Now that the leafs have handed out the massive contract to Clarkson and resigned center Tyler Bozak the leafs roster looks to be pretty near set in stone. Barring any major trades or changes on the blue line, the leafs have yet again been led on the path of size and "truculence" (in the words of former gm Brian Burke) as opposed to speed and skill.
As pointed out earlier today by james mirtle of the the globe and mail since the ending of last season the leafs have lost Grabovski, Macarthur, frattin, and Komarov. They have chosen to fill those spots with big physical players like Dave bolland and Clarkson, as important as those guys are to every team most teams are able to incorporate their role players for cheaper price tags and save their big money for the all star top line players. If a player becomes too expensive they can plug in another similar player to fit that role because they play a hockey system and not an individual game.
An example of this is the chicago blackhawks who won the cup in 2010 but couldn't afford to overpay for players who they deemed were not part of that core group. Examples are: Dustin Byfuglien, Kris Versteeg, Antti Niemi, Andrew Ladd. Ideally Chicago would have liked to keep them, and they were surely missed, but they were put in a tough position. The cap space created by shedding the salaries of these players allowed them to keep the core group of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Marian Hossa, and Duncan Keith to name a few. Chicago has been able to juggle many other players through their bottom six forwards and still maintain their success proving that by following up a strong season with another cup this year.
At this point your probably just hoping I'll get to my point soon, my point is simply this: Toronto does not have the skill in its top six that the top contending teams have and like always has focused its attention on players who play on the second/third line, have big size but little to no skill. Looking at the final four teams this year you have the blackhawks with all of their stars I just mentioned, you also have Pittsburgh whose list of stars is as long if not longer than Chicagos'. The LA kings made it to the final four with the likes of Jeff Carter, Mike Richards, Anze Kopitar, and Drew Doughty, the last team of the 4 is boston and they are the only team that made it that deep in the playoffs without the "star factor" but you could argue the point that Chara, and Bergeron are stars just like any others previously mentioned.
Now after listing those teams how do you think the leafs and their tough guy lineup that has horrible defense will match up against the top offensive teams. The NHL has always and will always be an offense oriented league with only a few defensive teams able to find success. Sure it's possible for Toronto to find success with their current lineup but without being especially strong in either the offensive or defensive areas of the game just makes it that much harder.
With long term money tied up in clarkson, toronto will have future problems down the road when it comes time to pay the money for the top tier players i.e a Kessel, or a Phaneuf. And if you're not sold on them (currently I don't believe Phaneuf is the answer on D) the money and cap space needed for the player that would replace their production.
Thanks for reading, leave any comments or questions below.