Posted 10:57 PM ET | Comments 1
Playing hockey in June is not easy- it's hot, the kids are out of school and want to see daddy, the fish are biting, the water is warm, running through a sprinkler is more inviting than skating towards and getting belted by a D-Man and simply, Europe is breathtaking at that time of year. Yet, every NHL'er dreams of it. But, to be able to continue wearing skates instead of flip flops through 4 gruelling rounds on the way to ultimate victory is more difficult than getting food out of Brent Burns's beard. Though the Hawks have won 3 cups in 6 years (a new age dynasty), they've done so by having a great mix. It's all about combinations- the right combination of timely goaltending, experience, proper systems, a strong core, willing role players, depth, and a balance of grizzled veterans, and up and coming wet behind the ear type players who add to the penalty kill, are physical, or add scoring, and most importantly, are cost effective. Management is huge too. It starts with a capologist who can allow the GM to spend wisely enough to give his coach the right fit for his team. For most Staley cup winning teams, the right combination starts all the way back at their draft lottery, where in the new system, the right 4 letter combo gives a team the chance to revitalize their franchise. In 2016, that first piece is Auston Matthews, a player who has yet to play an NHL game, and yet is being regarded as the man who will help the Leafs be perennial favourites among teams vying to lift 30 plus pounds of silver. If he comes as advertised and is closer to Patrick Kane and Sidney Crosby than he is Patrik Stefan or Alexandre Daigle, then management can start to assess the state of their combination- one that has been unable to unlock almost 50 years of misery. A closer look shows how far along the road to recovery the Leafs are: High end talent- Reilly, Marner, Nylander, Matthews -CHECK! Grit - Kadri, Komrov, Soshnikov -CHECK! Low cost or short term mentors-Greening, Laich ,Michalek-CHECK! Former cup winners -None Goaltending -Don't pre -order playoff tickets. Stud D -Don't plan the parade route. Specan teams-ok, well as you can see the lock is still quite faulty The right combination is still in the works- one that Uncle Lou and crew will keep tinkering with until they can assemble a team that plays on ice in Toronto instead of on boats in Muskoka when a June not too far in the future rolls around. route.