Leafs on the right path?

It is to be asked if the Maple Leafs are on their way back to the NHL’s good teams. They’ve made an interesting move this week-end by acquiring Vesa Toskala and this move could prove very rewarding. So what should they do or have they done enough to be back in those teams labeled as being playoff teams at the beginning of the season?

The Toskala Situation

After JFJ acquired Toskala he said something that I found somewhat confusing. He said ” After this season, we felt we needed to bring competition among our goalies, we felt we needed to bring someone to give us good games and to push Andrew (Raycroft) to his highest level.” This, I hope, is a polite way to tell Raycroft that if he regains the form that saw him win a Calder trophy, then he is an undisputed number one. If not, he’ll be the backup, an overpaid backup, but a backup. However, if this means that the Leafs are really leaning towards having a two-goalie system, then this trade is a mistake. Lets face it, the Leafs don’t have much young talent and their future seems tied to Wellwood, Steen and Stajan, who are very good and promising players, but not enough to say this team has a bright future. Knowing that, it’s pretty disappointing to see the Leafs trade these picks for a guy that won’t even be your number one. I’m not sure Toskala has what it needs to be a real number one, but then Vokun and Fernandez or even Bryzgalov are better options. Fernandez and Vokun had big contracts, but Bryzgalov didn’t and since Niedermeyer is probably retiring, I’m sure Bryan Burke would have liked to get one of the Toronto’s big two which myself, Leaf Fans and JFJ would love to give. Now I’m not sure Burke would have traded Bryzgalov for one of the two straight up (obviously not), but wouldn’t it have been a better option? I sincerely hope Toskala will be a solid 1b for the Leafs and will be worth the picks the Sharks got. The upside is that at least it was used in this draft and not next year’s (even if the Leafs had the top ten protection).

Ryan Smyth to be in Blue and White?

It is also highly speculated that the Leafs are among the front-runners to land Ryan Smith. It would be great to see captain Canada to play for a Canadian team, but I’m not sure that is what he really wants. Of course, the reason he got traded from Edmonton was the money, so he will go for the money, but say the Leafs and Red Wings have similar offers on the table, will Smyth want the pressure and media exposure he’ll have in Toronto compared to the quiet but still enthused atmosphere of Detroit. Not mentioning he’ll join a team that was the closest to beat the Stanley Cup champions (if it wasn’t of that turnover that Selanne created). One thing bothers me though, the Islanders probably won’t be able to keep Smyth. Why? If it’s because he wants to join a contender, than Detroit or Dallas would be logical choices, if he wants to go back to Canada, I think the Leafs are in a better position than the Flames even if the Flames have an overall better team, I think JFJ and MLSE will prove more convincing.

Defense situation

The Leafs have their version of the Ducks big three… just no as good. McCabe, Kaberle and Kubina are decent defensemen, they can score, they can pinch in, their amazing on the powerplay, but that’s not what a team is looking for when they say the word defenseman (well not the first thing they’re looking for). It is not given to everybody to have Scott Niedermeyer and Chris Pronger on a team, but I think the Leafs should aim for youth and defensive ability in their system. The best “prospect” they have is Staffan Kronwall, who is 24 and soon to be 25 and often injured. They did draft Juraj Mikus this year who even if he is a 5th rounder could prove to be efficient enough. In the minors, Semenov, Vorobiev, Oreskovic and Stralman are not stellar prospects.

It is a bit different regarding the players that are on the team right now. Colaiacovo and White could be solid 3rd or 4th defenders, but the problem is really the ties the Leafs have with both Kaberle and McCabe. I thought they would draft more than two defensemen this year, but with six selections and none before the 3rd round, it is tough to get quality guys. I hope Toskala is worth it.
The problem is that since Kaberle, McCabe and Kubina demand huge ice time, it’s tough to let other players develop properly… not to mention leading by example is out of the question.

Justin Pogge

I am not really a Habs fan, I’m just a fan of Canadian hockey, but I have to state the obvious, Pogge is no Carey Price and we have to be careful with Pogge’s future. He was very good at the Worl Junior’s, he had an excellent team in front of him but he didn’t face a lot of adversity. This year he wasn’t stellar with the Marlies and didn’t make the most of his size. He is tall and strong and moves very well for that kind of body. The Marlies weren’t the best team in the AHL this year, weak defense and nothing much in offense, but as the reports say, he wasn’t anything special and could have trouble to adapt to the NHL… especially with the defensive body the Leafs have now.

Other Free Agents

It is tough to say what the Leafs’ needs exactly are. Yes they need a scoring winger like Ryan Smyth but it’s not it. And what if they can’t get Smyth? The Leafs will need a checking center. Peca should’ve been just that last year but he wasn’t very lucky and picked up a bad injury. Will he be back this year? I think if his salarial demands are reasonable, he could be brought back. If he doesn’t want to or is too expensive, the Leafs could very well go with Wes Walz who won’t come cheap and is old but still very efficient. I’m not sure they want to, but they could also bring Perreault back. He know the Leafs, he can score and win a lot of faceoffs, he is not really a checking center but could be useful. Todd White and Adam Mair are the better options. They’re younger and faster and can provide with a little bit of scoring and Mair will fit well in the gritty Toronto tradition. If the Leafs can’t get Smyth, they could turn to Blake, who wouldn’t be as good a fit as Smyth on the Blue and White’s lineup, but is fast and has a great scoring touch. The biggest problem is that if the Isles can’t keep Smyth, I just don’t see them let Blake go.

The Final Word

The Leafs really have to build their future. Assuming goaltending is done (with Pogge…) they need to build a younger more adapted to the new NHL defense and the best way to do that without losing too much is the draft. They will have good years on offense with Sundin sticking around for at least one more year and Wellwood, Steen and Stajan developing into top 9 (maybe top 6) forwards. With Antropov and Poni continuing their hitting, they should be good enough in a smaller Eastern Conference. The future could look bright… the next few days will tell more.

Thanks for reading me and please intense Leaf fans, don’t bash me too much.

60 Responses to Leafs on the right path?

  1. openclose says:

    im a habs fan and i actually thought raycroft stole your team (and lost a few) a few games last year. The toskala trade was good for you since mark bell will be good again.  the only problem is that raycroft  might have confidence issues now. it's not easy always looking over your back.

    your number one problem is McCabe. Montreal has/had our own version in the new NHL D need to be able to skate just as well as Forwards.  JFJ has impressed me with his most recent moves, so i think you need to cut him a break.

    to the Ranger_fan, your team isn't very good… you just have in my opinion, one of the next great goalies, soon to be on par with Luongod and kipper.

  2. DJTOKid says:

    I know you like Peca, but are you saying White would be no good? Do you think that Peca is better then White right now in the stages of there career?

  3. tancred says:

    He may not be The Answer, but he might help.  I saw quite a bit of Gamache the season before last when he was with St. Louis.  He has pretty good moves, its just that he can't always seel the deal and score.  I thought he deserved more playing time than he got, but somehow he was often a healthy scratch.  Then Nashville reacquired him, and it was obvious he'd get even less playing time with them.  He could be a decent asset if the Leafs give him some decent even strength and power play minutes.

  4. Hoondog2 says:

    Who are the "blue chppers" on the Rangers that are going to inherit the reins after the Czech team is gone?

  5. Glucker says:

    Cheripanov 😛

  6. Glucker says:

    to be honest, I haven't seen White play, if he can bring the intangibles that Peca can bring, along with the PK expertize, hitting, and point production, sign him up, lol

  7. Uncleben says:

    Well, with the points he has produced in every league, except NHL, so far, i'd say he has the potential to be like another Antropov (idk his playing type, but those kindsa points). but i see him having another relatively low NHL point season and being a Travis Green or maybe a Deveraux/Battaglia type point producer.

  8. nova_scotia123 says:

    He has serious potential. Great pp player. But tends to be a little soft. Maybe playing with Tucker and Bell would create him a little confidence and get him playing to his potential. Time will tell, although I think he may be undercontract in Germany or some Euro team.

  9. GoalJudge says:

    There is little doubt that Toskala is a better goalie.
    He is being brought here to take the mantle as our No. 1, and the leafs are hoping that he is as successful as Kipper was for Calgary. As Kipper was considered No.3 in San Jose's system before he was traded.

    With that in mind Raycroft has the job to lose, and presumabely will. However, as a back-up or a 1A/1b depending on how you look at it he is a great alternative.  Toskala missed a few games last year and it lost him the clinch on the starting job down in SJ. If he is injured again, what better than a guy who you know can play 72 games.  That is a relieving fact, even if it is mediocre goaltending. At least we would not be LA and splitting time between 2-3 back-up calibre goalies and wannabes.

    He is an expensive back-up but a good safety net going into the unkown with a new goalie. For Fergie Jr. it is a safe play, which is all he can take right now with his job on the line.

    MLSE will eventually look like they have egg on there faces when they realize they should have fired JFJ and made Quinn GM.  I believed Quinn proved in his last season that he "could" coach young players, he just didn't like it. And I do believe it was time for him to step aside as coach as I think he was losing the dressing room. But he would have been a far better alternative to JFJ as a GM. I think that is coming clear.

    He probably would have continued to sacrifice future for established players, but JFJ has done that too. And I don't believe he would have signed Both McCabe and Kubina to those contracts. It would have been one of the other.  But that is mere conjecture.

    For Goaltending the team is on the right path, and the Gamanche acquisition is a good idea, but it proves that even Toronto has trouble luring players to the city with the reputation of not being in it for anything but the money, and as such keep having to find players from unique sources to get there talent. Gamanche is an example, the rumour of getting Morozov is another.  And previous Quin era signings of Reichel and Renberg were the same.

    No respect for the head office. Lots of respect for the city and history.
    But who would voluntarily work with people they don't like?

  10. RealisticNick says:

    "Stralman led the endtire sweedish elite league(3rd best league in the world) in ice time. I expect Stralman to struggle adjusting to the NA game this season. But after a year of bulking up, he could become a top pairing defenseman."

    I guess that depends if he means this summer or next summer, either way he's saying Strahlman will be a top pairing either this year or next year.  That is what I was talking about, this is just one occasion where I have seen this.  So it HAS been said.

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