Continuing the blog as I said I would for all you loyal blog readers, and all comments, suggestions, etc are welcome and appreciated.
For this weeks blog, I want to know; is it just me... or are you as torn as I am as to what you want the Leafs to accomplish next season. Sure, finishing dead last would give us the best odds at drafting highly-touted John Tavares, however, then we miss the playoffs AGAIN. I know, I know, to get better, you need to build from within, through draft picks. But what if Toronto is the surprise team this season. As my first entry in the "Is it just me..." series touched on last week, this team is totally up in the air as far as I am concerned, and there is next to no way to predict their finishing position because there are so many new faces.
For all anyone knows, new faces like Kulemin, Hagman and Grabovski will have elite years and gel together becoming elite offensive players for the blue and white. Now this is not my prediction per-say, however, I for one can't write off the possibility these new additions, along with the likes of Jeff Finger, wont step up and score goals and the new and "improved" defense can help potential star goaltender Toskala keep that red light from turning on so often.
This all being said, and with the upsets we have seen in the past decade of Stanley Cup playoffs, would any Leafs fans be truly upset if Toronto made the playoffs as the 8th seed? Even if they did get knocked out by likes of the Penguins whoever finishes first, I would be happy seeing the Leafs in the playoffs again. The strides we have taken, and may still take this off season are immeasurable. Adding future star Luke Schenn is arguably the best move this franchise has made since adding Sundin.
The only reason I would be satisfied with this result is because there is always the chance of upset, and also, the league has to have taken notice of the respectability that the storied Maple Leafs are once again aiming at, and there may be one or two key free agents available next summer that Toronto can lure in to assist the team further strengthen its depth pool.
In any case, to reiterate, is it just me... or is there ANY other Leafs fans that are not looking for the team to tank this season and to those who are looking for this, this roster is not built for a complete dive. I'd be willing to say that barring some disastrous barrage of injuries and exceptional play from some other teams, that this current Leafs roster is NOT going to finish last in the league, or even bottom 4 for that matter.
One side QUESTION, if anyone knows how long a team has to sign a draft pick before they no longer retain their rights as per the CBA, I would be interested to know this information. For instance, last I checked Schenn and Filatov remained unsigned, what happens if this season starts and they aren't under contract?
On a side NOTE, sad to hear about Blue Jackets prospect Stefan Legein. He looked like he had a promising future and played great for Canada at the WJHC. Hopefully it is not an official, and he can straighten out what he needs to in order to play the great game we all love so much.
i think they have 3 years to sign them.... and they have 2 years to sign european players... i think!
I don't think the first overall pick is necessary to build a contender. Drafting smart and getting players that will work together is what is needed. And if Toronto did finish dead last, there is a good chance that they still wouldn't get that top pick.I don't think this roster is bad enough to finish last. With Toskala in goal and an improved defence, it is just not going to happen.
Honestly I'd like the leafs to finish in the bottom five. I may watch 75-80 Leaf games a year, but I'm not in love with this roster. Blake? Hate him. Antropov? Dislike him. Kaberle, Toskala? Like them and want them on my team, but not my type of players. Whereas Schenn's style of play is right up my alley. I just think this team needs an elite offensive prospect and I'm willing to have no playoffs for 4 or 5 straight years to get him. Really you only need to nose-dive one year, pick up that top notch prospect and then you can continue to compete if you draft well. Imagine this team with a Turris, Toews or Stamkos. Not all number one picks, but with the possiblities of great futures. I don't need Tavares, but having both Schenn brothers would be amazing. We can't keep trading up to get that player each year, we lose depth and to get a top 3 guy you'd really have to give up a lot. Really this team is far far away from Stanley Cup material, and I'll be highly surprised if they make the playoffs. Antropov, Steen, Poni, Toskala and Stajan would all need career years for that. Unlikely at best. Kulemin, Hagman and Grabovski I can't see any reaching over 50 points. I'd estimate two 40 point and one 30 point years for them, which isn't a bad start. Leaf fans need to learn to be patient. Demanding to win every year and trading prospects who don't break out right away is what got us in 40 no cup years....
I am hoping it is just you. I for one am desperate to see a Stanley Cup contender. We haven't even been close since 1993. Alot of fans are younger than that. Even then we were not that close. I would rather have crap for 2 more years and drop out of sight for a while. Then rise from the ashes with a true contender in hand. If this club scrapped into the playoffs I would be disappointed because it would set the whole program back another season. We need a true superstar someday. Why they never built well around Sundin is anyones guess.
While it certainly is easy to tank and get the next Crosbys of the world I'd rather see a competitive team that competes hard every night. I know the success of the Pens makes us believe thats the only way but most Stanley Cups are built on a long standing track record of good drafting outside the top 5. (Detroit, Carolina, Anaheim, New Jersey) Its going to take a while but if they start drafting smarter as opposed to easier (tanking) and make responsible salary cap decisions, things can turn around. Leaf fans shouldnt be cheering for the cop-out
Although I'm all for better overall drafting, "chadkilger," Eric Staal, Steve Yzerman, Scott Stevens, Scott Niedermayer, and Chris Pronger are a few top five picks that were on those teams. Not all of those guys won the cup with the team they were drafted, but the majority did. My point is you need to pick up high calibre players to win cups. Drafting one top notch player is only a starting piece. You're not going to win Cups by trading for those players because you give up the potential supporting cast to get it. And I'm not using the Pens as an example, last time I checked they lost. I'm saying a top notch prospect to build around is essential. I'm not saying bottoming out for years to get several top notch prospects is needed as Pittsburgh did, but I think if you can add one or two franchise players at the beginning of a rebuild you're that much further ahead. If you think you're winning a cup doing a quick-fix around Antropov and a 37 year old Jason Blake then you should probably pick up basketball because you know nothing about hockey.
At point would I ever suggest the current leaf veterans are good enough to win a cup. I hate Jason Blake and Antropov is a nice 2nd line player but nothing more. Its going to take 4-5 years of good drafting to turn this around. Almost every draft has star players drafted after the top 5. You dont ned to just tank to win. That seems to be Leaf Fans solution after years of futility. My point is this. Your draft position helps no doubt, but its much more important to have the right scouts so you can get quality NHlers for years to come in mid 1st round picks and even the 2nd-5th rounders. The Leafs need to draft the Franzens and Pahlssons. Guys who arent top flight superstars but key contributors to Stanley Cup winning teams. Tanking is not a solution. It might give you a couple pieces but nothing more. Developing a draft strategy over a period of 4-7 years is what makes champions. As good as Tavares and Stamkos are...they cant win alone and certainly wouldnt with the Leafs current roster, even in their future prime. They need help thats NOT going to come from top 5 overall selections. Please dont throw words in my mouth like Id ever suggest Jason Blake at 37 is helpful.
This new leafs solution of getting top 5 picks is why people around the nhl think Leaf Fans are the worst. They change their opinion to whats fashionable at the time. Now its fashionable to tank. 5 years ago it was to add Brian Leetch and Ron Francis. Draft well whenever you are called to the podium (Detroit) and make responsible salary cap decisons (aka not signing the McCabe, Tucker, Raycroft contracts)
The Leafs do not need to tank to get top-notch NHLers. For example, look at the Flyers. They drafted Gagne, Carter, Richards, Giroux all in the late 1st round. Granted, they arent superstars. But both Carter and Richards are 1st line centers and Gagne is a premiere two-way 1st line winger. You need to draft smart, not draft 1st overall.
Leafs do not need to tank the season to get a good player, and that is pretty accurate statement give that this years Draft is laden with possibly 6 franchise type players! Sure a lot of Leaf fans have been saying Tavares... and I have been guilty of that also.. but I don't think they are tanking the season to get a high pick. "But it Sure LOOKS THAT WAY"!!! Sure they have bought out contracts and purged themselves of veterans. The Quinn / JFJ legacy has almost been erased. Yes, Fletcher did trade away draft picks, but I like direction they are going. Someone had to blow the team up... but it was not to tank the team, it was to start the rebuilding process. A team full of rookies is just a huge mistake, you need some veteran personnel. Okay, I don't like all Fletcher's moves, this is the new NHL where contracts and Salary Cap dictate your team. The contracts he inherited is NTC and long terms is what they had to deal with. I would be hugely surprised if the Leafs give another player a NTC anytime soon.
Hagman has a NTC...but only in year 1. The other 3 there is no NTC.