I'm not sure about you, but I am so sick of hearing about the needs of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization. Every off-season, trade deadline or rumor has to do with Toronto filling those much needed areas to make the club a playoff team. But here is my issue, a proper rebuilding plan (that I thought they were doing...) will take at the very least, 3-4 more seasons.
For all of you thinking in your head, "He's wrong, we can make it next year!"..... How many times have you said that to yourself? Going on almost a decade for me. "Next year, is the year". Ya, totally.
I am very much a realist. I see what Brian Burke is doing with this club and in all honesty its been, and will be, very successful. Success, though, is a difficult thing to measure.
This club (whether he admits it or not) is not on a 3 year plan. or a 4 year plan. Its literally on a 7-8 year plan. Why? That's crazy talk? No.
Upon joining the organization, Burke had to attempt to dismantle the horrid and aging group that was left to him. Within roughly 2 years, he had done a decent job of shipping off old pieces for quality futures. Futures being = Young developing players (Kessel etc.), Prime age players that have a long term future (Phaneuf etc.) , and prospects with some upside or 1st round pick potential (Gardiner etc.).
Thats pretty (frank)ing decent.
As for the remaining time with the club?
And this is where the issue is.
If Burke continued that plan; drafting well, Swapping players for a good return (he's done well, you have to admit), then I think things would have been alright. and I would assume that by about 2013/2014, the Leafs would be a playoff club with some talented young guys making their respective moves to the NHL level. And only getting better over time.
Not to say that these current prospects won't make that jump soon, some will, but what Burke WAS going for was having his cake and eating it too. Quality AND Quantity over the long term. With even more quality prospects and young guns to move up the ranks.
He's been pressured by the media, the organization and the fans to put more emphasis on grabbing players who will help the Leafs make the playoffs, rather than perennial playoff contenders. (Yes, I know he said otherwise. He says alot of poop). Signings of guys like Connolly are just a peak into what is to come. Desperately trying to fill holes rather than stick to the plan. The trades to come this year (which will most likely ship out guys like kadri) are only hurting the future, not helping.
And finally, back to "The Missing Pieces".
Very simply, its not going to happen with the scraps the Leafs have.
In an ideal world, Burke would trade for a 1st line center and a starting goalie. Regardless of who that is. Even Luongo with his contract. The leafs are NOT going to be able to trade spare parts for these guys! get that through your head! Komisarek, Bozak and a pick for Luongo? ... NO!... no one is going to do that deal because its horrible for the other squad. And by horrible I mean in terms of their in/out. Say whatever you will, Luongo, Getzlaf, whoever, Are worth a lot more then the leftovers the Leafs have.
In order to get any player of value, you need to send value back.
And this is where the situation comes together.
Send the picks, send the prospects, Fill your holes. MAYBE have a playoff team on the fringe for a few seasons.
Oh wait, now you have another hole. Another missing piece. DEPTH. Prospect depth.
If clubs like Vancouver, Boston, Chicago, Pittsburgh et al. are any telling sign, a playoff CONTENDER, is one who has depth at basically every position. And have the young guns coming up, stepping in, making a name for themselves. (Tyler Seguin is a great example........ Sorry.)
The ideal situation out of all of this? Do exactly what Edmonton is doing. Be (frank)ing terrible. Don't plug holes with over priced half assed signings or swaps, get the guys for your future, and watch them get better every year. Don't waste on things you don't need. Think long term.
Stand tall, draft well, and fill these missing pieces from within. And for us fans, the long, long wait, will all be worth it.