Building the Leafs Back to a Strong Team

When Cliff Fletcher took over for the Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager position in late January of last year, he made one thing clear. That this team was going to be a young team and its primary focus is to grow as a team and build for future success, not short term gain. The rebuilding process started when the Leafs shipped out Hall Gill, Chad Kilger and Wade Belak. In exchange for these players, the Leafs got a 2nd, a 3rd and two fifth round draft picks. In May with no permanent General Manger found, Fletcher fired head coach Paul Maurice, and hired former San Jose coach Ron Wilson, who vowed to make the Leafs a much better team in the long run Then in June at the NHL entry draft Cliff Fletcher traded up to select standout CHL defenseman Luke Schenn 5th overall. Shortly after the Leafs bought out the contracts of both veterans Darcy Tucker and Andrew Raycroft. On July 1 Fletcher signed forward Niklas Hagman to a 4 year 12 million dollar deal, little known Jeff Finger to a 4 year 14 million dollar deal and fan favourite Curtis Joseph to a 1 year 750,000 deal. As well Fletcher acquired forward Ryan Holwegg from the New York Rangers, in exchange for a 5th round draft selection and as well acquired Mikhail Grabovski from Montreal in exchange for a 2nd round pick and prospect, Greg Patryn, also the Leafs signed defenseman Jonas Frogren out of Sweden to a 2 year deal. The Leafs also remained in the Mats Sundin sweepstakes by offering him a 1-year contract worth 7 million dollars.

After training camp ended, and former Leafs Mark Bell and Boyd Deveraux lost their jobs to younger players, the Leafs opened their season with a rather inexperienced team; many predicted that this team would reside along with the Atlanta Thrashers and L.A. Kings in the NHL basement. However new head coach Ron Wilson and his staff created an environment of working hard every game, otherwise those who decide not to work hard during a game will sit on the bench. 14 games into the season the Leafs stand at 5-5-4, certainly a much better record than many predicted. The Leafs have achieved this by hard work, grit and determination. Luke Schenn surprised many with his strong play, which has landed him a spot on the Leafs blue line for this year and the line of Kulemin-Grabovski-Hagman as played surprisingly well, and has become Toronto’s number one line.

This team has proven that they are simply too good to be in the running for either John Tavares or Victor Hedman come next June. Although this team is a hardworking team they lack the talent to be a playoff contender, as there is no real franchise player on this team. This is why it is essential for the Leafs once again come next June if not in a position to draft Tavares, they must move up in the draft to select him. If the Leafs stay the course and keep this team intact they could become competitive in the next year or too. Through smart drafting, good team building and perhaps signing some marquee players next summer in the likes of Rick Nash or Marian Gaborik this team would be built to win. In the new NHL the Leafs must build a core group, which takes time and then add missing pieces to it, either through free agency or Trade to become competitive.

26 Responses to Building the Leafs Back to a Strong Team

  1. KingCanada says:

    Everyone is jumping the gun as to what the Leafs "must" do.  Just gotta let the kids play, let them develop chemistry with each other.  People tend to believe that they need to tank the season and draft a potential franchise star.  What if that player flops?  Then what?  Is Tavares the answer? maybe… but id wager 100$ that the Leafs wont even be CLOSE to the bottom to pick the kid up, so really why tank the season??

    The answer is the kids have to have plenty of playing time and learn Wilson's system.  They will then be better prepared for next year.  Fletcher has stated that he will not make a trade for anyone at the deadline for short term gain leading me to believe he will trade a player or 2 again for draft picks.

    This draft will be deep and anywere from 1-15 should be some very good players so I would be too worried about it.  I heavily doubt the Leafs are capable to finish in the basement of the league when u have doormats like Atlanta, LA and NYI.  Lastly no one will trade away a pick to get Tavares, keep dreaming.

  2. sharks4life says:

    Florida is in the basement 2

  3. sharks4life says:

    Next step should be trading Nik Antropov to SJ for Marcel Goc and a 3rd

  4. cam7777 says:

    This is unrelated to the article, but I just want to say what a total joke the officiating in this game tonight is. Like wow, apparently cross checking to the back of the head isn't a penalty if you play for the Montreal Canadiens.  It's also legal, in this special circumstance, to stick people to the face in order to prevent them from shooting.  Oh, and don't worry about trying to murder people with hits from behind, because the refs will even it up a pointless call against the other team….

    I won't even get started on Carey Price.  Skating within a 5m radius of him is an automatic penalty. 

  5. mojo19 says:

    Carey Price – diver???

  6. mojo19 says:

    All my buddies are flipping out here. Everyone's yelling at the TV. I have to agree a lot of these non-calls have been brutal.

    Oh and Price is a diver

  7. offside12 says:

    What did Grabhovski do to get all of the Habs to hate him??

  8. nordiques100 says:

    butt end to price. dirty play, but there was quite a bit of it tonight with the hit from behind and the dirty trip by kostitsyn on schenn.

  9. nordiques100 says:

    grabs and price were tangled, but he did give him a bit of a shove. you cant touch the goalie like that. even though price embelished and there has been far worse let go without a penalty, you have to be careful.

    the moore penalty was a price dive. he felt the stick and embelished. hey, he cheated and it worked. kudos to him for getting away with it.

    blake was rammed into the goalie by the montreal defender. that should have been a habs penalty as least as well as blake getting the interference call. there wasnt really anywhere else blake could have gone unless he chose to hit the goal post instead.

  10. nordiques100 says:

    the leafs were clearly the better team tonight. hab fans will complain about the refereeing and maybe a couple of dirty plays by the leafs, but they should look in the mirror as no play was dirtier than that of kostopoulos on van ryn. it was sick and there's no excuse for it. he should get 2 games at least, much like the hit by jones on bergeron. no place in the game for that.

    if any hab fan thinks differently, that the hit wasnt dirty or doesnt warrant a suspension, then they are complete idiots. the players wont learn unless the book is thrown at them. 

    kubina and kaberle played their best games of the season. they've been not good, and horrible the last 3 games. kaberle looked comfortable again with schenn while kubina was really solid. best part was that they finally lined up correctly on their off wing on the PP and it resulted in 2 goals.

    kubina spent less time running around and played sound positional hockey. not ad lib defence like he has pretty much all year. probably a product of playing with the steady finger who reminds me more and more of mitchell in vancouver.

    kudos to white for stepping up and back to defence in a pinch. his value to the leafs is rising and they may just keep him. that kind of versatility is so important. carlo too stepped it up and stepped in twice to protect his teammates. if anything, carlo is a real team player and good teammate.

    glad to see the big boys, nik and pony have a rebound game after some lazy penalties in boston. they skated, they used their size, they performed well at the score sheet show it. stajan too played much better.

    and what can you say about grabs, hagman and kulemin. another strong game where they were buzzing all night.

    it was a good showing by the leafs. now the results are not going to be like this every game but it was nice to see them protect a lead for a change in the 3rd. its a start and all part of their learning curve.

    too bad for van ryn. he was playing well, but is now hurt again. hopefully he will recover quick. despite the extra dmen, the leafs need him.

    its going to be a rough trip out west. it will be yet another thing to learn to handle the travel, the intestity, the physicality of the games in western canada. its been nice to see their energy every night but its a long year and they still must prove they can bring that over 82 games. fun to watch though.

  11. nordiques100 says:

    while the excuse too will be the habs playing last night, the real reason they looked out of it was no hamrlik. this guy is really a rock back there. he makes everyone better and for the habs sake i hope he isnt out too long. they need him if they aspire to win a cup.

  12. KingCanada says:

    Why would they trade for Goc when they can get an extra 1st round pick for the guy?  Doesnt make much sense to me.

  13. Kramer says:

    I was right all along. There's a big conspiracy going on with the Leafs!!!! They lose big one game, then win big the next.

    The reason for these ups and downs is as obvious as Sarah Palin's intellect or lack thereof.  The bookies are calling the shot and telling the Leafs when they're allowed to win, and also when they have to lose.  The entire league is controlled by the mafia.  Gary Battmen is but a puppet.  All signs point to a conspiracy.

  14. the_word says:

    Carey Price – future allstar goaltender?????

    Looked like a sive to me.

  15. the_word says:

    It was ammusing to see Kubina hold his arms up, as if he's our hero after his second goal. I'm sure I wasn't the only person to think 'great goal, can we f'ing trade you yet?'

  16. offside12 says:

    Yeah the whole game was dirty, but even before the game they asked grabs if he had any friends still on the habs and he said 'no'

  17. cam7777 says:

    that's good, he'll be so motivated every time he plays the habs.  did anyone catch what don cherry was saying about koivu talking to him in the corner?  he started to give some insight, and then i couldnt hear what he was saying…

  18. sharks4life says:

    You wouldnt be able to get a 1st for Antropov like Wilson said hes not a 1st line guy on mostly any other team

  19. cam7777 says:

    no wilson said nothing, fletcher said he's there only 1st line guy, but nice try.  he's on pace for 71 points right now, which makes him worth at least a 1st. 

    plus, i think we can stop already with this "any other team" nonsense.  the leafs have clearly proven that they can go toe to toe with any big team in the league.  they surprised detroit, shutdown the ducks, outworked the bruins, exploded on the rangers, and just last night, they dominated the habs.  it's still early, but jesus, how much does a team have to do to prove themselves?  they clearly aren't the batch of AHL quality, no value players that some of you guys on here make them out to be. 

    if antropov becomes available at the deadline, there will be a bidding war for him.  not because he's so amazing that he merits a bidding war, but because he'll be the best player available at his price range (2.05 million).  Essentially any team can spend 1/5th of Nik's salary to pick him up.  It will take a hell of a lot more than marcel goc and a 3rd…that's pathetic.

  20. cam7777 says:

    ha, and is that you on spector asking him what he thinks of your trade?

  21. mojo19 says:

    Nik Antropov is leading the way with 13 pts in 15 games loser. You think you can get him for a 3rd round pick and some garbage player? Get a life.

  22. mojo19 says:

    Price is full of holes. I've seen him play more bad games then good. He needs a lot of work before he ever becomes the guy MTL fans think he is.

  23. mojo19 says:

    lol. I love Kubina but that was his first goal, Hag's tipped the other one.

  24. mojo19 says:

    I don't know what he said, but Koivu kicked Grabovski.

  25. the_word says:

    Feel for the guy because everyone built this exaggerated myth of what he'd become, the next dominant goaltender. The guy isn't even Felix Potvin and could be the next Andrew Raycorft. Yet those boasting about what his 'greatness' laugh at the Leafs for taking their time in developing Pogge. I'm not saying Pogge will amount to anything, but he's not being rushed or overhyped.

  26. mojo19 says:

    Its true. I still say look at Hasek and Belfour. Neither became a starter until their late 20's. Both became HHOF, cup winning goalies.

    There is a small list of great goalies like Roy and Brodeur who were able to step in at a young age and stay great for a long time. But theres a LONG list of goalies who came in at 25 or older who had great careers. Look at Backstrom in Minnesota, he's in his 30's and dominating. Look at Potvin who you mentioned, he came in at a young age and burnt out by the time he was in his 30's.

    Goaltending is different from other positions. I definitely think Price is a talented guy for his age, but he's gotta learn the position and not give up so many weak goals before he can be considered a Stanley Cup calibre goalie.

    Right now, for this year only would Montreal be better off with Price or Osgood? I would say Osgood.

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