Who's The Boss?

As more time passes, the Toronto Maple Leafs get further and further behind in their efforts to rebuild an flailing franchise mired in one of the worst slumps in team history.

The setback started with the failed efforts at the trade deadline to move veterans for young assets and shed some salary. The setback continues today with not one candidate found or even interviewed in the team’s search for a new hockey boss.

It is shocking to see the team nowhere closer to finding a president/GM for the team after firing John Ferguson almost 3 months ago. With all the good hockey people around, it is astonishing for the search committee of interim GM Cliff Fletcher, sports lawyer Gord Kirke and CEO Richard Peddie to not do at least one interview by now.

But here we stand watching the Leafs dither and likely botch their way to more stupidity and failure. Yes this is clearly the biggest move due this summer for the team. Obviously time is needed to get this hire done right. Yes the team needs to do their due dilligence however to not even talk to anyone about the position is inexcusable.

Darcy Regier, Kevin Lowe, Jim Rutherford, Neil Smith, Craig Button, Doug Armstrong, Joe Nieuwendyk, Al MacInnis, Ron Francis. Is there any reason whatsoever as to why the Leafs have not talked or asked permission to talk to any one of these candidates or the numerous others out there not currently involved in the playoffs? There isn’t any.

Honestly what are the Leafs waiting for? There are some candidates that are involved in playoff action whom they cannot speak to yet such as Brian Burke, Ken Holland and Colin Campbell, but wouldnt the best option be to do a very broad search, talk to numerous candidates, gather as much information and ideas from differing hockey minds as possible and find the best candidate that way? Its hard to tell if certain people are not the right fit if you dont speak to them first hand.

Perhaps the reason is simply this: nobody wants to work for MLSE. If that is the case, that is completely understandable. The organization has built a reputation for being nothing but a bunch of backstabbers with their own hidden agendas and selfish needs. While talk has been of the new boss getting carte blanche to do whatever necessary to righten this sinking ship, the question still remains if this autonomy is truly there for the taking.

But this is not to say the job is not attractive. Rebuilding this team and overhauling this roster, getting the Leafs back into the playoffs and being a contender, with the opportunity to break a 41 year and counting Stanley Cup drought is probably the biggest challenge awaiting any hockey executive.

There is so much work that needs to be done, but the reward will make this painsaking task worthwhile. Whomever the team finds to run this team will welcome this challenge.

Here is how the team stands heading into the summer.

2008-09 CAP HIT – $40.1 million for 16 players.

An important task whomever is in charge of the team will be to shed salary. Fletcher couldnt get the job done at the deadline, but should have a slightly better chance to accomplish this in the summer. Demotions are likely. Players like Bell, Raycroft, Blake are all candidates to be sent down. In terms of trade, Kubina definitely and maybe Tucker and McCabe will be shopped. Kubina has a great chance to move for the simple reason his NTC is revoked for a small period of time this summer. Buyouts are another option available to Toronto. The same names like Blake, Tucker, Kubina etc are all candidates here.

UFA – Mats Sundin, Dominic Moore, Scott Clemmensen, Andy Wozniewski, John Pohl

RFA – Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Alex Foster, Ben Ondrus

Once again Mats Sundin will be under the microscope this summer as he decides whether he wants to play another year in the NHL. If he sticks with his word, the only team he’ll play for is Toronto. Fletcher is more than happy to welcome him back into the fold, but the new boss could feel differently. The choice by either party will not be easy. Sundin is an iconic figure in Toronto. Cutting him loose could be too hard for the organization to swallow. At the same time, bringing him back and the rest of the gang only solidifies the team’s status as a middle of the road franchise going nowhere. They’ve managed to prove this the last 3 seasons.

The only free agents who will be back with certainty will be Stajan and Moore. For what they bring, they fared well and should be relatively affordable to re-sign.

Under Contract:

Goal – Vesa Toskala, Andrew Raycroft

Toskala has proven himself to be a capable number 1. But as well as he played, that was not enough to at least equal or better the team’s results the previous season. The Leafs will need to have him play at a high level again. What might help is a reliable backup to be in place. Raycroft is a good team guy but could not fill that role. It really is time for the team and player to part ways.

Defence – Tomas Kaberle, Bryan McCabe, Carlo Coliacovo, Ian White, Pavel Kubina

Once again the biggest need for the Leafs is to find players who can bring a strong defensive presence to the backend. The blueline is simply too soft and too pourous to succeed. A shutdown player or two who could provide an intimidating presence on the blueline is a must. The team has plenty of offence from the defence led by Kaberle who is one of the best at moving the puck and making a great first pass. Players like White, Stralman and Coliacovo bring the same sort of game. Speaking of Coliacovo, the Leafs really need a full season from this guy to really reap the benefits of his talents. He is probably the one defenceman they have who can make a big impact at both ends of the ice. If he continues to get hurt, and the team does cut ties with McCabe and Kubina, depth will be an issue. Stralman stepped in and should win a regular job next year but they need more, much more.

Forward – Jason Blake, Darcy Tucker, Mark Bell, Alex Steen, Boyd Devereaux, Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Jiri Tlusty, Kris Newbury

It is quite possible that the only players from this past year left on the roster up front could be Stajan, Steen, Devereaux, Tlusty and Moore. For various reasons, the rest of the forwards might not be brought back. Antropov and Ponikarovsky have some trade value with their size and relatively low salaries. They could bring back some of the futures they could not acquire when they tried to move those among the No Trade Five. As mentioned earlier, Bell, Blake, Tucker could be bought out, traded or demoted and free agents Sundin and Wellwood simply may not be re-signed. With or without the massive turnover the team has plenty of needs up front. They need more grit, more sandpaper and more toughness up front. The Leafs h
ave become one of the easiest teams to roll over. They obviously need more scoring especially if Sundin does not return. The just need players to be able to finish off plays. Players like Stajan, Steen, Ponikarovsky all seem to have trouble finding the net for long stretches. The Leafs are hopeful Tlusty becomes a 30 goal man. If Antropov is retained, he too should be good for 25 or so goals. Sundin is Mr Consistency averaging a point per game but at age 38, how much longer can he do this. The Leafs also need players to properly fill in checking roles on the club. They do not have anyone capable of being a shutdown player like a Samuel Pahlson or a John Madden. With all these needs, it could take a few years before the team manages to fill them.

Behind the bench a new coach may be required. The new hockey boss should be allowed to bring in the coach he wants and not be saddled with the leftovers. Paul Maurice and his assistants have failed in every regard from improving the defence, improving the special teams and implementing a strong system and game plan. The lack of structure and discipline is obvious and that should change when a firm hand is in charge from the very top. Hopefully he will be able to implement a staff that will be on the same page and not the disjointed outfit we see today.

The turnover of the entire roster is a necessary evil if the team wishes to actually get better. Not only talent wise but the entire culture of the team needs improvement. The core of the team, the leaders, well they have proven for 3 years they cannot get the job done. It serves no purpose to continue to build around any or all of them. If the opportunity presents itself to blow the whole thing up, the Leafs should jump at that chance. In all likelihood the new President/GM they hire will be up to the task and willing to make the changes this organization needs.

Top Prospects

Goal: Justin Pogge, James Reimer

Pogge has the best chance to be a star among the team’s thin prospect ranks. After a rough first season, he has fared very well leading the Leafs farm to a first place finish and a playoff berth. There is a good chance he could back up Toskala next season.

Defence: Anton Stralman, Staffan Kronvall, Dmitri Vorobiev, Korbinian Holzer, Jamie Sifers

Stralman is no Nik Lidstrom but has the tools to be a fine player. For a raw rookie, he didnt seem all that overwhelmed at the NHL level and should be a regular in the Leafs top 6 next season. He has all the tools to be a good PP QB. Kronvall will also likely find himself on the Leaf roster next season at worst as the team’s 7th defenceman. Injuries have ruined his development but he will be solid in a depth role. .

Forward: Nikolai Khumelin, Rob Earl, Jeremy Williams, Dale Mitchell, Darryl Boyce, Alex Foster, Chris Didomenico

If Khumelin decides to come to North America, the Leafs just might find the scoring winger they have been looking for. With both he and young Tlusty as possible regulars next season, the team could have a pair of players with high skill levels and youthful legs in the lineup. Players like Williams, Earl and Boyce will likely see time next season with the Leafs at some point however there still remains a significant lack of depth, talent, skill and promise throughout the organization.

The real common theme for the Leafs is a real lack of depth at all levels of the organization. The team will get a good chance at redemption with 5 picks in the top 100. WIth the 7th pick, they should get an excellent prospect. With so many needs to fill, the Leafs will not lose if the following players fall into their lap. Nikita Filatov would be an intriguing choice if he happens to fall this low. If any team can afford to deal with the Russian Ice Hockey Federation and negotiate a transfer, its the Leafs. He the type of player the team could build their offence around. Kyle Beach is a big power forward type and would address the team’s lack of grit and physicality. Luke Schenn has the potential to be the shut down blueliner and stabilizer the team is currently missing. He is the type of character player all winning teams have. There is also local product Cody Hodgson who could be the crafty point producing centre they thought they had in Wellwood. Depending on how the first 6 picks unfold, the options are plentiful for Toronto. It should be a win win situation no matter who falls to them at number 7.

Quite the challenge awaits the person hired to run the Maple Leafs. The sooner they find this person the better as the draft is coming up in 2 months and free agency falls soon after. If a change behind the bench is needed, they better get that done sooner rather than leter.

The work that needs to get done to improve the Leafs is extensive and will take time. The string of missed playoffs has tried the patience of owners and fans alike. But if they really wish the team to actually improve, they will need to play the waiting game a bit longer. Fixing this team will not happen overnight, will probably not happen in just 12 months. The organization has waited 41 years already, whats a little longer going to matter?

13 Responses to Who's The Boss?

  1. i_know_hockey says:

    Toronto is a team without an identity… if Sundin leaves who's team is this?  Who are going to be the stars on this team? 

    Without Sundin, look at the forwards on Toronto, not looking to promising.  Toronto needs a player that can step in, take control, and really give this team something to build and rally around.

  2. UsedandAbused says:

    It is a shame for Toronto fans. Sundin and Kaberle could have really helped this team by allowing Toronto to trade them. Who knows it may have even allowed them to do the kind of turnaround the Flyers were able to pull off. Instead it looks as though it may be a long process.

  3. leafy says:

    I miss the Leafs already.  October can't come soon enough.

  4. Plekanec says:

     I wonde? Who will the Leafs trade thir first round pick to, this year?

  5. habstruefan says:

    Hey its nice to look at the women in the summertime.There screaming to take off there clothes right now.We just got rid of the winter and you want october to come already.

    Look at it on the bright side,it gives management more time to think about how they can compete again

  6. leafy says:

    That's true!  Summer has it's advantages too.

  7. mojo19 says:

    When I got to this part:

    "The organization has built a reputation for being nothing but a bunch of backstabbers with their own hidden agendas and selfish needs"

    I had to double check if Nords wrote this or Kramer. A lot of hockey guys would want the job. Former Stars GM Doug Armstrong has publicly announced his desire to be considered for the position of the next Leafs GM. That's one guy that we know of. Maybe they're going to do all their interviews in the summer. Maybe Nonis will be considered. Who knows. Maybe another GM or two will still be fired who might interest the Leafs.

  8. mojo19 says:

    Ferguson's not around so we know it won't be a goalie

  9. habstruefan says:

    tits and ass baby,thats what summer is all about

    ps. can't forget the beer and catching those big walleye.

  10. Radio says:

    Inb4 Habs fans thread hijacking.

  11. LeafsNation91 says:

    I think the Leafs are waiting for Fletcher to blow this team into shreds. Cliff said he guarantees their will be a different team on the ice next season, and that alot of new faces will be in the lineup. I think their going to allow Cliff to do his damage, trade whatever he can and bring as many draft picks or prospects as possible. Then they will bring in a GM that I believe will be experienced and put the pieces together for more great teams in Toronto.

    I believe the Leafs are missing young talented forwards that can become superstars, they have some great talented possibel third and seond liners, defenders and goaltenders but no real top line scorers.

    The Questions about players I would have is:

    Will Kubina be traded in  the window?
    Will McCabe go back to the Island?
    Will Nik Antropov or Alexei Ponikarovsky be traded?
    Will Sundin sign?
    Will Blake and Tucker be around??

    Those are the only players I believe the Leafs should have questions about. I want all other players(Bell as well) to stay. I just want to see some of that list gone.

  12. Rico420 says:

    a few names that the Leafs are possibly considering for the GM ranks (they won't go with a rookie GM again unfortunately for some out there that I feel would be fantastic) are Jim Nill, David Conte, Bryan Murray (he'll be available!), John Muckler..

    Unfortunately a lot of recylced/reused garbage but a few fresh candidates who could add a little bit of what it takes to make a team a contender – unfortunately for Don Wadell this hasn't worked in Atlanta after working in an organization that spells out winner (detroit)..but who's to say the Leafs may not make it work in their favour?

  13. curtman96 says:

    Everyone talks about the big turnaround the Flyers have done and how Toronto could possibly do the same. The Flyers were in a way better position then Toronto is in now with core guys like Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Simon Gagne, and RJ Umberger. Compare that to the Leafs core of 20 year olds you have Stajan, Steen, Tlusty, Kaberle (lets assume hes in his 20's), Stralman and Antropov. I would take that Flyers team way way before those Leafs. I would take Carter and Richards alone before all those Leafs.

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