First things first. After following and observing professional sports for well over 50 years, I know one thing (well maybe two things, but this is one of them…): it’s easy for fans to second-guess what a General Manager or a coach does. I do it quite often. (I'm probably not alone.)
But then again, since being a fan is supposed to be fun, and not serious business, it’s one of the privileges that a fan has. He/she can complain, become highly cynical, fret, feel extremely agitated, experience joy when your team has some short-term success- then go back to moaning about how things would be if you were running the Club, or if the GM or coach weren’t making so many terrible decisions...
Sounds fair—for fans, at least.
So while having already conceded in this space in recent days that the Leafs have done some good things, taken some positive steps in the last almost three years since Brian Burke took over (and have done some interesting things this summer, too), like a lot of people there are things that, in a perfect world, I wish the Leafs could have accomplished in terms of signing some UFA’s over the past couple of weeks.
Who, specifically, you might ask?
Well, I’m not thinking in terms of the expensive, high-end guys. We haven’t had a lot of luck here with some of these guys over the years, either getting them to come here in the first place (too long a list to name), over-paying for them when they do come (too long a list to name) or obtaining them in a trade and seeing things not work out (Gilmour returned and got hurt; Owen Nolan got hurt, Brian Leetch got here a few years too late…yes, that list is too long to name, too…)
No, my thoughts are more along the lines of a guy like Cody McCormick, a rugged fourth-line center (a problem position last year; we started with Ziggy and Brent did a fine job at times when slotted there but we need more) who will make a little over one million a year for the next three years, who signed back with the Sabres. I would have thought he was a Burke kind of player.
Left-winger Sean Bergenehim is someone who I believe really stood out at times for the Lightning under the bright playoff spotlight, and would have been a nice fit for the Leafs. He may be overpaid by the ‘must-reach-the-cap-floor’ Panthers at 11 million over four years, but we’ll see. He would have fit in nicely with the blue and white, in my mind.
right winger Joel Ward turned heads in the playoffs. I admit that he certainly turned mine. I barely knew of the guy before, but the Capitals, a Cup contender, saw enough in him, too, to give the once un-drafted player 12 million over the next four years. Too much? More than the Leafs wanted to pay for a (likely) third-line guy? Probably. But he would have been an interesting fit in Nashville , with his size and new-found scoring touch. Toronto
In terms of what might still be possible, I’d be happy if the Leafs took a modest run at veteran winger Mike Grier. From what I can see, he’s not the player he was years ago when he was one of the better muckers and corner men in the game. He can’t play at that intense, grinding level for 82 games anymore, but could be a useful guy should the Leafs make the playoffs, if he played sparingly and had a light workload through much of the regular season.
The only other guy who I think could come in handy if Gustavsson or Reimer weren’t healthy for any reason is Marty Turco. As much as I would prefer to build with the young goalies (like Rynnas, Scrivens, etc.), Turco, in limited spurts, may have a bit of juice left. Maybe not, but for bargain-basement dollars he may be a helpful veteran to have in the system, now that Giguere has left the building. (As an aside, is anyone else surprised that Giguere received a two-year deal?)
These are just some of my personal preferences. Not a big deal. I’m not suggesting the Leafs made a mistake in not signing any of the above. Just a wish list.
Who might you have liked the Leafs to land, other than some of the obvious big names, if you’d had your druthers?