Ive been away from the site for a bit "having a summer"... yes, some things do take presidence over the local rumours in sports, not many things, but there are a few. After reading up on the predictions for the Leafs season and watching the analysts analyze I thought there was nothing that could be added to: no sundin, no top6, no goals, no way (in the deepest hottest depths of hell) to make playoffs. None-the-less I sat down to write a blog about how the Leafs situation is shaping up. Then I read Howards blog.
Firstly, if you are a Leafs fan or a fan of any Toronto based pro team, and havent read Howards blog 'Toronto At A Very low Ebb', he basically points out the turmoil that the fans are having to endure at the hands of Toronto's professional sports clubs. How we were at the pinnacle in the 90's and now line the gutters.
Nice Howard... nice.. although, I can see where he is coming from. The 90's were fantastic. The Blue Jay success was something else. The Leafs were clawing at the cusp of a cup final on a couple of occasions and were a solid contender every year. Of course the Argo Grey Cups and Doug Fluties Hall of Fame contributions. And all of that is gone now. It really does look bad for Toronto sports doesnt it. I mean, when I look back, we really have slid down the ladder somehow. It sure isnt like it was 10-15 years ago. But unlike Howard I think that there are some bright spots to look for. Everything is on a cycle right? Cant be up without first being down? Everything that has a beginning has an end so those who are up will in fact be down at some point thus resetting the cycle, Cant be up without first being down.. right? Yah I know, "this guy drank the kool-Aid didnt he" and "are you high?".. but really;
First of all I wanted to address the Argo dismay. See I think there is a bigger problem here. Despite the attendence increase, the Argos are nothing short of a team praying an NFL presence in the city on a regular basis wont run them out of town completely. I think the Argos are in a bad spot on and off the field and the situation will always be grim because of the state of CFL football. (I dont know if this has been done but)maybe the league should look at some sort of partnership with the NFL. Maybe like a developmental league such as the AHL has become for the NHL. Im thinking the way the financing is structured in the NFL it may cause issues but who knows, its just an idea. Anyone ever hear of this leave a comment.
Now back to the bright spots.. what concerns us here is the MapleLeafs and I think it is a very bright spot to be in the situation they are in. No it may not have always been a great ride the last 40 years or so without a cup. But lets get it right. Lets build a winner here people. To build a winner you have to build from the ground up. They have Fletcher in place, no matter if he stays or Burke comes in next year as long as upper management can keep their hands out of the cookie jar, the right guy is in place as GM. Ron Wilson in as Coach is a fine move considering Wilson works well with young players, is a defence first kind of guy which the Leafs will need while rebuilding without top end scorers, and also his attention to deatil should help with developemental issues sometimes seen by overly young teams. Gilmour is obviosuly being groomed in the AHL for a possible shot at this job. With all this said it seems the rebuilding is now soley on the ice. They say successful teams are built from the goal out so Toskala was put in place a year ago and will compete to be a top tender when this team shapes into form down the road. Justin Pogge will be the heir apparent to Vesa should the Leafs not come upon something better in the interim. Pogge will look to start the bulk of games with the Marlies this season. On defence they are deep. Kubina and Kaberle look to lead a group comprised of Frogren, Van Ryn, Stralman, Finger, Colaiacovo and White. This not to mention 5th overall pick Luke Schenn although Fletcher has stated Schenn will likely spend the year developing elsewhere. The Forwards cause some concern if Sundin doesnt return and even if the big Swede does return they are thin. The fact that Blake was not mentioned among Nik Antropovs name as a top6 forward is adding to speculation the forward may still be dealt. key prospects to watch this year will be Kulemin, Grabovsky and Tlusty while a larger role is expected of Alex Steen. This is one of the bright spots of a rebuilding team. You will get the satisfaction of seeing the young guys grow. With more money available in the 09 offseason the Leafs can add key FA's if needed. One name tossed around has been Rick Nash. Of course if the team suffers a low finishing position this time around as is expected by most, they will also have a shot at Jon Taveres in the June draft. There is plenty to be excited about here. This is the start of something good. No there may not be a cup in the next couple years but the ride is going to be worth it.
As far as the Sundin situation, he is waiting on the Leafs. He isnt going anywhere. If the team surprises everyone out of the gate and is showing signs of possible playoff contention, then I think Mats pulls a Selane but signs earlier then he did. If the team falters on their own out of the gate then why would he want to come in or have signed previously, just to help them get to 9th or 10th again, miss the playoffs and miss a shot at a top draft pick. In this scenerio he sits out the year, plays some poker and enjoys his girlfriend/fiance's company. Then has a fresh perspective and all the time in the world to get ready for one more run, in 09-10 with taveres, nash or whoever else the Leafs can draft/sign over the next year. yes he would be a year older but have you noticed? Mats is strangely at the peak. He has at LEAST 2-3 years left in him as a high caliber player. I say he finishes as a Leaf, whether thats now or a year from now.
This is the calm before the storm. Look for splashes next offseason to augment the progress of this season. Id like to see some surprises this season out of the youth to get us through the season as fans but at least the team is on the right path, or so it would seem. One thing Ive come to realize is you never really know whats going on in the heads of MLSE upper management. But come on Howard, its not so bad, the future is starting to brighten up anyway. You Heard It Here!