Half the season is over, and the leafs are finally beginning to show their true colors.
Burke isn't surprised, although he denies that he and his staff are quote "tanking," he says that these losses are just the growing pains of icing a young team. Growing pains that will deliver us a much needed 1st round pick. As always with rebuilding, and any city that has undergone a rebuild obviously understands this, the key is to be patient, but that hasn't always been the problem in Toronto. The Leafs are victim to managers making bad moves for immediate improvement, mortgaging the future. Hopefully with the new regime in Toronto, that changes, and all signs indicate that it will.
Although we are 'rebuilding', we in my honest opinion are one draft away from getting competitive again. We have solid secondary scoring, a lot of which Fletcher built through trades and good signings. Hopefully we come out of this draft with a couple of potential top line forwards.
This term "tanking" in my opinion has too broad a meaning. Some consider tanking teams who make no effort to ice a competitive line-up just so that they can get that high draft pick.
But my definition of "tanking" is more like; building a strong competitive team, but refraining from trading for, or signing expensive big name players. This way the secondary scoring gets better, but still without elite talent, the team would not be good enough to get far, giving us a nice draft spot. No quick fixes, so you can't be buyers at deadline, if it makes sense to move veterans, move them for draft picks and prospects. And of course stockpile in draft picks. More picks, better chances of finding gems.
Players and coaches are competitive by nature, they would never sit down and watch themselves get pummeled for the sake of a draft pick. Ron Wilson would never let that happen, but the past few games we've seen what this Toronto Maple Leafs squad is all about, in reality.
Thursday night they're winning 4-0 to Paul Maurice and the Canes, and a breakdown results in the Canes roaring back to tie the game. Kaberle with the nice goal puts the Leafs on top and we win - disaster averted, right?
Well no - the very next night we pull the same stunt. A complete breakdown, a poor performance by Toskala, resulted the Thrashers coming back from a 3-1 deficit to tie the game, and this time we weren't so lucky, we lost in overtime. Although, Tlusty has been playing pretty good since his call up with four points in three games.
Although I don't like to see Toskala struggling in net - and kill his trade value at the same time, I'm glad the Leafs haven't made any moves for an "established" goalie yet. Rumours from a few weeks ago suggested Brian Burke and the Leafs might be interested in taking a run at Pascal LeClaire. But LeClaire injured(again) has lost the starting job to a 20 year old netminder. Although LeClaire does have a lot of talent, those injury troubles are concerning, and in the end would be the reason I would not make a trade for him.
There are plenty of other ways to solve the issue. Trade for a goalie among the plentiful goaltending prospects that could be available - Harding, Schneider, Irving, or draft a tender.
It appears that Burke isn't trying to make this team to win now - which is what a move like trading for LeClaire would suggest. But that's good, and that's what Leafs fans want. Leave Toskala in net, let him ride out this season, and let's take that draft pick that this team so DESPERATELY needs.
Meanwhile Burke has been doing some homework while he's completing his move from Boston to Toronto, but he's personally scouting a few NCAA freeagents, that are highly touted league wide. Potential is there, and being as wealthy as the Leafs are they can afford to go on a "mini-spending spree" to hopefully find a few gems. Burke's logic was, "sign five guys and hope a couple of them make it." Makes sense. A few of the guys he's been scouting are Matt Gilroy(Captain of the University of Boston hockey team), Tyler Bozak, and Christian Hanson.
Add a few of those guys hope they pan out, flips vets for picks and prospects, draft a couple of solid players this year, and we should ice a very different line up next season.
Some of the players we add this year might not be ready to play in the NHL next season so will the Leafs be different meaning, better or worse..? Who knows, it's pretty clear that this Toronto Maple Leafs squad is definitely not predictable.