My love affair with the Toronto Maple Leafs has been a life long. This year I was optimistic that they might actually compete for a playoff spot and once again it appears as though my hopes will go unfulfilled. They are currently (as of this writing) 12 points out of a playoff spot and need to win at least 2/3’s of their remaining games to have a sniff at having enough points to even be considered for a playoff spot. Not to mention the abundance of teams they need to hop over to end up in eighth place in the East.
Why are they or why haven’t they gotten it done so far? Is it coaching? Is it Brian Burke’s fault? Is it the media monster that creates pressure for the players? Or is it that they just don’t have the players?
I’m inclined to think that it’s a combination of the above with the exception of the media. Bottom line, if you are a professional player then you must be able to tune out your critics, the media being the most vocal and public of these. If you can’t do this then either request a trade out of Toronto or suck it up and don’t read the papers/listen to the media/watch sportscenter.
I looked at the top four teams in both conferences and I realized that the Leafs just don’t have the players. Placing all the blame on Brian Burke for this is an easy thing to do, but I have to give him the benefit of the doubt that he still has more moves he would like to make to improve the quality of the roster but in order to make moves other teams need to want the players you have on your roster. So maybe it is Burke’s fault. He’s responsible for the current roster and if nobody wants his players then sucks to be him and a Leafs fan. At the same time, however, no one can predict the future. But to flip flop once again, isn’t that what scouts and GM’s and assistant GM’s are paid, at least partially, to do?
So in looking at the Leafs’ roster and the rosters of the top teams in both conferences I have come to the following conclusions.
1) They lack both talent and the requisite number of “pricks” to protect and spur on the talent they don’t have.
That’s actually the only conclusion I’ve made but by comparing their roster to others the differences become clear.
What the Leafs need:
-A strong, prick bastard with above average talent to center the top line but not necessarily play with Phil Kessel. Examples: Mike Richards, Ryan Kesler, Joe Thornton
-A captain who is a leader (and I’m not talking about talent, but someone that the other players 150% respect). Examples: Sidney Crosby, Nicklas Lidstrom, Brendan Morrow, Mike Richards, Shane Doan
-A supporting cast that might not be well known but does the “dirty” work. Examples: Maxime Talbot, Alexandre Burrows, Scottie Upshall, Blake Wheeler, Jamie Langenbrunner, Danny Cleary, Tomas Holstrom
For the record, I’m not saying the Leafs should go out and get these specific players or that I specifically like them, but these types of players are what will help them improve.
Also, with respect to goaltending: play Jonas Gustavsson. Yes, Reimer played well, but Gustavsson hasn’t really had a chance to prove himself over the majority of a season with at least a “decent” team in front of him. Play Gustavsson the rest of this year and hopefully (but not likely) someone, somewhere will pick Giguere up for a draft pick at the trade deadline. Otherwise, what’s the point of signing Gustavsson in the first place?
There’s so much more to talk about but I’m all Leafed out right now, plus I probably have to edit this a billion times so it makes sense…even after I post it.