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Leafs or Oilers: who has the more promising future?

Some months ago, I penned a column comparing the then current state of the Leafs and the Oilers.  I received some interesting feedback from fans as to whether the “Oil” or the blue and white were actually in a better position—moving forward.

(I brought forward this "comparison" because a year ago they were, in the NHL standings, the two worst teams in the NHL.)

My feeling at the time was that the Leafs were stronger in goal and at the back end.  I feel that even more now with the emergence of Reimer, and the development of Schenn and Aulie to go along with Phaneuf and Gunnarsson.  Throw in the arrival of Liles and Franson and you have a decent back end.  (The Oilers have Tom Gilbert, Ladislav Smid and Ryan Whitney, all capable NHL defenseman, and some grit in Theo Peckham, but not a lot of proven depth otherwise on the blueline.)

But up front, while the Leafs have been scrambling for a first-rate center and expanding the definition of “top-six” forward to match their roster reality, the Oilers seem to have an abundance of riches on the forward lines—such that they were able to move a prospect for former Oiler Ryan Smyth at the draft.

(Now, things have shift somewhat in recent days.  Tim Connolly was considered "done" by Sabre fans, media and management alike, but the Leaf brass seems to think he has a lot left, and this invested a ton of dough to have him act as their new "first-line" center and part of the "top-six".)

Being awful in the standings has its rewards.  It has for the Oilers, as it did for Washington and Pittsburgh before them in recent times.  Edmonton has been able to pluck potential superstars like Taylor Hall and now Ryan Nugent-Hopkins.  But as importantly, their picks a bit later on in previous first rounds, Magnus Paajarvi and Jordan Everle, are already established cornerstones for their future.

They also have Andrew Cogliano and Sam Gagner (along with Gilbert Brule), all still very young and talented, in the forward line mix.  As I write this, they have veterans Shawn Horcoff and Ales Hemsky and some useful fourth-liners as well.

Yes, the Leafs have Kessel, of course, and Lupul and (and now Connolly) a “second line” of Grabbo, MacArthur (just re-signed) and Kulemin and some hard-working third and fourth-liners. Lombardi may be a useful piece, if his health returns.  But in terms of elite forwards, I can’t help but believe Edmonton has the edge.

But overall, who has the better future?  The Leafs, who seem to have an edge at the back end, or Edmonton, who has all that skill up front.

Your thoughts?



  1. i can't help think this is a situation where an unstoppable force (oil) meets and immoveable object (leafs). we'll have to see this season mike!

  2. Gotta give the edge to the Leafs. Goaltending and defence goes a lot farther than goal scoring. Ask Vancouver how they like the cup. Oh wait, the Bruins got it.

  3. Personally, I think it depends on what you would consider a 'success'. Maybe it's the fact that as a Leaf fan I've been suffering for so long but I would say getting in the playoffs is a success. By this measure, the Leafs are clearly further along.

    Having said this, the Oilers are the team that I would say is more likely to win a Stanley Cup first at this point. The Leafs at this point are a team without a superstar and with no legitimate potential superstar in the system. The Oilers have two potential superstars (maybe three if you want to put Eberle in there, I don't) and for this reason, I'd have to think they're closer to the ultimate prize.

  4. I think the Oilers have a better future in about 3-5 years, although the cap is going to force them to make some very tough decisions in a few years. They're going to need a ruthless and smart GM, and to date they definitely have the polar opposite of that.

  5. i think the leafs have the edge, with reimer emergening as their number 1, and gustavsson looking for a bounce back season, they have to great goalies in net. They also have a solid D, with phaneuf,franson,liles,schenn,and gunnarson. having sold goaltending and defence is better than just having guys who can score