Now It's Unsatisfying
The Toronto Maple Leafs blew it. Brian Burke blew it.
Plain and simple the Tomas Kaberle debacle, which should have played out in a trade of Kaberle, was just that, a debacle.
Kaberle was not moved and now the Leafs in earnest have to make an offer to extend the blueliner and do what they can to keep him. Its all about optics. To keep Kaberle only to see him walk for nothing next July would be the absolute worst and a major setback in Burke’s grand plan. And the bitter taste of seeing Mats Sundin in a Canucks uniform is still fresh in our minds and in our mouths
Kudos to the people who said it, but rewarding a player who has not helped them win is becoming the norm in Toronto like many other norms in Leafland. Players who don the Blue and White are like gods no matter how good or how bad they’re playing and however things play out, its always a bed of roses in Toronto. Things are seemingly playing out to be same old same old in Toronto. Its time for a change and its time for not only talk about expectation, its time for them to fulfill them.
The Leafs are stuck with 8 defensemen and 27.775 million worth in cap hit for those blueliners. Throwing in the goaltenders and the entire backend makes over $35 million. That’s 59% commitment to 10 players who can only fill 7 positions in the daily lineup.
Pretty well every Leaf fan is expecting Jeff Finger to be removed in some way. But, the Kaberle trade was an absolute necessity as the Leafs needed to turn a position of depth into something different.
There is still a grand need for help up front and in the Leafs top 6. Right now, giving that role to someone within or making a free agent signing to the handful of also-rans left over doesn’t seem like the best thing for a team with aspirations of winning immediately. Letting the kids play would be great for the long term, but immediate success, instant results is what Toronto needs.
Granted, a kid could emerge big time and succeed immediately. it happens and those in that position in Toronto are good enough to make it happen.
But to rely on that and depend on it. That’s simply not good enough to just hope.
Some will say its a non-issue, the Leafs are fine, but as others have pointed out, same old, same old here in Toronto.
Three weeks ago, it seems possible he’d stay but almost certain he’d go. The entire off-season was predicated on him moving and an asset coming back.
It didn’t happen. His value diminished but it doesn’t seem like Burke or Leaf Nation was aware of such fact. He got nothing out of this asset and now risks losing him for nothing or extending him and adding more money spent on an already overpaid backline. Its lose lose.
Even a “futures” deal would be preferable. From some of the rumors, that package would be more than what Toronto got for Sundin, McCabe, Tucker, Kubina and Antropov combined. Surely there was a deal to be had.
So now, the Leafs are in a pickle and thus, its on to the next plan. What would that be?
1. Be Conservative.
The Leafs can simply round out their roster either within letting the likes of Caputi, Mueller, Kadri, D’Amigo and others fill in that Top 6 role Burke wanted to fill in the Kaberle trade.
He could also go after a cheap free agent like Raffi Torres. This is certainly not the big splash Leaf Nation was expecting. There was a big thirst for more and there is now concern and disappointment abound.
Seeing the success of the Canes with Staal and Brind’Amour, the Ducks with Selanne, Getzlaf and Perry, the Wings with Datsyuk and Zetterberg, the Pens with Crosby, Malkin and Staal and the Hawks with Kane and Toews, more than one front line proven player is needed.
This is the atypical move by the Leafs. To boast about what they have and hope it turns out. They’ve unfortunately been hoping for 5 straight seasons with no such luck.
The Leafs can hope Kaberle helps the team win making the decision easier to swallow. Also, they can hope he signs an extension as cheap as his last deal without it being one of those cap friendly disputed deals out there now. Burke loathes to give a player such a deal and he best hope Kaberle takes a hometown discount on a short term contract.
The Leafs too if they lose best hope Kaberle is still playing at an all star level whereby he grants the team the ability to move him to a select group of teams. He was rumored to have done so this past March and the hope is this never gets close to a Mats Sundin situation. The deadline tends to make teams stupid. Hopefully a team would then severely overpay for Kaberle to be a 20 game rental.
We can only hope.
3. Outrageous and Ridiculous
While acquiring a legitimate, proven and young top 6 forward would be ideal, spending a top young player like a Tyler Bozak, Luke Schenn or Nazem Kadri to get that player would be outrageous and outlandish.
Those 3 along with Jonas Gustavsson are the young cornerstones of the team built around 2 more young but proven talents in Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.
With one of the youngest teams, the Leafs have high hopes for the future, but need to win now. The 6 year playoff drought is distasteful and demoralizing and playing in the spring seems like a necessity for the Leafs this year. Burke, Ron Wilson et al, they’re all definitely anxious to get to the playoffs.
Expending one of the key kids could very well happen to fill that glaring need up front. Many Leaf fans have come to expect this. Kenny Jonsson, the 1sts that turned into Luongo, Seguin, Niedermayer. Seeing kids who could have been Leafs is the norm in Toronto.
And while this time many are completely against such a move, no one should be surprised if Burke pulls such a trigger. It just seems to be the Leafs way. Desperate times sometimes lead to desperate actions.
Since the Kaberle situation ended, to no surprise, Leaf Nation is talking itself into believing this was for the best. Never is it to be said the Leafs have failed. But in this case they have, in the last 5 years they have, in the last 43 years they have.
That has to end this season. Progress is fine, but progress alone is not enough. A playoff appearance is needed to heal all wounds. That is the absolutely the only option the Leafs and Burke have for this upcoming season. He knows it, the experts know it, the fans know it.
The Leafs have seen some players grow and some really good youngsters emerge, but that is not enough in the grand scheme of things. The Leafs need to win, the Leafs need to make the playoffs. No more promises, no more excuses.
Seeing how the off-season has played out and how still the Leafs have a major hole up front, the team did not escape and move past the large number of teams in the East fighting for the last two or three playoff spots.
Its going to come down to the wire and lots of luck, lots of improvement and probably another rabbit out of the hat trade by Burke (Or another sucker of a GM like Sutter) will be needed for the Leafs to move forward.
Failure seems to be becoming the norm in Toronto and many of us are sick of it. We’re sick of the non-playoffs. we’re sick of all talk and no action, we’re sick of people saying we’re great. They have to show it for a change.
That just may not happen if they play the same old song.