I thought going into last Saturday’s night’s Hockey Night in
Canada would tell the tale for the rest of the season. The Maple Leafs hosted
the Oilers. The Oilers have been one the league’s worst-3 teams for ages now.
A loss to them is more than unacceptable.
Toronto won the game 5-1. They led the game 5-0 late in the
My hope was temporarily restored in this franchise.
Then they drop a 5-4 game at home to the New York Rangers.
That was followed two days later by a 3-2 loss in New York
to the Islanders
Sports reporters (and fans) everywhere are calling for
immediate change. I don’t know what the fix is. I don’t even know if there even
This morning on theScore Inc., website, they have outlined
the ‘bare bones’ of a plan that could see all players who are not named, traded
or perhaps bought out of their contracts as soon as the March 2 trade deadline
approaches, or in the off season at the latest.
According to this report, David Clarkson, Phil Kessel and
Tyler Bozak would not be expected to return.
No promises were made regarding any player.
The one question on my mind at this point is: how long is
this going to take?
Anybody who has followed the Maple Leafs knows that winning
isn’t hoped for in these parts, it’s expected. If team President Brendan
Shanahan thinks that he can ‘rebuild’ this team, he knows that it won’t be easy
and it won’t be quick.
This would mean, as the report indicates about halfway
through, another 3-5 years of losing hockey in Toronto.
The thing I don’t understand about rebuilding is, how they
intend for it to happen? Not all of these players are going to demand an equal
or greater return; some of these players, nobody is going to want.
Even if Shanahan was to ‘eliminate’ or get rid of x number
of players, it still won’t erase the fact that their #1 problem is that they
need somebody who can coach. I think they need to replace the head coach, then
look for ways of rebuilding/replacing players.
And further to that, Shanahan has no experience in what it
takes to ‘rebuild’ a team. He was once a well-respected player on the ice, but
he has no experience with what it seems he wants to undertake now.
And on top of that, when you decide on the ‘rebuild’, how do
you know when you are done?
Teams such as Edmonton, Columbus, Florida, Arizona, and
Dallas are still in the ‘rebuild’ mode. Any idea how much longer it may take
any of them to complete? The Senators watched Alfredsson depart to Detroit as a
free agent, then saw next-best player Jason Spezza jump to Dallas. What is next
for them? Ottawa currently sits one point ahead of Toronto in the East.
I think that the other argument against stripping this team
down for parts is that it is much the same club, minus a few players, that was
able to push Boston to the limit in the post season 2 years ago. They may be
showing some signs of not caring right now, but essentially that ‘core group’
of guys has proven to play effectively in the playoffs.
Besides maybe getting rid of SOME players, what this team
needs more than anything else in the world right now is someone who can coach,
and essentially win, in Toronto.
The #1 candidate that comes to mind is Detroit’s Mike
Babcock, who remains unsigned in Detroit beyond this season. He has said that
he wants a challenge. Look no further than Toronto. Another candidate is Mark Hunter, a third guy could be
Dallas Eakins, and a fourth guy, who might be the next-best to Babcock, and
that would be recent Cup winner in Pittsburgh, Dan Bylsma. Making Babcock the Head Coach in Toronto automatically makes
him the highest paid NHL coach in the history of the league.
One example to follow might be the Montreal Canadiens, who
beat them last night in a shootout. They finished last in the Eastern
Conference in 2011-12 but still has a pretty good core of players: Max
Pacioretty, David Desharnais, Tomas Plekanec, Lars Eller, Andrei Markov, P.K.
Subban, Alexei Emelin and of course Carey Price as well as a few up and coming
prospects including Brendan Gallagher. He hired Michel Therrien as head coach,
drafted Alex Galchenuk with the 3rd overall pick, signed Brandon
Prust as well as a few other veteran players and they were suddenly second in
the Eastern Conference. It wasn’t a total rebuild, it was a change in
philosophy and team spirit. It wasn’t all Carey Price because in that season he
only had a 0.905 save percentage.
Jonathan Bernier has had a 0.919 save percentage since
joining the Leafs, Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak
are all pretty good players, Morgan Rielly has tremendous potential. Start by
getting rid of the players who aren’t part of that core, bring in a new coach, draft
a great player in June, sign a few veterans to stabilize the defense and the
Leafs could be back in the playoffs quicker than we expect.
Labels: Jeffrey P. S.