Where Are The Leafs Headed?

I am concerned.

I look at the Leafs roster and I wonder what it will look like in three years.

Will there be more star players on the team? Or are we stuck building through free agency, around a right winger who can only play with one centre?

Seriously, who are the top three skaters on the Leafs? Go. Name them. I’ll wait.

Did you put Phil Kessel as number one? Of course you did. Can he play defence? Just asking.

Were James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak also included? Perhaps. Those would be my top three.

No disrespect to any of those players, but that scares me.

Do we really think we can win a Stanley Cup on the shoulders of those three individuals? If the answer is no, then why is nothing being done to fix the problem?

I look at other teams and think, “Wow, it must be nice.”

St. Louis, Chicago, Los Angeles, and San Jose. Go look at their rosters.

They all have depth.

They have a who’s who of star players to put on the top two lines, supplemented by a group of young players who act as understudies. They all have a succession plan. Their current roster is made for the present, and future.

The Leafs? Both eyes are on the present. The lineup is patchwork. Sign a few free agents, slot them into a line, and let’s see what happens.

San Jose threw a 20-year-old kid named Tomas Hertl on their first line last year and he thrived, before he got injured. I wish the Leafs had the guts to try something like that.

There is no one on the current roster that I can look at and say, “He’s the future.”

I can’t say that about Nazem Kadri. On this team, he will always be a second line centre. Kessel and Bozak are the married couple on the first line.

Oh but Paul, what about Morgan Rielly and Jake Gardiner? As long as Phaneuf is here, it will be his blue line, for better or worse. Simple as that.

I’m not even going to touch the goalie situation. James Reimer has given up 17 goals in his last 4 starts, yet never gets blamed. I’m sorry, I said I wasn’t going to talk about it.

The NHL is like a hotel, and every team is riding the elevator. The goal is the penthouse. That is where Chicago and Los Angeles reside. They don’t come out for anything. Not even groceries. They have those delivered.

Meanwhile, Edmonton is in the basement. They can’t figure out how to close the elevator door, so until they realize there is a button for that, they will be down there playing hopscotch, or whatever young teams do. And no, they don’t have access to the stairwell.

The Leafs keep fluctuating between the second and fourth floors. Every time they go up, they get off, stay a while, then get back on the elevator, and someone leans against the buttons and they’re headed back down again. It’s a really uncoordinated, clumsy, experience.

What a hotel.

Every hockey expert says it’s important to build a team down the middle. To have exceptional depth at centre. I finally realized why that was so important when the Penguins traded for David Perron the other day.

They have Crosby, Malkin, and Sutter as their top three centres. Now the GM’s job is easy. Just find wingers. Literally, any wingers. Why? Because Crosby and Malkin will make their wingers better, no matter who they are. Just go through the list of players they have played with over the years.

Then they have Sutter to anchor the third line. Pittsburgh doesn’t have to look for a centre for the next 10-15 years.

The Leafs can’t do that. Our star player isn’t a centre. He is a winger. A winger who can only play with one centre.

Our second line centre is given Lupul as one of his linemates. Lucky him. Lupul gets hurt once a month. So then the depth of the team gets tested.

Unfortunately, Kadri isn’t at the level where he can make anyone better. So when he is paired with Winnik and Clarkson, we basically recreate the early 2000s third line goon squad of Shayne Corson, Travis Green, and Darcy Tucker. Only now, we’re expecting them to forgo their post-whistle face washing antics, to be an astute scoring line.

Great.

The Leafs roster lacks depth. There is no one in the minors who they can call up. And even when they do, they bury them on the fourth line and make sure they don’t play more than eight minutes.

It drives me nuts when they do that. Every prospect that comes up gets coddled. Oh, we can’t expose them to too much. They’re still learning the game. And then they get sent down after four games with barely any ice time.

It’s like putting a grown man in a stroller and giving him a warm bottle of milk. JUST THROW THEM INTO THE FIRE ALREADY. Stop being a helicopter parent and give them an opportunity.

The Leafs are their own worst enemy and they don’t even know it. They will never allow themselves to be bad enough to get star players in the draft, and never good enough to win a Stanley Cup, because they don’t have the star players to do that.

Chicken, or the egg?

Random question: Are we a young team, a veteran team, or neither?

I have no clue. Only four guys are 30, or older. So I guess we’re a young team. But who are the young kids on the team that will carry us into the future? Peter Holland?

I’ve been to two games this year. They lost the first game, 9-2. They won the second game, 6-2. Don’t ask me what I make of this because I have no idea.

I’ve always tried to be optimistic. However, being optimistic is a dangerous thing. To be optimistic means you are hopeful. And any time you are hopeful, it means you are unsure. And when you are unsure, you naturally gravitate towards the positive and hope (there’s that word again) that things will turn out for the best. Yet, the whole time, you realize things can go sour in a heartbeat, but you purposely ignore that part…because you want to be optimistic.

That, my friends, is the perils of optimistic thinking.

The bottom line is, the Leafs need to accumulate more high-end talent. I know it’s not easy, but there must be a way. Other teams have been able to do it, one way or another.

There needs to be depth. There needs to be a succession plan. There needs to be a short-term and long-term purpose to the lineup.

Why are we signing five new players every off-season? We tout our AHL players as the future, but never see them in the NHL, outside of exhibition games.

Why can’t the fourth line feature Leivo, Carrick, and McKegg? Young, hungry kids with energy, speed, and a desire to move up in the lineup. Isn’t that what you should want?

I don’t know. Everything the Leafs do is for the present, and they aren’t even successful at it.

Knowing this team, they will win nine of their next ten and I’ll be writing a post about how they are Cup contenders this year.

Leafs Nation, what a world.

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About Paul

This is the part where I'm supposed to write something interesting about myself and you'll read it and think, "That's not that interesting." So let's not do that and just think about pizza instead, on the count of three. One, two, three. Donuts. Now, wasn't that interesting?
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2 Responses to Where Are The Leafs Headed?

  1. Great use of the hotel metaphor Paul!

    Like

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