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The Maple Leafs Present and Future

October 11th, 2009 · 1 Comment · The Hockey Hippie


With the Leafs now in 30th place, I need to clarify why I say …

We’re living through a monumental collapse in the history of The Toronto Maple Leafs — a period that will be written about for the rest of hockey time.

Every facet of this franchise is now utterly pucked.   Teams can overcome an element or two not being in synch — but not The Full Ginsberg.

Here’s why it’s so bad — and is gonna get worse:

Ownership:  A corporation. Who knows nothing about hockey, as much as some of them may think they do.  What they know and care about are accounting statements, and that’s it.  If they’re charging Le Cirque prices for McDonalds food, and can raise their prices every year and still have a waiting-list every night, that is One performing asset that is not to be mucked with.

GM:  A large person is humble and deflects praise to others.  A small person takes credit for things they didn’t do.   That Burke, as a 2nd yr GM takes credit for that Anaheim Cup … don’t get me started.   And certainly don’t get any Anaheim fan started!  Now, here he is building a thug-based team in “the New NHL,” while simultaneously dealing away their drafting future, and maxing out their salary cap so UFA’s aren’t even an option.
Comic Image:  Blustering Burke in the oak paneled boardroom scaring the pants off the manicured suits — until they give him a 5-year, no-supervision contract.

Coach:  Prof. Wilson is a textbook mismatch for a “pugnacious” GM like Burke.  Wilson may be a passable hockey tactician, but quite obviously not a “motivator” — not a player seems to be responding — and isn’t exactly coaching this low-skilled squad to play disciplined, capitalize on other teams’ mistakes, and score with the special teams.  But these poor (okay, not “poor” – “unfortunate”) Leaf players are getting two opposing messages.  Their structure is built in conflict with itself.  Ironically, the recently unearthed Quinnasaurous Pat may be the only current coach appropriate for this Burke team.

Forwards:  Dump & don’t-chase.  There’s not a legitimate Top-6 sniper in the squadron.  They’re not a threat to any defense or starting goalie in the league.  Picture  — rocks dinging off tanks.

Goofy’s Goons:  1/6th of every game’s forward roster are staged fighters.  The Leafs are the last-place team, and they voluntarily spot every opponent 2 forwards per game.

Defense:  As bad as it gets — the most goals against in the league — undisciplined, slow, constantly out of position, neither strong defensively nor offensively, confused, penalty-prone as well as the league’s worst penalty-killers — and with no Leader to quarterback or follow.

Goaltending:   The one position that can, in some instances, overcome other factors not in place — and it’s the weakest part of the team.  There’s Porous Toskala (who’s currently the 50th worst save % goalie out of 53 to play so far this season);  and a giant injury-prone monster who drops to the ice before every shot is taken, and who’s already been out twice with heart and groin problems and he’s only been on the job a week.

Overall:  Beyond all the systemic and wide-arcing problems, they have the weakest current starting roster in the NHL, and one of the shallowest farm team talent pools — ranked 22nd, last I checked. And the team having no team Captain is emblematic of them having no leadership whatsoever in the dressing room.

Add to that:   Every team has learned firsthand how hard points are to come by in this tight parity era, and unlike seasons past, players are much less likely to take lightly the “easy” games against last-place teams.  A couple points has been the difference between playoff bonuses or not for nearly every player in the league.

Why the problem grows:  The only advantage to being terrible is getting top draft picks — except of course Burke’s traded away the Leafs’ for the next two years. So far.  And because the franchise has been doing that for so many years, they have very little in the stable to draw on — and no major player coming in until 3 years from now (at the earliest).

Rebuilding:  Some people have bought the line that the Leafs are “rebuilding” — when, sadly, they’ve been looted, and are being demolished:   Almost all their “treasure” is gone, and they’ve sold off their futures, again.

The Long-Term:  This modus operendi will continue through (and by consequences, beyond) Burke’s 5year contract — under a man leading the last war’s weapons into tomorrow’s NHL.
And because his boss, the ownership, doesn’t care if the team wins or loses — as long as they appear that they’re trying, and they sell more hotdogs than they did last year — then this Division of their holdings meets its target, and “Let’s move on to next on the agenda …”

Ramifications:  Since the Leafs will finish last or close to it the next two years, every draft pick they could have gotten (and especially the 3 players Boston actually selects) will be held against this Burke era for the next 20 years of those players’ careers.  Or picture in 2 years when whomever the Bruins draft 1st overall is having a better season than Phil Kessel.  Plus, of course, during this time the Leafs won’t be doing any “rebuilding” at all.

This is no small collapse.   It’s historically huge.  And the drafted bridges to a future escape are already burned.

It’s like watching Katrina form over the Gulf.  It’s so big, so ominous, and so obvious that utter devastation is coming when this hits home.

Brian, October 10th, 2009.

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1 response so far ↓

  • 1 Various hockeyheads: // Oct 13, 2009 at 11:55 AM

    “This almost brought a tear to my eyes,
    Great analysis. Its nice to have some clarity.
    The Leafs are monumentally screwed.
    Heres to MLSE selling a shitload of hotdogs at $300 a pop.”

    Eddie in Australia

    “Good analysis. Should be sent to every Board member, or sent to the newspaper as a editorial. When will the masses stop buying tickets?”

    Richard M. in Oakville

    “Great, great analysis. I think most objective Leafs fans would say you hit it on the head.”

    Future C

    “This is a great analysis of the state of the team. I honestly didn’t think Toronto would give up their two 1st round picks!”

    Coach Parker

    “Great post!
    I would just like to add to this amazing analysis that Burke gave a 2nd and 3rd in 2011 in order to get his own 2nd in 2010 back from Chicago. So in reality, he gave two 1st, two 2nds and a third for Kessel. So basically, in the next two years he will rebuild on 2nd round pick (from Calgary) a his own 3rd.”

    Coach Senateur

    “That’s a very good/fair analysis. The only thing I’d disagree with is that they don’t have a legitimate Top 6 Sniper. Once Kessel comes back from injury they’ll have 1.”

    Neely in Boston

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