As the current Leafs team continues to slide down the slippery slope that is the Eastern conference, many fans are beginning to dream of greener pastures, and have begun to circle important dates like the Feb 26th trade deadline and the June 20th NHL draft. These two dates may finally offer some hope, and a brief glimpse of that elusive light at the end of the tunnel for some Leaf fans.
Unfortunately, some Leaf fans, and most of the management running the Leafs is quick to deem the rebuilding process as a long and tedious chore, that will undoubtely cause Leaf fans to lose interest. Obviously this issue is of utmost importance to MLSE, as they must decide whether or not to finally abandon the hoax that they call "playoff and cup contention". As such, at last year's deadline, Ferguson went forward acquiring Yanic Perreault and a 4th for Brendan Bell and a 2nd. Though this move, similar to many of its predecessors, offered much more than a simple aging player in the eyes of MLSE, it also offered them an infiintely marketable and renewable good: Hope. They truly believed that selling Leaf fans on 8th place and the old adage that "anything happens in the playoffs" was enough to draw us in droves to the ACC, because it's "exciting" and "entertaining"
To them, let me say this:
Watching a mediocre team of veterans muddle their way into 3rd last in the NHL is not fun to watch. I'd much rather watch a young and hungry team filled with young up-and-coming stars improve.
Ask the Pens how they feel about watching Whitney, Crosby, and Malkin develop...
Or ask the Ducks what it feels like to rebuild through the draft and have a young nucleus of Getzlaf, Beauchemin, Perry, and Ryan.
How about those Blues? Who have one of the best farm systems in the NHL, and now have guys like Boyes, Perron, and Johnson?
Do Habs fans lament because they can't watch guys like Woz or Tucker, but instead have Higgins and Komisarek?
Or even worse.... can you imagine if we were "the bottom of the barrel" in terms of entertaining hockey, and were subject to the torture of Chicago fans, being forced to watch highlight-reel players like Toews or Kane?
Then there are those who would argue that the Leafs have had many opportunities to restock on young talent in the past, and that the blame should lay with the scouting staff. For some reason, these Leafs are incapable of developing young talent, and thus free agency and trades is the best way to build this team.
To those who say that:
Do you know that JFJ has traded 6 out of 10 1st/2nd round picks during his tenure? I mean... how the heck are the scouts supposed to select quality players constantly in the lower rounds?
Let's take a peek at the 1st round picks they HAVE been able to actually make selections with:
2000: Brad Boyes
2001: Carlo Colaiacovo
2002: Alex Steen
2005: Tukka Rask
2006: Jiri Tlusty
Let's see... they got a guy who's on pace for 40 goals, a top pairing calibre d-man, a solid 2nd liner, an all-world goalie prospect, and a projected 1st line player.
And they did all this picking mostly in the bottom half or third of the 1st round... If you add Rask and Boyes to our prospect pool, suddenly we're looking mighty impressive....
And even with the picks that were traded away... let's see if they managed to eff up the late rounds by totally wasting their picks and not getting anyone of use?
In 2001, they drafted 5 NHL players including Colaicovo and Wellwood in the 6th rd.
In 2002, they drafted 4 NHL players including Stajan in the 2nd, White in the 6th and Kronwall in the 7th.
In 2004, they drafted one of the NHL's premiere goalie prospects, Pogge, in the 3rd rd and their 4th best prospect Earl in the 6th.
In 2005, they drafted arguably the best goalie not in the NHL, Rask, and then Stralman in the 7th.
In 2006, they drafted Tlusty in the 1st, they got a steal in Kulemin during the 2nd, and then grabbed Team USA 1st liner Tyler Ruesegger in the 7th.
In 2007, they drafted the QMJHL's leading scorer, and MVP candidate Chris Didomenico in the 7th.
Once again.... Leafs Scouting has been AMAZING. Get that through your heads... If we can arm them with a couple of 1st round picks, including a top 5 one, and a couple of extra 2nds and 3rds, they could do some serious business in a very strong draft year.
My message is quite simple: Folks, there is NOTHING that compares to the excitement and hope of watching young talent develop. There is NOTHING that compares with the feeling of watching a player mature before your very eyes, getting stronger and smarter with each passing game. There is NOTHING like the feeling and security that your team will be better tomorrow than they were yesterday. As Leaf fans, we have been deprived so long of that privilege, of witnessing and cheering for the Crosbys, Oveckins, Nashes, Kovalchuks of the world, that we have completely forgotten what that feels like.
The next time you witness a 5-0 drubbing, or a third period collapse, think about the joys of fans from Pittsburg, St. Louis, and Chicago. Do we not deserve that as well? Remember this folks:
Trust Leafs scouting... and allow them to do the job right.