Building the Leafs a Work in Progress

This year’s version of the Maple Leafs differs greatly from past Pat Quinn teams. This year the team is not top heavy in aging veteran talent. There has been a greater emphasis on youth and giving opportunity to their prospects. It has worked out fairly good as the team is still in the playoff chase. But this team still lacks sufficient depth and it will take a few more years to address that need. And their deficiency is not only in terms of quantity but quality as well. Here is how the current Leafs were built.

Free Agents:

The bread and butter of the Pat Quinn era. No team has used and taken advantage of free agency more than the Leafs. From the likes of Thomas, Joseph, Mogilny, Corson, Nieuwendyk to the players they have now, much of the team is usually made up of free agents. Outside of Belfour, this current crop of Free Agents were signed by Ferguson.

Jason Allison – Still a point per game player but needs to shoot more. Has fared pretty well considering he was out of hockey for 2 and a half years. Big question is has his play been enough to make the Leafs pick up his multi million dollar option next season?

Jeff O’Neill – strictly a powerplay specialist whose play 5 on 5 leaves much to be desired. He works hard but always seems to be a step slow or a step out of position. Has team worst plus/minus.

Mariusz Czerkawski – a regular in the Pat Quinn doghouse.

Ken Klee – new rules have exposed Klee’s lack of mobility. Not worth the 2 million stipend.

Eric Lindros – proven once again his lack of durability. He can still hit and shoot the puck, but seems a step slow and timid in traffic areas.

Ed Belfour – One contract too many. Would be a major mistake by the team to pick up his option next season. Still shows glimpses of his old self but has let in an unusual amount of soft goals. New rules/equipment seemed to have bothered Belfour.

Clarke Wilm – picked up for depth, ended up as the teams top PK forward and faceoff man.

Alex Khavanov – Hasnt been that bad nor has he been particularly good either. Must be different for him playing with Aki Berg regularly than in past years with either MacInnis or Pronger.

Trades:

There are many players who were acquired via trade who are no longer with the team and in some cases no longer in the NHL. the likes of Nolan, Wesley, Leetch, Gilmour, Housley, Francis, Reichel, Renberg, Cross were acquired over the years that cost the Leafs sufficient depth and/or youth.

Aki Berg – acquiring him for Adam Mair was not that bad as Mair is no more than a 4th liner. But throwing in the 2nd round pick was a bit much as that pick to LA was used to grab Mike Cammellari. The Leafs sure could use more speed, skill up front. Berg has developed into no more than a 5th or 6th defenceman.

Chad Kilger – Kilger was acquired for a mid round pick in a rare trade with the rival Habs. He has turned into a pleasant surprise after being a relative bust in his previous stops around the NHL.

Bryan McCabe – The best move ever by Quinn. He stole McCabe who was much younger at the time than Alex Karpovtsev. McCabe has developed into one of the league’s top blueliners especially offensively.

Mats Sundin – One of the biggest acquistions in Leaf history has become the face of the franchise the last 10 years. He has also become one of the teams all time leading scorers. Unfortunately time is running out on Mats to bring a cup to Toronto. His deal did help the Nords/Avs as it did lead to the Clark for Claude Lemieux trade who was integral in their 1996 cup win.

Darcy Tucker – a very good acquisition for Mike Johnson. Has emerged as a heart and soul player for Toronto who the fans love and the non-fans love to hate. Has emerged from being a role player/energizer to scorer as a Leaf.

Draft:

As Cliff Fletcher put it so bluntly: “draft schmaft”. that’s pretty much how things have been for the Leafs. However things are starting to turn around and in fact have a surprisingly high number of drafted players in their lineup. By now the norm would be to see such players be busts or traded away for aging veterans. But the Leafs have begun a transition towards a greater emphasis on drafting and development and things are looking up.

Matt Stajan – a very solid 2nd round pick who should be a solid role player for years. In time his offensive game could emerge which would be an added bonus. He surprised many making the Leafs straight from junior.

Alex Steen – Might very well end up as the Leafs best first round pick since Vince Damphousse. Like father like son who should be a productive 2 way player for years.

Staffan Kronvall – a late round pick who gradually moved up the ladder in the Leafs organization right up to semi-regular with the current Leafs.

Carlo Coliacovo – a rare top pick not traded away. injuries have both hurt his worth and his development. But this year has emerged as a solid blueliner at the backend of the lineup and has added a big time open ice hitter to the Leafs D.

Tomas Kaberle – The biggest draft steal for the Leafs as he was picked in the last round. He has emerged as the Leafs best draft pick in the last 10 years. That epitomized how good and how bad the scouting has been for Toronto.

Kyle Wellwood – a relative steal in the 5th round. Was suppose to be too slow and small for the old obstruction NHL but has the shiftiness and skill to be productive in the new NHL.

Nik Antropov – The poster child of the Leaf’s draft woes. Sure there were others who didnt make it, but it’s Antropov who gets the brunt of the abuse. His constant injuries have really hurt his career and has never emerged as expected for a top 10 pick.

Alex Ponikarovsky – Finally turning into what the Leafs expected. A big physical forward who can cause havoc in the corners and in front of the net. He is one of the league leaders in shorthanded goals.

Mikael Tellqvist – Every day the Leafs goaltending picture for the future is looking better and better. Not only are the prospects emerging as solid players but so is Tellqvist who has been very good despite little playing time. He has shaken off his inconsistencies and so far has looked like a reliable NHL backup.

Tie Domi – Was reacquired for Mike Eastwood after being drafted originally by Toronto but then traded away. Perhaps one of the most popular Leafs ever. Now however looks a bit long in the tooth and probably shouldnt have been given a multi year contract this summer.

Karel Pilar – injuries have derailed this would be Leaf regular.

Waivers

Wade Belak – at least it only cost the team $100 to acquire him. However his foolish penalties and poor defensive play maybe make it not worth the money.

Top Prospects

On the Farm:

JF Racine – surprise at camp who may develop into at least a solid NHL backup.

Ian White – PP specialist has almost equaled last years point totals in just half a year so far.

Andy Wozniewski – didnt look out of place in his 1 game stint with the big team. facial injury has hurt his development this year and cost his chance at getting recalled.

Jeremy Williams – Junior scoring star averaging about a point a game for the baby Leafs.

John Pohl – minor league veteran has given the Leafs depth

Around the World:

Tukka Rask – was top goalie at the 2006 WJC

Justin Pogge – went unbeaten and led Canada to gold at the WJC

Robbie Earl – productive scorer for the top ranked Wisconsin Badgers in the NCAA.

Dmitri Vorobiev – might turn into a Max Kondratiev type

Anton Stralman – Sweden’s top Dman at the WJC (which isnt saying a whole lot)

As you can see with the current Leafs, the team still relies heavily on free agency. This despite working under the restrictions of the cap. Of the current Leafs acquired via trade, the team has won most of those deals, however I am not too sure that offsets the deals made for players no longer playing with the Leafs. The lost draft picks and players like Boyes, MacCauley, Markov, Jason Smith and Modin being productive elsewhere is pretty hard to watch. But at least the team is starting to bring along it’s own draft picks and seeing them progressing as they are is a good sign of things to come. But another failed run at the Stanley Cup preceded by rent a player moves would be a step back for this team that in essence needs to take a few steps back to go two steps forward.


178 Responses to Building the Leafs a Work in Progress

  1. 92-93 says:

    well if you read the post i suggest that the WAY they lost to Colorado (and phoenix, AND minny) is too much to take.

    as much as non-leaf fans can’t admit it, the leafs could beat anyone if they played at the simple level that they have played in the very recent past. they can compete with anyone – including colorado. but its the inconsistency that is killing them – not other teams.

    and also, a little perspective is needed. the leafs are on a losing stretch just after winning 6 straight games and they met a team that had won 7 straight (and now more). so its not that big of a surprise that they lost. turn the clock back 2 weeks and the score probably would have been reversed.

    the fact is that the leafs are beating themselves and other teams are just taking advantage of that.

  2. Neely4Life says:

    hey tucker has tallent, but when ur dependin gon his as ur leading goal scorer up front, then u r in trouble. Not putting him down, but just the state the leafs r in rignt now

  3. Neely4Life says:

    TSN isnt so bad, but Sportsnet is like the all leafs network. Plus, i enjoy watching hockey period, and i like cheering aginst them. I like to follow the leafs, ill admit it, but its for negative reasons. Plus, i can make an inteligent comment about that leafs, thats somewhat unbias. That being said, i trash everyone on this site.

  4. 92-93 says:

    i dunno.

    i know you are pretty realistic fellow and that’s cool and i appreciate that. but i don’t think we should get too negative here with the leafs. i mean, there are quite a few positives with this year’s team too.

    I don’t think they are ‘going nowhere’ although I do think that the quinn rewarding poor play with regular playing time is getting very old (like, 8 years old). but yes, if this streak continues into february then they should start dumping players.

    I wish that i could see JFJ being that proactive and have enough balls to to rid the leafs of czerkawski and belak but i don’t think he’ll do it. Considering their depth, I’ll be surprised if the Leafs don’t try to retain both Kaberle and McCabe.

    I like your Klee trade suggestion only because its clear that he is losing his step and I KNOW there are numerous teams out there looking for defensive depth who would trade someone decent (or a draft pick) for Klee.

    I wish the Leafs would just have enough balls to say to Lindros: take the same contract for next season or see you later but for some reason I know they’ll sign him for more money. Pohl or Williams is going to fill out that 4th line centre role next year and i am excited about that. why not bring up battaglia as a 14th forward with Wilm?

    JFJ loves Khavanov because he came over from St. Louis. that sucks for guys like Woz, Harrison, and WHite who could probably outplay Khavanov by the end of next season – easily.

  5. 92-93 says:

    in other words,

    go ahead and try to trade Allison or Klee. go ahead and try to somehow get rid of the Domis, o’Neills, Belaks, Czerkawskis, Khavanovs, Bergs (although no one will take them).

    for the latter group, ANY return is a good one. for allison and Klee, the potential return could actually help the Leafs THIS year. the tandem of Belfour and Telly in net, the offense from the blueline, the improving play of their youngsters (and you can add Coliacovo to that growing list), the fact that their young D-guys on the Marlies can outplay have the Leafs’ D, the fact that they still have guys like Sundin and Tucker and Lindros (if he comes back) all point to the possibility that the Leafs could actually do BETTER if they made these kinds of moves ….

    and do better THIS YEAR!

  6. 92-93 says:

    well your right there.

  7. 92-93 says:

    Two Leaf rumours to address here:

    1)http://www.thestar.com/NASApp/cs/ContentServer?pagename=thestar/Layout/Article_Type1&c=Article&cid=1137624637217&call_pageid=968867503640&col=970081593064

    “Even before they took the ice last night, a rumour emanating from Toronto claimed the Leafs are in for a lineup shakeup, with Boston defenceman Brian Leetch returning to Toronto, where he played in the 2003-04 playoff run. No other names were mentioned, but suggestions making the rounds in St. Paul had the Leafs moving Jason Allison, only because his bonus-laden salary would leave more room under the salary cap if it was off the books. The unsubstantiated rumour also reflects both on the Leafs’ need for a defenceman and the question of McCabe’s health.”

    now i think this won’t happen but its not like the leafs are giving up any youth here. I would rather see them get a younger d-guy like Leopold from calgary but some draft picks could have to be added there.

    but i would be stoked about this trade if JFJ could do one simple thing: bring up more young D-guys and keep them up so that they can learn from Leetch. especially guys like Coliacovo and White who are great offensive D-guys – this would do them a world of good to learn from Leetch. Leetch makes $4 million on his one-year contract but most of that would be gone since its half way through the season.

    granted, the leafs could also trade Klee to any team that needs some depth on D and get a pretty decent return. they could alsotry to get rid of Khavanov and Berg for the lowest of draft picks (but no one will take them). The leetch trade would just be addressing a short-term need and the cap – but like i said earlier, it could have a long term impact on the younger players. I’d rather see the leafs part with Lindros (when he comes back) for Leetch. i would fine with that trade any day, but it just won’t happen.

    2) “AM640 TORONTO: Kevin Gibson yesterday reported Maple Leafs rumoured to be leaving Toronto include Jason Allison and Ed Belfour. Gibson suggests interest in Belfour could increase as the trade deadline nears as his salary would be more affordable for other clubs to absorb by then. Gibson claims this would coincide with the Leafs interest in San Jose Sharks goalie Evgeny Nabokov, suggesting Allison could be used as trade bait to land him. Finally, Gibson reports the Leafs are still interested in Pittsburgh Penguins forward Ryan Malone as well as Mark Recchi, suggesting Tie Domi and Marius Czerkawski could be going the other way. Gibson also cautions that “these are rumours, GM’s call each other all the time. GM’s phone to see who’s available and at what cost and they also phone or e-mail to let teams know what players they are willing to move.”

    Spector’s Note: My thanks to Jon Swenson of Sharkspage.com. The Leafs need blueline help, not another goalie so scratch the Nabokov for Allison rumour. I also don’t see them moving Belfour this season. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Leafs had some interest in Malone or even Recchi, but no way they’ll get either guy by offering up Domi and/or Czerkawski.”

    Ok, well here i totally agree with Spector. the domi trade is the most asinine thing i’ve heard in a long time. this is just too dumb to waste any time on. trading belfour is not as far-fetched idea as it once was – but this is only possible if the leafs get a #1 goalie coming back the other way. i think Allison should be used as trade bait for a defenceman. i wish it was lindros but allison is more valuable for other teams. oh. and the best way you can tell if a rumor is totally not going to happen – if it says AM640, Larry Brooks, Bruce Garroch beside it.

  8. leafs4cup says:

    trading allison would only hurt the leafs.if you trade allison you are trading your #1center and may as well trade pony and antropov because he makes them play better and is the only line with some consistency.and if you trade allison thiers even more pressure on sundin to perform and hes having a terrible year.unloading allison would also put unwanted pressure on wellwood and as good as he is he’s not ready for the pressure of the #1 or #2 center.as for leetch hes not even close to being worth 4 million and will probably bail again in the off season.screw brain leetch,i dont wanna trade anyone for a guy who doesnt wanna play in toronto!……….getting rid of a 30yr allison to make room for a 40yr old leetch?????..that would not be to bright.

  9. leafs4cup says:

    we dont need a brain leetch we need a jackman, brewer ,jay mckee,jason smith type d-men .mcCabe will be back soon a kaberla is more than able,for now .what we need is some tough stay home take no shit defencemen.and when mccabe comes back look at tradeing kaberla because thier both free agents and we cant sign both.id put sundin and kaberla in a package.come march 9th thay should get you some awesome returns.sundin for jovo and 2nd rounder,kaberla for richards or kaberla and sundin and a pick for marleau and hannan or sundin for bouwmester and 3rd round pick.something like that.im not against trading allison if it brings in youth but i wouldnt trade him for leetch or just to make room for leetch,it would have to be good long term or i look to resign him.

  10. leafs4cup says:

    oooh!!snap

  11. Aetherial says:

    I agree that the fate of this organization may very well boil down to Chris Bosh.

    As for the Leafs, I think the problem for the last number of years is twofold…

    1) They HAVE been contenders. They may not have been favorites, but there certainly was always a chance they could go all the way. It is tough to dismantle the team when that is the case.

    2) They have drafted HORRIBLY. With a few notable exceptions (Kaberle), their drafting has been abysmal. Their draft position is no excuse. Look at Detroit, Colorado and Philadelphia. Somehow they managed to get very good draft picks, while enjoying the same consistent on-ice success as the Leafs.

    That is why I think the key moves that JFJ has made so far were in the area of scouting staff, and hiring Maurice to coach the Marlies.

  12. Aetherial says:

    A lot of teams would not have offered more for Fedorov. Anaheim was lucky to be able to dump him.

    Sundin is no Joe Thornton. Simply, his age is the difference. Sundin is not going to be the guy who captains your team to success and a cup for years to come anymore. Thornton *may* be that guy.

  13. Aetherial says:

    I am guessing that Lindros has not done enough to make JFJ give him more money. I think he signs for around the same; or he goes.

    They have Khavanov under contract for next year also. I think JFJ won’t give up on him. He really isn’t great though. They will need some veterans on the blue line as I can see 2 or 3 young guys at least playing full time there next year and they are going to take their lumps… like they have done this year.

    Belfour being very *average* at best, has exposed the Leafs weaknesses in team defense… and I hate to say it, coaching.

  14. smooth4488 says:

    Great article. I just have a few comments to make.

    1) I would consider trading Sundin. As much as he is the heart and captain of this team, he has alot of value and I do not see this team winning a Stanley Cup in the next two or three years. In return, I would expect a 2nd round draft pick and a solid bluechip prospect that is already playing with a team. Eg. Marek Svatos, Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, etc. As far as this possible dream trade of Sundin to the Pens for Malkin???Cmon people, we need to think logically. First off, the Pens are in financial trouble and why would they trade their future for a 34 year old bona fide player? 6 Million..the Pens will not do it. Mark my words. I am not sure who would be interested, but they would have to have some serious cap room to get Sundin and they would already have to have a plethora of prospects for depth in the new “cap” structure.

    2) Hang on to our young guys. This includes Stajan, Steen, Poni, Wellwood, Colaiacovo, Kronvall, Woz, Harrison, Jeremy Williams, and Ian White. Keep the prospects in junior. Basically, do not mortgage the future unless you’re getting a fairly young guy with a solid contract and won’t be an ufa for at least a few years. We need to build this team up to the point where we are not dependant on free agents. I am willing to deal with losing for a couple of years to see the development of our young guys, because sooner or later, it will turn around and we won’t be depending on 30 somethings to keep us afloat.

    3) Get rid of Quinn. He has a good track record and has gotten us into the playoffs year in and year out. However, he is very faithfull to his veterans and won’t give the kids as much opportunity as they could with a “development style” coach. Maurice will be a good fit for that role. Possibly Brent Sutter..good Canadian boy and his track record is very good.

    3) Give Tellqvist a chance to play 45-55 games next season. That means don’t pick up the option on Eddie’s contract. This kid deserves a shot and has shown flashes of brilliance. His time is now.

    4) Tuuka Rask will be their #1 goalie. Pogge is good, but he does play for good teams. I see him as a possible backup down the road or trade bait. Do not trade Rask.

    Obviously, we still need to be competitive, so we need to keep Kaberle and McCabe in the defensive pairings so sign them up, but we need a youth movement, moreso now than ever before. I am sick and tired of us losing out on good players for the sake of just competing. eg. Neidermayer, Cammaleri.

    One thing that was not mentioned…the worst mistake Quinn made as a GM…trading Jason Smith for a 4th round draft pick and a second rounder in the next year. Are you kidding me? Dumb move because we could sure use his leadership and toughness and top defensive play. Our defence has always been suspect since he was shipped out.

  15. Aetherial says:

    The age comparison would be valid …

    IF the Leafs were looking at either long term.

    They aren’t. It is as simple as that. It is basically one salary for another, a D-man for a forward. Allison has had a better year than Leetch, but the Leafs are desparate on D.

    Either way, Allison is not with the Leafs next year I think. He will be too expensive and not a Pat Quinn type of player… and Pat Quinn WILL be the coach of this team until the end of the 2006-2007 season.

  16. Aetherial says:

    Intersting thoughts.

    I would try it… IF they could get a decent return for Kaberle and Sundin.

    It would have to be very decent though. You have to figure Kaberle is a solid 4-million + Dman. (compare him to some others) who is not old.

    Sundin has probably 2 or 3 good years left in him, although I think he is too expensive to warrant a big return.

    I wonder if JFJ has the Cajones (or the power!?) to do any of this?

  17. Aetherial says:

    You are looking at the past with Rose colored glasses there friend.

    As long as I can remember the Leafs defense has been suspect. Smith was a fan favorite… but realistically he was an *average* player at best when we traded him. He had some grit but was pretty bad in his own end.

    Hindsight is 20/20

  18. leafs4cup says:

    what about puttin sullivan on waivers,that move was stupid.and i think sullivan was coming off a 20 goal season and was in his early 20’s.since sullivan was put on waivers sullivan has 29 less points than mats with just 8 more games played and is only making 3.2 while mats is making 6.8.hes no mats but come on …waivers???

  19. 92-93 says:

    i think the leafs have to think beyond this year and beyond Pat Quinn. and in that sense, Allison would be a solid signing considering his age and considering that Sundin would be on his way out soon.

    i just dont like giving allison up for an aging D-guy – i’d rather get a younger one and i DO think it is possible.

    i keep mentioning leopold for Allison but i’m sure there are others out there. today’s toronto star mentinons:

    “Brendan Witt of the Washington Capitals remains very available, but all indications are that Capitals GM George McPhee will wait until closer to the deadline to maximize his return. Todd Simpson and Jaroslav Spacek of the Chicago Blackhawks are said to be available, as is former Leaf Luke Richardson of the Columbus Blue Jackets. All stand to be unrestricted free agents at the end of the season.”

    i don’t like any of these guys but the leafs do need a d-guy. again, i’d rather it be for a player who is going to be on this leafs squad for a few years.

  20. Aetherial says:

    Leopold is the only one of that list that I would have any interest in whatsoever… that includes Witt who I think is overrated, although he is better than the Leafs current 5-6 D-men probably.

  21. Aetherial says:

    Now THAT I can agree with.

    Quinn’s handling of the Sullivan situation was abysmal.

    He did not like Sullivan and that was that. They made a brutal mistake letting him go.

  22. 92-93 says:

    oh, and another columnist to mention:

    whenever the leafs are losing, you can be certain of one thing: a negative article form Steve Simmons of the Sun.

    nothing wrong with being critical, but the guy is no where to be found when things are going right.

    http://slam.canoe.ca/Slam/Hockey/NHL/Toronto/2006/01/20/1403379-sun.html

  23. leafs4cup says:

    thank god we agree on something …lol,your a hard guy to convince….. lol.another one i thought of was throwing in the 1st rounder in the nolan trade.with that pick we could of drafted cory perry or anthony stewart.

  24. AntoinePortilick says:

    I agree 100% with ya on that. We need to forget about the playoffs this year and start the plan for next. 2003/2004 was the last chance to do it with that group of guys and they blew it. They did however beat Ottawa for a fourth time in the playoffs. Ya know, it wasn’t until I moved to Ottawa that I hated the Sens. All you have to do is meet a fan and bang, pure hatred. Sens fans, one word… Lobotomy.

    Cheers

  25. 92-93 says:

    The Nine-Step Plan for the Leafs to be a Cup Contender AND Re-build at the Same Time

    (and yes it can be done).

    The following is something I’ve been writing for a bit now and I just want to hear some feedback. The following eight steps is meant to be a plan for JFJ to ice a team that is competitive but also forward-thinking (re: incorporate prospects into the line-up). It is also based on probably the best article I’ve ever read on what the Leafs need to do win a cup written by Allan Muir (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2005/writers/allan_muir/10/14/inside.nhl/index.html). Basically, its one big trade, some shrewd re-signings, maybe one free agent signing, and a lot of youth. And that’s it. Nothing revolutionary, and yet it could make a world of difference. Most of the plans I see on this site are way too complicated and far-fetched. Keep it simple.

    The Remainder of the 2005-2006 Season – the Trade Deadline:

    Step One: Trade Allison and Klee for Leopold and Nilsson

    I’ve proposed this elsewhere and it just makes a lot of sense. Calgary needs a solid Centre and some more offense, they have a surplus of defencemen, and Leopold’s offensive-defenceman role on the Flames squad has been minimized with the play of Phaneuf. Even Muir himself suggests that he could be on his way out at the deadline (http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2006/writers/allan_muir/01/18/inside.nhl/1.html). Nilson is going to be a free agent in the summer time and so is Allison. The Flames have enough cap space to take on Allison’s bonuses and the remainder of Klee’s contract. The Leafs get a young, top-4 defenceman who improves their defence but the loss of Klee means that their defensive depth necessarily better. But this deal is all about the long-term. The Leafs also, believe it or not, save some money on this deal since Leopold ($1.05 million) doesn’t make that much and Khavanov makes $1.9 million (obviously that will change when Leopold is resigned). The Leafs also get a solid third-line LW who plays well in his own end. This trade also means an increase in ice time for Lindros and Wellwood down the middle. Finally, I hate to say this but if this deal STILL doesn’t look realistic to some out there or to Calgary – I suggest replacing Klee with Kronvall (but I hope not).

    Step Two: Try to trade those who will (or should) be let go in the offseason

    The list is long: O’Neill, Domi, Khavanov (all of whom are signed for another year with the Buds), Belak, Czerkawski, Berg, I’d say – regardless of the Leafs’ position in the standings on March 9th – that they should try to get rid of these guys for draft picks. Of course, no one will take them but the Leafs should at least try. The point is that this season has repeatedly witnessed the fact that the young players outplay the older ones and that in the short-term, these guys could easily be replaced from within the organization. Even the Marlies defence wouldn’t be that much of a downgrade from the defensive play of Belak, Berg, and Khavanov (although to be fair to Berg, he is an OK #6 D-guy).

    Steen_____________Sundin___________O’Neill

    Ponikorovsky______Lindros___________Tucker

    Nilsson__________Wellwood__________Stajan

    Kilger____________Antropov__________Domi

    [Belak, Czerkawski]

    McCabe__________________________Leopold

    Coliacovo_________________________Kaberle

    Berg_____________________________Khavanov

    [Brown or Kronvall or Woz]

    ________________Belfour__________________

    _______________[Tellqvist]________________

    The Leafs lose some scoring with Allison but their D does improve slightly with the quicker and younger Leopold. With the improved play of Coliacovo, the Leafs’ top-4 can get most of the ice-time (45-50 minutes) – leaving very little ice time for Berg and Khavanov. If an injury occurs, Kronvall, Brown, or Wozniewski can be called up. At this point the remaining steps and off-season moves will depend on how well the Leafs did the rest of this year (did they make the playoffs? Did they move beyond the first round? Etc.) and what needs need to be addressed.

  26. 92-93 says:

    Step Three: Say Good bye to Czerkawski, Belak, Khavanov, and Berg

    If it was possible I would add the one-dimensional O’Neill and Domi to this list but the Leafs are stuck with them. Czerkawski is not even good enough to be a depth player on an NHL team and his $500,000 is too expensive. I say keep Nik Antropov (if he is not dealt at this year’s deadline) but for no more than what he is making now. Aki Berg’s salary is way too expensive for a team that has younger kids who can play as good or better than him and for cheaper too. It’s also time to, FINALLY, say goodbye to Wade F-ing Belak.

    Step Four: Resign McCabe, Kaberle, Lindros, Nilsson

    Related to the departure of Klee and Berg is the resigning of McCabe and Kaberle. The savings from letting Klee and Berg go ($3 million) can go to the raises that Kaberle and McCabe will be looking for (I am estimating that they will be making a combined $2.75 million more then what they are making now). With the loss of Allison it would seem that Leafs would be compelled to re-sign Lindros. I would still rather see Allison in a Leaf uniform next year than Lindros (for a lot of obvious reasons that a lot of people don’t seem to understand). However, if Allison is gone, the Leafs could resign Eric to a two year deal of no more than $2.5 million a season. If Eric doesn’t like it, he – and his perpetually injured body and concussion history – can leave and the Leafs can look elsewhere for a Centre (Alyn McCauley is a free agent). Furthermore, the Buds are deepest in the Centre position if you look at the entire organization.

    Step Five: Keep the Process of Integrating Youth into the Line-Up

    The seven players that the Leafs will be keeping the closest eye on when the training camp begins will be Centremen John Pohl, Jeremy Williams and defenceman Jay Harrison, Ian White, Andy Wozniewski, Brendan Bell, and Niklas Kronvall (assuming Kronvall is not traded for Leopold). For the purposes of this article I am going to choose Pohl, Kronvall and Woz to be called up to the team before the season begins. This keeps the payroll down and keeps the line-up young and fresh. Kronvall will already have some NHL experience under his belt and Pohl and Woz both have played a few NHL games. Going into the 2006-2007 season new faces like Pogge, Earl, Vorobiev will be worked into the Marlies roster (Rask will probably be brought over at some point too). Aubin will probably be dropped so that Pogge and Racine will split goaltending duties. Depending on who is called up and who is not the Marlies will still have a strong squad. According to my above estimations, White, Woz, Vorobiev, and Bell will probably be the Marlies’ best D-guys and Earl and Williams their best forwards.

    Step Six: Bring up Brown For Depth Purposes

    The Leafs are going to have to pick up some depth to replace the poor depth guys they don’t resign (Czerkawski, Belak). Brad Brown is an option to back-up the younger guys on the blue-line and can be resigned for the league minimum. Battaglia is another option and he has had a good year with the Marlies and should at least get a shot at playing with the big club. But the Leafs should first try to get a decent free agent RW (re: Step 7 below), which would move either Domi or O’Neill into the healthy-scratch/‘extra forward’ position on the club.

    Step Seven: Pick Up a Free Agent Forward

    If possible I would love to see guys like LW Jeff Friesen, C Alyn McCauley, RW Jamie Langdenbrunner, or RW Anson Carter get signed by the Leafs. Friesen will sign for cheap considering the season he has had with the Caps and the recent injuries he has had. I could see him competing with Kilger for the 4th line LW spot. But my preference is for one of the last 3 forewards because that is where the Leafs need some depth. By the way this is the ONLY free agent pick up I am suggesting that JFJ COULD make. However, my suggestion is to save the money for the rest of next season to see which needs they still have. With the cap ceiling going up, there is a strong possibility that the Leafs could add one of the 4 players I mentioned above. Other notable free agents that I would like to see with the Leafs:

    D Ruslan Salei, G Martin Gerber (not likely to be let go by the canes – depending on Cam Ward’s play though), G Curtis Joseph, D Phillipe Boucher, D Denis Gauthier, D Jay Pandolfo, D Frantizek Kaberle.

    Step Eight: Pick Up the Option on Belfour and Play Tellqvist More Often

    BUT only under the condition that Belfour understands that Tellqvist is going to get AT LEAST 30 starts this year. Belfour would probably want to reach the 500 win plateau but if he cannot accept giving Tellqvist more ice time then this step cannot be taken – and this is where the space between the cap will become tight because the Leafs would then have to go out and get a goalie like a Cujo or Gerber to replace Eddie.Another suggestion is to try and get Eddie to become the leafs goaltending coach after next year. Obviously he will have to retire and then become the most expensive goaltending coach in the NHL. I think Eddie wouldn’t mind fulfilling the mentor role that he experienced with Tretiak. Considering the young goalies that the Leafs have – Rask, Racine, Pogge – considering the possibility of Belfour’s son getting drafted in the next few years, and considering the technically sound style that Belfour has, it would seem he is the best guy to coach these kids. There has been lots of talk about trading Eddie at the deadline but unless a quality goalie is coming back the other way (Raycroft, Noronen/Biron, Roloson/Fernandez, Burke/Grahame) then there is not point in making such a move – especially with the uncertainty of acquiring a free agent goalie in the offseason. Also, the Leafs would probably have to give up a whole lot more than just Belfour in such a deal.

  27. 92-93 says:

    Step Nine: Sign the RFAs – Kyle Wellwood, Matt Stajan, and Carlo Coliacovo but trade Antropov

    The list of RFAs also includes Nik Antropov but I don’t see his knees holding up in the long run. If the leafs can make a deal for him (for draft picks, etc.) – then JFJ should do it.

    Steen_____________Sundin___________Carter/Langdenbrunner

    Ponikorovsky______Lindros___________Tucker

    Nilson___________Wellwood_________Stajan

    Kilger____________Pohl_____________O’Neill

    [Wilm, Domi]

    McCabe__________________________Leopold

    Coliacovo_________________________Kaberle

    Harrison__________________________Wozniewski

    [Brown]

    ________________Belfour__________________

    _______________[Tellqvist]________________

    This line-up is assuming that the Leafs acquire a free agent forward and get rid of Antropov via a trade. For the purposes of this article, I am going to suggest that they will acquire RW Jamie Langdenbrunner or RW Anson Carter. I think the Sharks will not let McCauley go and I think that the Leafs have a better shot at acquiring Langdenbrunner over Carter because the Devils will have their work cut out for them in the offseason with their resignings. I don’t think Vancouver wants to see Carter sign elsewhere after his stellar play this year.

    The weaknesses on the right are immediately solved with Carter/Langdenbrunner and if you look at the 3rd and 4th line and the 2 extra forwards, th line, this team is not too bad depth-wise. The depth on their defence is still a work in progress – ‘in progress’ because of the growing pains that young defencemen are inevitably going to go through in the NHL. A free agent pick up from any of the defencemen I noted earlier in Step 7 would help here but for now I’ll go with this line-up.

    Payroll:

    Departures: Allison [1.5 million], Czerkawski [500K], Belak [665K], Antropov [1 million], Khavanov [1.25], Berg [1.06 million], Klee [1.9 million]. – total: $7.9 million

    Additions: Langdenbrunner/Carter [approx. 2.25 million], Nilsson [1.75 million], Leopold [$1.05 million], Pohl [450K], Woz [450K], Harrison [450K], Brown [450K], – total: $6.85 million

    Returnees: Sundin [6.8 million], Lindros [approx: 2.5 million ], Wellwood [approx: 1.25 million], Tucker [1.6 million], Steen [720K], Kilger [475K], Ponikarovsky [700K], Wilm [450K], Domi [1.25 million], O’Neill [1.5 million], Stajan [approx: 1.25 million], McCabe [approx: 5 million], Kaberle [approx: 3.5 million], Coliacovo [approx: 1 million], Belfour [4.56 million], Tellqvist [450K].

    Total: $39.9 million dollars

    With the expected hike in the cap next year to about $42-45 million, the leafs will be able to re-sign most of the guys they want (UFAs and RFAs) and have more money left over to get a few more other free agent players as the season progresses and their needs become more evident (Damien Cox has suggested that as the Cap ceiling rises, teams like the Flyers, Wings, and Leafs will regain some of the advantage they once had). If the league minimum goes up it shouldn’t make that much of a difference in the payroll. The Leafs would have some cap room to sign someone during the season when if that is necessary (something that does not exist now).

  28. smooth4488 says:

    Aetherial,

    I would consider Jason Smith above average right now. At the time of the trade, maybe average, but you could see he was still developing and you can’t teach leadership which he obviously has. Funny how he’s the captain of the Oilers…

    And I did forget about Steve Sullivan and the waivers…that was a bone headed move..

    As far as the rest of the message, do you agree or disagree with my opinion?

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