What the Leafs should do…this one's nice and long.
So I am in complete understanding that people are probably tired of reading these but don’t worry, I’m better than all those other idiots who want to trade Kubina and McCabe for Brad Richards or whatever….I’m good.
So anyways I first want to go through the people who we have to sign.
Jeff O’Neill: How easy would it be to get rid of 20 goals and 22 assists? Very easy. It’s not that I hated O’Neill during his time here and I sympathise with him as he lost his brother in a car accident, he has a fear of flying planes and expectations were fairly high of him as he was at one point a 40 goal scorer…but he isn’t anymore and nobody should have expected that. 0 points in his last 12 games? Goodbye. The only reason I would consider signing him would be for minimum or if he played only home games so he wouldn’t have to fly….semi joke. If he has a big season somewhere else it won’t matter to me because chances are he won’t.
Nik Antropov: Sign him for 1.4-1.75 mill. For reasons why read my article titled “What’s wrong with Antropov?” He’s a good player and would be a more than adequate second liner perhaps.
Yanic Perrault: Let him walk. He’s an alright player but he is 36 years old and I was not impressed with him in a maple leafs’ jersey (face-off % is of course valuable).
Travis Green and Aubin: Out….do I need to explain this one because I’m not going to.
Ponikarovsky: Keep him to play opposite wing from Antropov. Two 20 goal seasons in a row and I expect a third to come. He’s fairly fast, good on the fore-check and has an alright shot….just don’t put him on the shootout please. I expect him to be about 1.5 mill, give or take 250k.
Ian White: He’s good and a rookie…of course we should keep him. I’d expect him to sign for around 1 mill for a couple years.
Battaglia and Newbury: Sign Battaglia to a 2-way contract and the same with Deveraux depending on how many forwards we have signed. I like Deveraux and he is definitely going to get to play games seeing as forwards on our team are constantly getting injured.
SUNDIN: If we hadn’t signed Tucker, McCabe and Kubina to such ludicrous contracts I would have said to trade him and rebuild but it’s too late for that. Sign him to a one year deal for around 5 mill. I respect him so much as a player and person but I would appreciate it if he would pull a Selanne and sign for 3.5 mill for the sake of the team winning the cup. He’s filthy rich and is cup thirsty….that being said I would not want to be paid chump change (for him) knowing that MLSE is getting filthy rich due greatly in part to me.
Carlo Colaiacovo: Sign him. The problem is I’m not sure how much he will want but I expect around 1.25 mill. Correct me if I’m wrong. I like him and he’s good enough with McCabe. Wish he would do those big open ice hits but, you know….injury.
And finally Peca: This is a tough decision for me but I say sign him for roughly 2 mill and no more than that….one year. I personally think he is overrated by so many and underrated by the rest….stupid thing to say? Yes, but I don’t care. I didn’t see too much defensive prowess in the aspects of shutting down the other team’s best forwards like so many other defensive specialists do but come on; he is just too good on the penalty kill. The leafs were in the top half in the league in the PK while Peca was healthy (I think around 12th but I can’t remember exactly)….we eventually dropped down to 27th place….27th! We need him and besides, if we were to make the playoffs he would be a big help. While he was healthy he lead all forwards in blocked shots…the only forward on the leafs that even bothered. My problem with him is that he brings down the offence of whoever is playing with him which is why I say play him with Tucker and Steen or something along those lines as Tucker would get tons of powerplay time and wouldn’t need all the even strength while Peca could be mainly a penalty kill specialist. Forget even strength or at least deplete it.
So I understand that that was an article on it’s own but there’s more…thanks for your patience.
The team is very similar to what we had this year of course and that’s not gonna fly (didn’t we miss the playoffs?). So the leafs powerplay, though decent, was a big disappointment seeing as it was so proficient in 05-06 when we finished second in the league with a 21.4% PP%…this year we were 15th with 17.7%. The penalty kill was pathetic as we finished in 27th place after Peca was injured. We were third in shots on goal per game with 32.7/G and tied for sixth in shots against per game with 28.4/G. This is well reflected with goals per game where we were 8th with 3.10 (6th was 3.12 so we weren’t too far off from third I suppose). Where it is not well reflected is with goals against per game where we were 25th in the league with 3.2/G…wait a second, 6th in SOG/G and 25th in goals against? I think we need a new goalie.
So with the money we have left over which is roughly 12.5 mill if the salary cap next year is about 47.5 million. This is what I propose.
D: The defence is stuck the way it is people I’m sorry to tell you. McCabe’s not leaving, Kubina is here to stay unless someone pulls a miracle and I actually like every other defenseman on our team. I even like McCabe and Kubina it’s just their contracts. Again we were 6th in shots against per game so our defence can’t be so bad…..can it? Defensive lines would be the same as they were during the season as in Kaberle and Kubina paired, etc.
Goalie: Plain and simple I say we get Nicklas Backstrom to split duties with Raycroft because they aren’t going to simply give up on Razor. I say he will go for around 3 million as he is a large gamble but you may say he will go for a very different sum. His numbers were amazing this year and he’s been solid in the playoffs. He is the type of goalie that doesn’t feel much pressure and always remains calm so I feel he will be a top 10 goalie for almost any team…and with the leaf’s 28 shots against per game he could be great. Keep in mind that he was playing for Minnesota which is a highly defensive team so his numbers could be a little skewed. I say we sign him as he would be a huge upgrade from Raycroft who I think would be a great backup and could play up to 30 games backing up Backstrom.
Offence: 8th in goals per game and very close to sixth. Our offence is more than adequate but we just don’t have what Sundin needs and what he needs is skilled players to play alongside him. We could actually afford two that would be a push….one that I don’t think we can make. So what I propose is signing Ryan Smyth or Briere and then putting Wellwood on a line with either of them and Sundin. Briere was tenth in points while Smyth was 40th but either one of them would work fantastically on that line. Smyth could bang in a heck of a lot of the shots that rebound from Sundin’s blasts (Sundin’s shooting percentage was below 10%). Briere is a top forward and would go well with…well…pretty much anybody but neither would come cheap. I expect around 6 mill for Smyth and in the 7 million range (probably a little more) for Briere. Here are my two scenarios…
Let’s say we sign Smyth for about 6 mill over 3 years because Briere’s contract could stop us from signing a depth player like Gary Roberts. Having said that I say we make an attempt at signing Gary Roberts for about 1.5 mill over one year. He’s the type of player that could pay dividends if we were to make the playoffs but I do understand that he has injury troubles and may retire but so what? We can fill in with Deveraux and Battaglia when our forwards get injured. This option provides us with a very good playoff team as we would have two more heart-soul-forwards that can play in many situations and play harder than anyone come playoff time.
Our lines would be something like this:
undin/Wellwood- Undisputed First Line
Kilger/Peca/Tucker- Defensive/Checking Line
Ponikarovsky/Pohl/Antropov- 3rd Line
Roberts/Stajan/Steen- Second 3rd Line (They’re both good)
This team isn’t amazing but I feel it would be great in the playoffs with players like Tucker, Roberts, Smyth, Peca and Tucker. Quality veterans who could have a huge impact come the post-season.
Another option is to sign Briere for about 7.5 Mill over 3 seasons. He is a tremendously skilled player who is a legitimate top 10 scorer, something the leafs haven’t had since Mogilny I suppose (you can make your arguments about Sundin but the fact is he hasn’t scored over 80 points in 4 seasons…3 before that). He isn’t as complete a player as Smyth but he is 2 years younger and his offensive prowess really can’t be questioned, along with the fact that he is exciting to watch. We can’t afford Roberts that way but chances are he’ll retire anyway.
Same lines as before except switch Smyth with Briere and Roberts with Deveraux. People like Battaglia, Kris Newbury and Jason Williams can fill in for injuries. Let’s hope there aren’t many…
So either of those line-ups would be good enough to make the playoffs and have the toughness (Peca, Tucker and Kilger), Skill (Sundin, Briere, Wellwood and Kaberle), veteran leadership (Sundin, Tucker, Smyth, Roberts, Peca…..and McCabe) and depth to make an impact in the playoffs. The real question marks would be in the net and on the special teams, mainly the penalty kill. I think the having Briere or Roberts and Smyth would boost our power play a great deal and give us two solid units.
What do you think? Please correct me on contracts that you feel are completely unrealistic because I know that people will question me on Backstrom and you’ll say that Smyth will command 7 million or something on the open market but that isn’t predictable…though very possible. Feel free to criticize constructively or negatively.
Sorry this was so long but I had a lot to say and I really have a passion for this hockey club. I know that people like me love to read stuff like this.