Reading Howard Berger's latest blog got me thinking, who is really to blame for the state of the leafs. I have my opinion... One reader disagrees. This is his comment that gave me the desire to write this blog... and my response following.
If Mats Sundin and the others, would have waived their NTC, the Leafs would have made the playoffs this season, after hearing all the young studs they would have recieved in return, they would have made the turn around right away.
how can you make a statement like that. we don't know the potential deals that were on the table for sundin? or any of the others for that matter. the same group that held it's own against the senators got right SPANKED by the bruins tuesday night...minus sundin of course. do you truely believe the leafs are better without what were deemed their "best" players?
That reply on that blog made me think hard about what the so called NTC5 do for the team and how they fit
with other parts of the team. If you can manage to stay awake through the first 5 paragraphs, continue until the end for my overall answer!
To get started, lets take a look at the stats since the trade deadline shall we?
Kaberle. 0G 13A 13PTS 0+/-.. I for one don't believe there's a snowball's chance in hell they'd be a better team without kaberle, this season or for any of the next 3. His puck moving skills, skating ability and first pass out of the zone are far superior to most other d-men in the league. He is an integral part of the defense core and one of our own truly great draft picks... which is what we all want isn't it? Not to mention an affordable contract to boot!
Tucker. 3G 3A 6PTS -2.. I've been critical of him this year but the grit and agression and soul he brings to the team for someone his size is immeasurable. I've noticed though that the reason he seems less effective lately is because he is. Flat out he is and thats another consequence of our good buddy JFJ. When Quinn was GM, Tucker had the kind of players around him that would back him up: Domi, Corson, Roberts, and to an extent Green and Nolan. Now thats no all-star team, but i'm pretty sure they made the playoffs and went deep on occasion. Suitable replacements for today's ineffective supporting cast may come in guys like Dallas Drake, Jarko Rutuu, Wade or Sheldon Brookbank, hell even Chad Kilger for old times sake. It comes down to the fact that this team needs grit, agression, heart and soul to be effective and competitive. They have NONE of any of those anymore. Absolutely none and it disgusts me to watch. But the new batch is coming if they play their cards right.
McCabe. 1G 7A 8 PTS +2.. Criticized only for his contract.
That's all I'm going to say.
Kubina. 4G 4A 8 PTS +5.. The only one I feel I can't build a solid case around because he honestly looks lost out there a lot of nights. At the beginning of last year when he was playing with Gill... barf... But he's seemed to find his niche with Kaberle. But of course they already have a player that plays well with Kabby.
Of the five, I could stand to see him go easiest. Not because he isn't a quality player, but for the fact that without another Kaberle, one of him or McCabe is useless, and McCabe isn't going away any time soon.
Sundin. 6G 8A 14 PTS +5(only 8GP compared to 13GP for the other 4 players).. It doesn't take a scientist to figure out why Sundin gets hot after the trade deadline, because, you know, it wasn't affecting him or the team or anything. Now I'm not going to be ungrateful for 13 years of service but enough is enough. This saga needs to end quicker than the American Pie saga...
Great player, great talent, great leader but no longer great for the team. His status being up in the air all year was a definite drag on the team no matter how many times they deny it.
Another quote that caught my eye really summed up this years Leafs and the Sundin situation.
Have you ever heard the saying "When things get too comfortable its time to leave"?
This is exactly the case, though I hadn't figured out how to put it into words.
Familiarity breeds content. The leafs cannot afford another season of waiting for Sundin to make the big play. Unfortunately he's a necessary casualty to this team taking the next step in rebuilding. Many will disagree and even at this age he's a phenomenal player. I just cannot see him fitting into the Leafs future plans in any sort of first line capacity when they should be grooming their own from the stable of players they already have.
For once I actually agreed with Damien Cox last week in his article about Matt Stajan. For those who did not see, Cox made light of how much Stajan's game and leadership skills have improved this year. His main example was how he got up in front of reporters and held himself accountable for the leafs 6-2 loss to the Sabres on the 15th.
However, Stajan is not my first pick for a first line center, though my pick for captaincy some time down the road. Anyone else notice that Alex Steen has looked nothing less than comfortable centering the teams "1st Line" and he's been red hot since Mats went down. He's basking in the spotlight... so... immerse him in it. If he comes up for air and puts points on the board, he's the guy.
The coaching staff. 8W 4L 1OTL.. Ohhhhh the coaching staff. I think Belak said it best, "There's a bunch of good players in the room but, for some reason, we don't play well together." DING DING DING! Give him the prize! I read that in the Toronto Star in January and it's the one line thats stuck in my head since. And if it's no one else's fault, it's the coaching staff's fault. Theres been too many nights, this year alone, where either they aren't ready to play (Saturday's first period being a prime example) or they are outright not following the game-plan(Tuesday.). That is ultimately the coaches' fault. It's no single person's fault in this instance, it's a group failure. I could keep regurgitating the same crap for hours and come up with the same issues 90% of the time.
Another example of how the right players weren't chosen for the right coach. They should be left behind the bench for one more season provided the Leafs ice a revamped team in October as Fletcher has indicated they will. If the new GM is smart, he will find a way to mold this team into something that Maurice and Co. will be able to competitively ice, night after night. If not, then they haven't found the right GM. Simple as that.