Thursday, March 04, 2010

Toronto Maple Leafs: Can We Call Games 63-82 an "Exhibition"

Ponikarovsky is a Penguin, Stempniak is a Coyote, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are overwhelmingly Brian Burke’s.

As of the trade deadline, 70% of the current Toronto Maple Leafs roster has been acquired by Burke. That’s a huge amount of turnover in about 18 months. To put it in perspective, after five years on the job, JFJ was responsible for acquiring 60% of the Leafs roster. Pat Quinn’s peak was 66%.

And there’s potentially more turn-over to come.

John Mitchell, a Pat Quinn draft pick, and Nikolai Kulemin, a JFJ pick, are pending RFAs. Jeff Finger, a Cliff Fletcher UFA signing, is rumoured to be a future Toronto Marlies great. Many of the players acquired by Burke (Exelby, Wallin, Lundmark) will likely not return next season.

But before we can get to the next stage in the on-going make over of the Maple Leafs, Leaf fans will have to suffer through the balance of the season. The team is so dismally thin on talent upfront that they’ll be hard-pressed to win many games the rest of the way.

Consider:

  • Only three players on the club have hit double digits in goals.
    Of the top five scorers on the team, three are defencemen, one is Phil Kessel and the other is injured.
  • The Leafs top four centres are Bozak (rookie); John Mitchell (has regressed faster than Getzlaf’s hairline); Rickard Wallin and Wayne Primeau. As a group, they have scored 10 goals in 143 games played this season.
With the youngest roster in the NHL, the upcoming 20 game run will give the Leaf brass the opportunity to evaluate the players as they play in all situations (well, the most likely situation will be “trailing badly” but you get the idea).

With the holes on the roster and the lack of talent up-front, perhaps the best mind-set for Leaf fans is that the next 20 games are an extended exhibition season: a chance to see who’s working, who’s not; a time to hope for an entertaining game and to remind yourself that this is hopefully the last time in a long time that the points and standings don’t really matter.

9 comments:

  1. Anonymous3:03 am

    so what do fans do, cheer for wins, cheer for effort, cheer for development...I guess what I am wondering is there at least one thing this year we can celebrate?

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  2. Except our exhibition season was awesome.

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  3. Anonymous10:04 am

    Well, 'exhibitions' are usually supposed to exhibit something. Put product x on display and see how the public takes to the wares on offer.

    So if that's the case, what exactly would Burke be exhibiting? That the ersatz path to truculence is largely useless when you have milquetoast talent to defend? That trying to expedite the rebuilding process can leave you with a bloated and uneven distribution of funds sucking out any flexibility of the salary cap?

    Yeah, yeah, 5 year plan and all some might say. Whatever. Sure, rebuilding takes time, but I fail to see how avoiding potentially good and cheap talent in the draft has been favoured for the free agent/trade route as a good idea. For me, Brian Burke has rendered himself about as useless as a pair of tits on a nun. Now if only he can find this generation's Tie Domi to satiate the masses' thirst for TRUC-U-LENCE, that would at least keep some fans from questioning the 'Other-Worldly Wisdom' of Pope Fatuous the Third, Brian Burke.

    Not a rant against this post, just experiencing some severe fan version of buyer's remorse with regards to Burke. Had to vent.

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  4. Anonymous (the first) - Far be it from me to tell Leaf fans what to cheer for, I'm just watching to see if there's a glimmer of talent from Hanson, Bozak and Stalberg - something that might give me a reason to hope for next year.

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  5. Chemmy - it was damn fine while it lasted. Maybe next year the Leafs can stink in the pre-season and then win in the regular season. You know, shake things up a little.

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  6. Anonymous (the second) - I think the exhibition in this case is some of the young talent Burke has collected. The Leafs are now the youngest team in the league, are there any bright spots in the line-up or players worth keeping an eye on?

    I'm with you, to a point, on the importance of draft picks. I think Burke wants to skip, or at least expedite, the 4 year development cycle associated with draft picks by backfilling the team with prospects. I don't know if it will work, but at least there seems to be a method to his madness.

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  7. Gooner4ever1:47 pm

    The problem Burke has is that no matter how patient the fans are (or claim to be) regarding a re-build, the media and his bosses won't be.

    If he went down the road of a complete re-build and in five years time we're still not making the play-offs, BUT look a lot better and have some top-end talent, Burke will be gone.

    He knows this which is why, as you say MF37, he is trying to speed up this process. Not only will it nake him look like a genius, but it'll keep him his job.

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  8. Paul Steckley8:55 am

    In the span of a few months, Burke has managed to shed the Leafs of Blake, Toskala, and Stempniak. That alone should guarantee him the Executive of the Year award. Hell, getting rid of Blake's contract alone was probably enough.

    Draft picks are great but they don't come with a guarantee and that first round pick can always turn out to be the next Alexandre Daigle or Patrick Stefan. We need to be patient and see where this goes. Given the mess he inherited, Burke has a huge job ahead of him, one that he has only just started. Evaluate him after year three and then tell me if he's done a good job or not.

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