for a coming season that can rival the final voyage of the Hindenburg. All smoke screens and media coverage coming from the GM's office is sure to be laced with deceit and misdirection as the ship bellows smoke as it drops from the sky.
The next moves will be to ship out the rest of the team that has over two seasons of tenure with the exception of Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak. That means Lupul, Phaneuf, Orr and Reimer will all be shipped out. I wouldn't hold my breath about Franson, and it seems I can never quite pinpoint how the organization feels about Gardiner and Kadri. The key here is stockpiling ant draft picks the organization can for the upcoming 2015 NHL draft.
If you haven't figured out this new direction of which I laid out on behalf of the Toronto Maple Leafs then I shall explain it as such: The plan is to crash and burn this season to pick up a top 2 pick in the draft next year. The next step is to draft a truly elite player that can help the Leafs for 20 years. With the rest of the picks restock the Leaf prospect cupboards from a draft I keep hearing is to be quite deep.
How do we get to be a bottom feeding team? Sadly if you look at the results of the past 5 seasons of the Leafs it isn't exactly a far fetch'd plan nor stretch to see them down there as it is going into this season. Trading everyone away that has any experience would seem to only increase the chances of the Leafs tanking.
Now through the course of the year, or perhaps even prior, as players such as Lupul and Phaneuf are traded away, Nonis can use this time to gauge the talent level and NHL readiness of some budding prospects. Using next season as an extended tryout for all the up and coming future Buds, Management will have a pretty excellent idea how to fill out the roster for the 2015-16 NHL season.
This direction could really be the best route for the Maple Leafs. Even if Nonis were to pull of a trade to bring another player into the fold here in Toronto, the Leafs would still be a man or two short from really being a contender in the East. Let alone figuring out how to compete with the West. This is the only true way I can see the Leafs competing over the long haul. All it takes is one year more of suffering. And with all the pain and anguish connected to the past decade of hockey in TO, its hard to imagine fans wouldn't put up with one more season.
I mean I know one more season of watching the Leafs is a lot to handle. Especially the way everyone gets chirped as well. However, knowing that it is actually part of a plan to abandon ship and burn any remnants of teams past should provide some comfort. Especially if the brass would come out and admit they are simply going to take their lumps, play some young kids, and tank for the ultimate prize in next years draft.
Since that won't happen, and we all know no GM in their right mind would ever come out and admit that was their plan, I am hear to make sure everyone is enlightened as to what the plan is for the upcoming season. It is a mini rebuild of sorts. Wheeling expectations back in for a season so that the future can beam bright as opposed to constantly being filled with question marks.
To condense the upcoming season into a brief description, I shall simply start by stating it is going to suck. It probably won't be much fun to watch as losses will pile up. The team will trade up parts that used to be considered building blocks to future success in Lupul, Phaneuf and Reimer. Those players will be turned into assets, mainly draft picks for the 2015 NHL Entry Draft. The bright spots in the season will hopefully come in the form of NHL youngsters Rielly, Gardiner, and Kadri all having breakout seasons with the club despite poor team results. Ok, that might be reaching for a bit much, but I will settle for progress from all three and watching the development of other young players who will be called up to fill the holes of the departed veterans.
In the end though the Leafs will need to finish dead last in the NHL standings next year to be guaranteed one of the top two available phenoms at the upcoming draft. Its the only way for this team to really take the next step. It is what needs to be done. It is what will be done. And the Leafs will finally rise again.