Tucker, McCabe, Raycroft, Sundin.. what meaning do these names hold? They are the mainstays in what will come to be remembered for the forceable future as the last Leaf team that could compete. This years round-up sells itself considerably short in comparison to the band of jolly clowns that has missed the post season by a hair in each of the last 3 seasons. So where does that leave Leafs Nation? Howard says 30th.. maybe, but I say it leaves them in the same spot, sitting in a chair just to the side of the gym floor unable to find a spot to strut their stuff in the big April waltz. So in saying that I have to relay a message... Mats Sundin, do you need a pen?
We need the big swede back to lead a top line that is destoned for failure and setback without his leadership. We need the big swede to guide the youth movement and show them what being a pro should and can be like. We need the big swede to challenge for a somewhat respectable season even if it means a close but still to far from postseason finish. Most of the faithful are saying no to Mats. "We need to take a dive to get the payoff" is what is ringing through the streets of downtown Toronto. Heres what I say to that: The Kings finished dead last and still came up short in the Stamkos sweepstakes. Although they have oodles of young talent and a future captain in Antze Kopitar, they surely were disapointed when Tampas ball was pulled by Bettman. Even a 29th finish is a long shot for the Leafs with teams like the Thrashers and Islanders out there that will surely underachieve and stumble dispite a few flashy forwards in the mix. With a coach like Ron Wilson and a goaltender like Vesa Toskala this Leaf team is just competitive enough in every game to climb to their familiar spot amoungst the outsiders. A starving kid staring through a fogged window on a cold winter night. Thats what the Leafs will resemble come February when Fletcher tries to sell off Kaberle again. Maybe even Kubina will take a ride into the sunset come deadline day. Schenn is the future of the backend, Pogge between the pipes (perhaps) and whos up front. The dreamers say heeeeerrrrreees Jonny! I say no way.
It would be nice to see the buds grab Taveres in the June draft and vault on their way to respectablility ala the Chicago Blackhawks. But the truth is, as was the case with Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos, Bettman will never let a future franchise superstar and revenue draw land in a Canadian market. Even a sale of the Pens was strongarmed by Bettman when it was clear Sid the Kid would be relocating to a northern market. Cant lose that american revenue drain you know. Why let Stamkos go to an LA market that is solidly planted with the fanbase that Wayne built when he could go to a Tampa market that may fold if he isnt there to revive it just as Vinny had to do a few years back.
Heres the problem, how long will it be before Malkin is looking for his ticket out of Penguin territory allowing teams to concentrate on shutting down Sidney. How long before Mario has to start dealing his glut of youth as salaries hit record highs on a team that just cant quite make it over the final hurdle and the 'faithful' Pens fans go back to doing whatever it was they did while Mario was flippin the bill on a lackluster team in an empty arena thus forcing the franchise back into a campaign to find a new owner to take on a few years of debt and losses and the cycle starts over with Bettman the saviour keeping the team in a failing market with a 'key draft choice'. How long before Vinny is sold to allow Stamkos to take the reigns only for Stamkos himself to opt out of the stagnant Tampa environment at the sign of his first offer sheet. And when Jonathan Taveres lands in Atlanta to revive the team that couldnt draw fans with Dany Heatley AND Iliya Kovalchuk as their poster boys, how long will it be before this kid is ruined by the pressure of saving yet another Bettman project. How long before the owners realize their faithful leader is a crook who caters to american markets that are doomed to fail in 90% of their locales.
The Leafs ball wouldnt be pulled first in June if it was the only ball in the machine. It cant be, because the Thrashers ball is safely tucked away in Bettmans trousers waiting for the fated moment when he announces, "and with the first overall pick in the 09 entry draft..."
If the Leafs cant get a shot at Taveres or Hedman they need to address a problem of lack of leadership for their youth. Mayers, Hollweg, Blake.. are these guys suppose to guide the kids to respectablility? Are these what Leafs managment feels a Leaf player should exemplify? They need something more.. they need to bring in an example setter. A player that can show the young talent drafted 5th thru 12th that there is a way of doing things. A player that can instill values in the kids already in the system and leave them with the swagger to guide the kids still to come. So, with all this being said... I have a message to pass: Mats, do you need a pen?
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