That rumble that you have been hearing since last Tuesday, from around 3 pm EST, has been the collective groan of the TANK NATION - those that believe that the Toronto Maple Leafs should be bottoming out in search for one of the top 5 picks in this year's entry draft.
Admittedly, membership to the TANK Nation has, of whom Michael "From Buffalo" Augello is mayor and chief, has increased markedly since about this time last year. With much anticipation heading into this seasons' trade deadline, the hope was that Brian Burke would sensibly and ruthlessly dismantle the current Leaf team for a glut of futures and prospects.
Rather than tearing the mediocre Leafs apart though, Big Burke managed to move just two players, for a succession of draft picks. On top of that, he acquired the jobless Martin Gerber on re-entry waivers - a guy who couldn't stop a beach ball, but will inevitably do a decent job and screw the Leafs out of that bottom 5 pick. That, is the very reason why Leafs fans baying for team destruction are moaning and groaning - they are still mediocre, when they would rather be crap.
Before I continue, let me just say that I absolutely understand where those of you who subscribe to this wish, are coming from. Inevitably finishing in the bottom 5, gives you a strong pick and therefore accelerates the "rebuilding" process that has been so frequently talked about in Toronto for the past 2 seasons. A top-5 pick gives you a higher-percentage shot at landing a "bulls-eye" on the old dart-board. However, that doesn't mean that the picks beyond 5th are useless picks. I listen to phone-in shows and internet chat-rooms all the time, and the common consensus is that the Leafs ABSOLUTELY need to get a top-5 pick in order to move forward. WRONG.
Three things I'd like to point out:
A) The current crop of NHL stars:
As off tonight, Sunday March 8th, @ 11:35 pm est, here's a look at the NHL's scoring leaders.
1 - Evgeni Malkin
2 - Alex Ovechkin
3 - Sidney Crosby
4 - Zach Parise
5 - Jerome Iginla
6 - Pavel Datsyuk
7 - Ilya Kovalchuk
8 - Marc Savard
9 - Joe Thorton
10 - Ryan Getzlaf
11 - Nicklas Backstrom
12 - Patrick Elias
13 - Mike Comalleri
14 - Jeff Carter
15 - Mike Richards
16 - Patrick Marleau
17 - Martin St. Louis
18 - Rick Nash
19 - Alex Semin
T20 - Vincent Lecavlier
- Daniel Sedin
- Mike Ribiero
Pay particular attention to all the names in bold above, for all those guys are players that WERE NOT drafted in the top 5 in their respective draft years. There's many up there who weren't even drafted in the first round (Datsyuk, Elias), and others who were drafted deeper in the draft, or not at all (St. Louis).
If you haven't picked up on what I'm trying to suggest, it's simple: The Toronto Maple Leafs were never going to get John Tavares or a top-5 pick. They weren't THAT CRAP. They won't get a bottom 5 pick, because let's face it: there are worse teams in the league at this moment in time. However, that doesn't mean that the Leafs won't be able to continue on this "rebuilding plan":
A) Thomas Kaberle and/or Kubina will likely be moved before the trade deadline, as their well-discussed No-Trade Clauses will be void. Both of them can garner yet another first round pick.
B) This year's draft is deep - the top 20 picks are expected to be playing in the NHL by the year 2011.
C) Last season, the Leafs moved up in the draft by privilege of having a 2nd round pick that they could move. Last year, Brian Burke ALSO moved up in the draft. This year, the Leafs have an expendable 2nd round pick as a result of the Moore/Antropov trades, and have 3 picks in the top 60 - it's not out of the question that they could move up yet again.
Brian Burke's rebuilding plan is on course - this organization has been plagued with poor management for decades, so let Big Burke do it the right way. Short term pain, for long term gain.