Win Win Situation For JFJ.
Its the day after the NHL trade deadline and many members of Leafs Nation (corny term for Leaf fans, hate it) may be ready to serve up John Ferguson Jr.’s head up on a silver platter, but lets look at it from another perspective. In listening to JFJ speak after the deadline passed yesterday I got the feeling that he did want to pull the trigger on a couple of deals, but was unable to do so. Is it possible that Ottawa outbid Toronto for Arnason? Yes. Is it possible that the JFJ laid the ground work for a deal involving Ryan Malone in the off-season? Yes. But most fans are upset at JFJ for either not buying or not selling; when in fact this was possibly the best move the Leafs could make pretty much standing pat, pardon the pun.
Leaf fans wanted JFJ to reconfigure the Toronto defense corps, but with all the recent rash of injuries to Toronto’s young defensive hopefuls, it was virtually unreasonable to think the Leafs could unload the likes of Berg and Khavanov. If you read into what JFJ said post deadline it seems as though other teams wanted to pick the Leafs clean of their defensive prospects, kudos to JFJ for not allowing it. Judging by what was being thrown around for depth defensemen yesterday the Leafs probably could have received a decent return on both players in the way of draft picks. When you sit back and look at it though, JFJ keeping the status quo is genius.
With 21 games remaining the Leafs are now 8 points back of Montreal for the final playoff spot, if the Leafs are able to play amazingly well and are able to make the playoffs then goal accomplished, this is highly unlikely but I would love to see it happen. What’s the worst case scenario? Well worst case scenario is still probably the best case scenario for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Worst case scenario is the Leafs tank the rest of the season and fall way short of a playoff berth and end up falling into a lottery pick position, how can JFJ go wrong with standing still?
Sure he could have dealt Allison, O’Neill, Belfour, Tucker and McCabe for picks and prospects, but this years draft is being touted as very weak after about the first 15 picks or so. So what help would the Leafs have really received by stock piling 2006 draft picks? Leafs did make 2 moves before the deadline, bringing in Luke Richardson for a 5th round pick and moving Ken Klee to the Devils for a 24 year old prospect Aleksander Suglobov, which can basically be called a lateral move to bring in a prospect with some potential. Belfour probably wouldn’t have been a strong return due to the fact that he is now 41 years old; Allison probably wouldn’t have netted a strong return based on his lack of speed and impending bonus payments. Tucker at 1.6 million per year is one of the best values in the league, he will likely be a 30 goal scorer this year, why give that up for a prospect that no one is sure about? O’Neill has fallen off the map all together and not dealing McCabe gives you four more weeks of exclusivity to attempt to re-sign him to a fair contract for both parties.
Compound on top of this the fact that the Leafs will have over 20 million in cap space in the off season which will likely be one last attempt to run for the cup during the Sundin era. The Leafs owe it to Mats to allow him the opportunity to do so. Worst case scenario is the Leafs completely begin to rebuild in 2007 which was the most likely situation given the fact that they still have Sundin under contract for one more year after this season. JFJ can be criticized for not doing much in his tenure as Leafs GM, but when you really sit back and look he is setting up for what the Leafs fan have been asking for, for quite some time, getting younger and starting to look towards the future. He’s just not ready to give up on this particular season which is commendable.
The onus is now on the Maple Leaf players as it has been all season long. If they want playoffs they have to make it happen, JFJ has made that statement. The Leafs are making the transition that needs to be made for a healthy organization but JFJ is trying to ease the fans into the process, much of the current Leafs team will NOT be back next year, JFJ alluded to it in his deadline media aftermath. Don’t fret Leaf fans the wheels are in motion. Whether its playoffs or a lottery pick progress will be made this season.