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mississauga, ON • Canada •

New hope for the Leafs?

Posted 10:25 PM ET | Comments 18
It's been over three months since the NHL season started, and besides the few surprises (Boston leading the East, Pittsburgh not, etc), taking a picture of the standings today pretty much leaves most of us happy with our predictions that we made at the beginning of the season. A few good stories, and a few nasty ones, but all in all, it's been what most realists expected. I'm a Leafs fan, and a realist, which is very rare to find. In most cases you get one or the other, the die-hard Leafs fan, who still books days off of work in the spring, just in case there's a playoff game they can attend, and the realists, most of whom - even if living in Toronto - own a jersey of another hockey team. Now here's what I'm really getting to:
It was the nearing the middle of the 2007/2008 NHL season, JFJ had just been canned, Fletch brought in, and despite his ill sounding voice on television, without having to say so many words, we (leafs fans) knew what this all meant. Rebuilding. All most of us could picture in our heads was taking out that one supporting block from a Jenga tower and watching it topple, knowing you have to build it again. It might have taken some getting used to, and rightfully so, some people still don't understand; mainly because we've never really had a REAL rebuild. It's like rebuilding that jenga tower JUST enough to play the game again.
So the realists celebrated, the die-hards let it sink it - drinking away their fears until they realized that nothing could be as bad as missing the playoffs by single digit points again; until we had a mutual realization in these parts: it was going to take some patience and sacrifice to get what we all want. And because most of us aren't 6 year old children, we avoided the uproar that would have followed if it had happened any other way.
The season comes and goes, we shed some extra weight as a team, and things begin their uphill course. Fans are fine with it, and if you're anything like me, you're sort of anxious because you want to find that next piece of the puzzle as much as the GM does for you. Summer hits, and then right up until the beginning of this season, everybody (except for maybe a few people who missed that past year) are fully prepared for a dead last finish, or something close to it. Even our favourites (I don't know why they are favourites; some of you seem to love the weirdest players), we are prepared to let go, because seeing a few heads roll is worth the price of holding a few stanley cups and watching a few parades.
It's not January 20, 2009, and we're about midway through the season; and I don't understand what I'm starting to see. I don't know how it happened, I don't know if people are victims of an overperforming team in the first half, but people actually seem too.....happy? I see people suggesting we build around Matt Stajan, consider keeping Ponikarovsky because he has become a "sniper", or Nik Antropov has really proven himself in this whole rebuilding process. So what, we should keep them all?
People need to stop kidding themselves and shake their heads a bit. Wake up and remember why we're doing all this. Nik Antropov, Alexai Ponikarovsky, and Matt Stajan are all having good years, but you want to build around guys that are having okay seasons when they are the top line of a team that's giving them every chance int he world to shine? Get over it. All they have done by scoring the goals that anyone on the first line would have scored, is given us more value for which to trade. Bryan Burke knows, hell, even Richard Peddie might get it. Don't jump back to the players you know just because we have has minute success.
There are exceptions, if Toskala remembered how to play goal, I'd be on his side, and if Kaberle couldn't bring us such a juicy return, I might keep him too, but otherwise, lose them all.
Of course the Leafs are still pro players, and they're going to win more games, but I beg of you, even the most blind followers, let your old players go, we need to start from scratch.
January 21, 2009 12:42 PM ET | Delete
Good blog but I keep Stajan he and Luke Schenn will be leaders for this team.
January 21, 2009 12:52 PM ET | Delete
I think I keep Stajan too he would make a real nice 3rd line center on a good team. Nik and Pony good riddance though.
January 21, 2009 1:17 PM ET | Delete
i would never in a million years suggest building around matty, but hes a good guy to keep in the organization, being our representative in the players association, and also he grew up in Toronto, we need a player like that in the heart of our team, but we need more talented pieces to build around
January 21, 2009 1:42 PM ET | Delete
Dominic Moore is the ideal third line center; hard working, gritty defensively reliable. This is something that contenders will be looking for at the trade deadline. Stajan has played well this year adn is a great character guy but I don't see him being the third line centre Brian Burke would be lokoing for. One of Kabs or Kubs goes, there will be interest for each. Antropov and Poni head out, maybe stajan (although doubtful) and Dominic. Keep in mind our first round pick this year will very likely not be helping the Leafs next year as Brian Burke is known for keeping guys down to develop their game, ie Perry, Getzlaf and Bobby Ryan. We may not see any of our draftees for another 2 years. He loves developing players slowly. Schenn would not have been playing for the Leafs this season if Burke was around at the beginning of the season. You can argue he was ready but so was Getzlaf and Perry.
January 21, 2009 2:18 PM ET | Delete
I agree, Matt Stajan is a homegrown guy, and we do need more guys like that; but at the same time, I think your minds are clouded by his numbers. Will he really keep things going when he ends up where he belongs on the 2nd or 3rd line? I think there are better options out there, and we need to just forget about the POSSIBLE things he could give us. To get something, you have to give something. Most of us will feel good about the guy they bring in to replace Stajan, because put in the position, any player will put up the numbers Stajan has.
January 21, 2009 2:56 PM ET | Delete
Kaberle might be too pricey for our team, but i hope we try and get Kubina. what would you need from NJ in order to get kubina?
January 21, 2009 3:07 PM ET | Delete
for kubina Patrice Cormier, and a first or second and fourth
January 21, 2009 3:16 PM ET | Delete
Great blog drock. I'd like to think myself a pragmatist, and yet I still think a guy like Antropov should be kepts-- unless fair value is given for him. I hear guys on these boards talking about how the Leafs should just have a fire sale. SELL SELL SELL. No matter the expected return, it seems like the general consensus here is that a pick in this upcoming draft is worth more than 90% of the developed NHL players on this team. See UG's rant in any of Howard Bergers blogs for details. My contention is this: the leafs have not been strong drafters traditionally, and though the front office staff has changed, people should not expect the quality of drafting to increase by that much. As such, a low level draft (3rd and onwards) is not likely to bring in a player much better than the player's we're dealing away in the first place. While i believe this team is a seller come trade deadline, it should not be devaluing its own assets just to aqcuire picks. That being said... Antro is worth quite a bit-- and if we get a good prospect and a 1st for him, we need to pull the trigger on that deal.
January 21, 2009 3:34 PM ET | Delete
Buzzkiller-- is that a little steep? or am i underestimating Kubina?
January 21, 2009 5:18 PM ET | Delete
ndk--I think that we might get one or the other for Antro, anyone trading for him will only be trading for 3 months or service (and a longer ron in the playoffs). The reason why Kaberle and his contract are so interesting is that he can help a contender and be a productive member of a club looking into the future with a palatable cap hit. NJ romano; Kubina is a good defender with a larger contract which makes him less desirable, I would say if Patrice Cormier was coming this way maybe a 2nd or a 3rd. However I don't think the Devils would trade for Kubina, they seem to hate having overpaid (although just slight) players. Kaberle would really help your PP which is the weakest part of your game right now basically because everything else is so good
January 21, 2009 5:24 PM ET | Delete
Great answer BCOOP
January 22, 2009 9:22 AM ET | Delete
NJromano, Kaberle will actually be less of a hit to your cap than Kubina.Bcoop is right in his package though.......or at least along those lines.I am really beginning to like your chances of coming out of the East. Looking really sharp and handled the Habs (albeit a bit shorthanded) easily last night. Love Sutter!!!
January 22, 2009 9:23 AM ET | Delete
Oh and great Blog Drock24!
January 22, 2009 4:17 PM ET | Delete
love the article..... great read. Thank you for putting the time in. My mind is swirling with possibilities.... but not sure quite how to put things into words.....so rather than babbling more... I'll stop. Thanks for the great read.
January 22, 2009 6:37 PM ET | Delete
Great article man. It is idiotic to try and build a team around guys like Stajan and Antropov. They are 2nd/3rd liners on any other team out there. The only players worth keeping our Schenn Stralman and Grabovski. The rest could be moved or kept it doesn't really matter as they are mostly spare parts.
January 22, 2009 7:04 PM ET | Delete
I think that Kulemin and Pogge are worth keeping around
January 22, 2009 7:33 PM ET | Delete
Forgot Kulemin. Your'e right bcoop he Tlusty and Pogge are worth keeping around too.
January 22, 2009 11:39 PM ET | Delete
I think Kulemin has promise, but once again, a young player had so much expectation. Right now we don't play the type of hockey that let's guys like kulemin, or tlusty to really show us what they have. We need to take a look before throwing them away. Pogge, that's another story requiring a whole other blog.
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