It's All Over
Another day, another season filled of mediocrity for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It almost sounds like a pre-recorded message as Toronto media writers and fans have been hearing and saying it over and over again. With 11 games left and an embarrassing weekend at the Bell Center in Montreal, it appears all but over for the Toronto Maple Leafs who will be missing it’s first post-season in 8 years.
As expected, Toronto media and fans alike have blasted everyone from the players all the way to upper management for the Leafs woeful this season. A recent controversial National Post article blasting CEO Richard Peddie and Larry Tanenbaum for their poor planning and business a*****en was the topic of many hockey fans. While Leafs Lunch host Bill Watters teamed with Toronto Star writer Damien Cox earlier this afternoon to dismantle GM John Ferguson and head coach Pat Quinn.
No matter how you slice it, the Toronto Maple Leafs just didn’t have what it took to be competitive this season, but JFJ has actually made some strides to ‘re-building’ this team as he has left just under $20 million in salary cap for the 06-07 season. Signed players and non-UFA’s, the team looks as follows:
Jason Allison, the dominant center JFJ was looking for will not return as a Maple Leaf. Any team looking for a point-per-game number 2 centerman will take a chance on him for next season.
Perennial goaltender Ed Belfour, who enjoyed two tremendous seasons, has played his last game, possibly of his career as not many teams are keen on signing a 40 year old with a bad back. The future hall-of-famer might be picked up by Vancouver or Edmonton but must be willing to play for a lot less.
Aki Berg and Alexander Khavanov; two defenseman who are just not fit to play in the new NHL era, have both expressed interest of returning back to their respective native land in the off-season (thank God).
With rookies Jeremy Williams, Brendan Bell, Ian White and Robert Earl all looking to make opening day roster, there are not many more spots to fill.
Third liner Chad Kilger has been a bright light in a team filled with darkness, a definite keeper. Stalwart defensive defenseman Luke Richardson has been good in the games he has played and seems keen on returning to the Leafs next season, but must come cheaper. He will provide our young blue-line with some much needed leadership and tutelage.
Power forward Eric Lindros is a free agent and I strongly suggest too retain his rights. Yes, he only played 33 games but put up 22 points and was a very good player and because of this injury filled season, he would come back much cheaper that the $1.5 million he made this year, which doesn’t get any better than that.
And now to the question that has been an enigma for me all season long, what to do with Bryan McCabe. Yes, he has been enjoying a career year, but is it coincidental that it’s in his contract year? Maybe not. He has been virtually invisible on the score sheet since the Olympic break. Don’t get me wrong, I like McCabe, but he is NOT worth $5 million. If we were to retain him at no more that $3.5 million, then that would definitely be worth it. But we are not living in a dream world. He will probably be seeking close to the league maximum and will certainly test the open market on July 1st. Which is fine with me, as long as they remedy the loss with a signing of one of several UFA’s, including; Wade Redden, Zdeno Chara, Ed Jovanovski, Bendan Witt, Willie Mitchell to name a few.
Perhaps JFJ should approach Curtis Joseph who has rejuvenated his career with the Coyotes about coming home and finishing his career as he is a free agent.
They must also give consideration to impending UFA forwards; Mike Peca, Jason Arnott, Teemu Selanne, Marc Savard, Daniel Briere and Sergei Samsonov. While also exploring the idea of trades as Todd Bertuzzi and Brad Richards may become available due to salary cap concerns, and that is just the tip of the iceberg.
Also, off the ice members must be under the microscope as Pat Quinn has faced local scrutiny with nothing short of walking the plank, one of the winningest coaches of all-time will all but certainly not be present next season. All the while Paul Maurice, will be looking to be called up from the Marlies as his successor.
Whatever John Ferguson and MLSE decide on this coming off-season, a new message must be set. The bottom line? Ferguson won’t appease Toronto’s faithful fan base unless he returns in September with a drastically different-looking lineup.