As each game passes, the General Manager in me can't help but wonder about the decisions Ron Wilson makes concerning the youth in Toronto. For years, fans have been demanding a makeover, and finally during this offseason, they were granted one. Brian Burke and company made some key moves and changed the face of the organization.
Or did they?
If you were to take a quick look at the Leafs' roster from last year, it is not too different from this season's. And therein lies the biggest problem within this team. While management seems to want the team to change, somebody down near ice level hasn't got the memo.
So if Ron Wilson is reading this today, let's cut through the formalities and get to the point:
First off, rid the fans of Vesa Toskala. Send him to the minors, put him on Waivers, even trade him away to whoever is foolish enough to grab him. How many times will somebody wrist a shot over his glove hand until Francois Allaire, Ron Wilson or Brian Burke realises the guy can't play NHL caliber hockey right now? I'm all for second chances. That's what the first games of the season were for, when the Leafs outplayed their opponents and still lost due to close to horrid goaltending.
The thing about Toskala is that given a change somewhere else, he could actually survive. So teams looking for a quality backup wouldn't have to look to far to find one. And that brings me to my first suggestion: offer the Ducks a package deal involving Toskala, Meyers and maybe even prospect Tim Brent. In return the Leafs can get a late-round draft pick and rid Anaheim of the heavy JS Giguere contract. Giguere and Gustavsson can then split the games here in Toronto.
Now moving on to our defensive squad. Francois Beauchemin was a great player in Anaheim. With Scott Niedermayer. Beauchemin will not be playing at that level while playing with the likes of Luke Schenn. And that's perfectly acceptable, but the Leaf fans have to lower their expectations on the guy. Sure, he was a key signing in the off-season, but Burke overpaid. Not necessarily a bad thing, because in time he will regain his form. With Mike Komisarek being injured, it's time to call up Phil Oreskovic. He's been playing great with the Marlies, and deserves a try. Kaberle, Schenn, White, Finger and Exelby round out the defense team, which is not horrid. They simply need to learn how to block shots and not deflect them every five minutes.
And finally, on to the main point, the offense. The Leafs have such good depth, yet they relegate most of the talent to the minors. Nazem Kadri being sent to London was actually a good move, as the young man has to grow a little in order to become the high pick they invested in. However there is absolutely no reason for Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson to be stuck in the AHL at this time. Obviously, the team on the ice now is not up to expectations. So changes must be made.
Wallin has to be sent down. No questions about it. Don't trade him, but he's just not ready for the big leagues. Send him down and bring up Bozak. Simple as that. Kulemin should be given a stint in the minors as well, for which the return player would be Hanson. Have him play with Bozak and either Hagman or Primeau.
This would be the new depth chart:
Blake Mitchell Kessel
Ponikarovski Stajan Stempniak
Hagman Bozak Hanson
Primeau Grabovski Orr
HS: Stalberg, Kulemin, Wallin
Note: At the trade deadline, depending on how they're faring, Ponikarovski is great tradebait
Toskala only has the year left on his contract. Just finish it out and let him go after that, I really don't see him going anywhere. Just keep him on the bench!
Giguere is a terrible idea. He's only marginally better than Toskala at this point and he wields an NTC. If Andrew Raycroft can survive elsewhere, then somebody will gamble that Toskala can rebound in the off season.
Grabovsky on the fourth line is a waste of talent considering he's 2nd in team scoring while having a decent /-... Wallin and Kulemin play less per game than any Leafs forward not named Orr, Mayers or Primeau and replacing them with not-yet ready guys like Bozak and Hanson is not going to help. **Bozak has 4 pts in 10 gms, -4 while Hanson has 13pts in 12gms, 3 but hasn't improved his mediocre skating enough to be an NHL factor**
Tim Brent is about as much of a prospect as Rickard Wallin... less so if you look at their respective NHL experience coming into this year.Brent: age 25, 18gp 1gWallin: age 29, 19gp, 6g, 10pts
huge fail. ...just painful.
i see a good leaf team commin out of all this mess...i am hopin...they still need a yr to come together...i think we need a few draft piks...and a couple trades and the leafs will be fine
Agreed about Grabovski...since when is he a fourth line centre?
Totally disagree about Giguere. $6M a year....no thanks. The Leafs need that dough next year to spend elsewhere.