First of all, as a new member of the My HockeyBuzz blogosphere family, I would like to introduce myself. My name is Steve Lehtinen and I am from Brantford, Ontario about 1 hour southwest of Toronto. I am a huge Toronto Maple Leafs fan and a hockey fan in general.
Now, on to bigger things.
The current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs is about as grim as it gets. The management is in shambles, the coach has lost the ability to run the team, the veteran players (aside from Mats Sundin) are overpriced and under-producing, the younger players are not good enough to lead, and there are no surefire elite prospects in the system.
But, wait. It gets worse.
With this many problems surrounding the team you'd think that a simple "fire the GM and try again" scenario might work. But, it's recently come out that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment (MLSE) has little to no back-up plan in place in case of an immediate need to fire John Ferguson, Jr. They have knocked on a few doors this year regarding the GM position, but if they had to announce somebody tomorrow morning, it doesn't look as though they could. This is not very good news for Leafs fans such as myself, with the trade deadline looming so closely. A rebuild is what this team needs, but a rebuild might not be what this team is going to get.
If MLSE decides to ride the season out with JFJ at the helm, then expect him to make deadline deals that focus on improving the team for the present, rather than to help plan for the future. He'll know that his job is in serious jeopardy and will do anything to save it. The younger players and upcoming draft picks will be the first to go.
The best case scenario is that MLSE finds an experienced hockey person to take over right away. Someone that knows the current value of players, has connections in the business, and understands what this team needs. These sorts of would-be-GMs exist, but luring them to Toronto is a whole different matter entirely.
The next problem is the coaching. I could go on and on about the decisions Paul Maurice has made that have me scratching my head, but I'll just say that he's clearly lost the respect of his players. They're not listening to him anymore and that's reason enough to let him go at the end of the season.
I won't go into detail about each one of the players, because then it would take 1-2 hours to read this blog in its entirety, but I do want to say this: If players such as Darcy Tucker, Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill, and Andrew Raycroft continue to play way below their salary, the new GM must find a way to move them. I am a firm believer that anybody can be traded, but it would take a savvy human being to move some of these guys.
Mats Sundin is the one guy that deserves praise this year, but unfortunately for him, he's also the one guy that absolutely needs to be dealt at the deadline. Whether it's to Detroit, Vancouver, Calgary, Minnesota, Colorado, San Jose, or anybody else, it's a move that is pertinent to the future of the organization. Sundin has been a wonderful player for us and will always be a spectacular person off-ice, but his time is up. Simply because JFJ has squandered the entire future of this franchise, save for a handful of players, for Band-Aid fixes and over-the-hill has-beens.
Yes, the future is grim. But, who knew it could get this bad.
- Steven V. Lehtinen