Toronto Maple Laughs

It has been 42 long years since the Toronto Maple Leafs have even made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Finals and it doesn’t look like they are close to breaking the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL. In past years the Toronto Maple Leafs have had teams that have been close to Stanley cup teams but came up just short. Recently though the Maple Leafs, one of the most storied NHL franchises, have been perennial bottom-feeders. For bottom place teams the NHL draft, which takes place tonight, is usually the best place to start building a foundation for the future. However, unlike other teams of their kind, the Maple Leafs under GM Brian Burke have chosen not to take the rebuilding route. Despite his best efforts to make the Maple Leafs an immediate winner, it was and still is apparent that Brian Burke did indeed make the wrong decision and now there is no turning back.

Brian Burke has stated numerous times that he is not going to rebuild and that he strongly believes the Maple Leafs are a team that has the right pieces in place to build a winning franchise immediately. With this school of thought, at the beginning of last season Brian Burke decided to deal his 2010 and 2011 first round picks and his 2010 second round pick for Phil Kessel. Toronto ended up finishing second last in the league and subsequently the draft lottery provided the Boston Bruins with the #2 pick overall in the 2010 draft. The #2 pick this year is either going to be Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin who both qualify as very good #1 overall picks. Instead of being able to draft a young, cheap franchise player to build around, the Maple Leafs have a quality, expensive (5 years $27 milllion) 1st line forward. Also, as mentioned they do not have their first round pick next year, which will probably end up being another top 5 pick.

For me the key to building a good franchise comes from investing your resources in scouting and developing young players. In the new salary cap NHL, having quality inexpensive youth is the key to developing a good team. Obviously Brian Burke doesn’t feel the same way.

Phil Kessel is arguably worth 2 first round picks but he is definitely not worth 2 most likely high first round picks. The problem with giving up high first round draft picks for a proven scorer is that there is nobody for a guy of his calibre to play with. I would like to know what the logic is behind bringing in a young, proven, expensive and a supposed franchise player when there are no quality pieces to surround him with. If you have no pieces in place then the most logical way of finding quality pieces would probably be through the draft. However, when you’re constantly giving up your future there is almost no way you can build around a supposed franchise forward.

The Toronto Maple Leafs do have some good young pieces. For example, Mikhail Grabovski, Viktor Stalberg, and Luke Schenn but these guys are not the players that are going to carry a team . Bringing in Dion Phaneuf for a number of middle-of-the-road players is probably the right decision at this point. The initial problem was overpaying for players such as Jeff Finger and Francois Beauchemin who, because of their age, had hit their ceiling before ever coming to Toronto. Building a team around Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf and no name Joe is not going to get the job done.

The inability for Brian Burke to be patient has made it so his team doesn’t stand a chance of being a real contender in the years to come. Following in the footsteps of the Chicago Blackhawks’ front office would have been more sensible decision. The Blackhawks’ four core pieces, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Patrick Kane, and Jonathan Toews were all acquired through the draft. In addition to those 4, the Blackhawks also drafted Dave Bolland, Troy Brouwer, Adam Burish, and Dustin Byfuglien who were all intergral players from their Stanley Cup winning team. It is also evident that their extra money poured into scouting allowed them to steal away Patrick Sharp and Kris Versteeg in trades for virtually nothing.
After the Blackhawks finally had the right young pieces in place, they were then able to sign a couple of major free agents in Brian Campbell and Marian Hossa. I guess patience eventually only led the Blackhawks to a Stanley Cup victory, but what is that worth anyways?

With the NHL draft going on today and the Toronto Maple Leafs without their top first round pick it looks like it’s going to be another disappointing season for the team and their fans. The Toronto Maple Leafs do not have the correct pieces in place right now and I don’t think that they will be able to find them through free agency or trades. It is possible that Maple Leaf teams of the future could slip into the 7 or 8 seeds because of the weakness of the Eastern Conference but Brian Burke has set his team up for a future of mediocrity.

Agree? Disagree? If you have any questions, comments, suggestions, please feel free to reply in the comments section below. Or you can e-mail me at cross_can15@hotmail.com. I’m now on twitter! Follow me at http://www.twitter.com/paintstheblack.

Also check out howiGit’s blog, a guaranteed great read every time.

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