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Here’s the question: whose future do you prefer, the Oilers or Leafs?



Here is a question I have asked before, but people may take it a bit more seriously these days, particularly in the light of the respective starts of the two teams this season.  Whose future do you like more—the Oilers or the Maple Leafs?

I’ve raised the question before and do so now again, because both are franchises with a great hockey legacy, but have fallen on harder times of late for the most part.  The Oilers and Leafs have both had some nice playoff runs in relatively recent years  (well, you have to go back to the early 2000s when it comes to Toronto, but this is a Leaf site so forgive the acute memory loss…) but both have missed the playoffs several years running.   Arguable, they were the two “worst” teams in the league at various points over the past three seasons.

While both teams have fallen off a bit from from quick starts to the season, few expected either of them to be where they are in the standings at this point.  

There are always nuances to the debate that I won’t get into here, but it strikes me that the Leafs have the “edge”, if I can call it that, in terms of goaltending (though Khabibulin has been very good this season…).  The fact that Toronto has Reimer, who is so young and just emerging, bodes well for the future.  They also have significant goaltending depth throughout the minors.  For his part, Dubnyk has worked his tail off to become a solid NHL goaltender and has had a generally fine start to the season, but I would still give the nod to the Leafs.  This assumes Reimer returning at some point.  (Perhaps a case of our site, our rules, but on we go…)

On the blueline, while the Oilers have talent, for sure (Gilbert, Smid, Whitney and a host of promising youngsters already with NHL experience like the hard-working Peckham) I would think that an objective assessment would rank the Leaf depth (11 guys in the “system” now with NHL experience) again gives them the edge.  Phaneuf is playing perhaps the best hockey of his life most nights and the Leafs have skill on the back end with Liles and young Gardiner still growing into his role.  (For my money, Gunnersson may be the best of the lot as a complete player, but I’ll make that argument again another day.)

But I believe the forward lines is where things get really interesting.

Here in Toronto, we know what we have.  An emerging “star”  (can we say that yet, or are we jumping the gun?) in Kessel, with some nice pieces around him, including Lupul, the Grabovski line and some talented youngsters near at hand—Kadri and Frattin, among others.

But the Oilers don’t just have young forwards with potential.  They have bona fide budding stars, superstars in the making some cases.  Here are the names, for Leaf fans who may not think about the Oilers on a regular basis:  Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paaajarvi, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Anton Lander and Sam Gagner.  All these guys are 22 or younger.  Each with “top-six” or better talent.

Most are not huge by modern standards or physically dominant, but they are supremely skilled and many play with a big heart (I love Eberle), which counts for a lot.

The Oilers have their “tough” guy (Eager) just like we do, and an assortment of talented vets, grit and leadership in Horcoff, Hemsky, Hordichuk and of course Ryan Smith.  (So I think they have the edge in veteran leadership, too.)

So here’s where we are:  Two rising teams, both building a squad mixing some veteran presence with good young players.  Who is ahead now—and who will be in two years, when it really matters?

Send your thoughts along.

5 comments:

  1. I give Edmonton the edge at the moment - which I wouldn't have said at the start of the season.
    I may be one of the few who visit this site who thinks we aren't strong enough in goal yet. Much as I like Reimer the person, I think Reimer the goalie has a way to go before he reaches Khabibulin (when he's hot) status. It's that one weak goal per game thing...
    I do think the Leafs have the edge on defence - yet we've been prone to an inability to clear, so far this season, that baffles me.
    As for the forwards, again, I wojldn't have said this at the start of the year, but right now, Edmonton has the edge. They've got guys who are young, fast, creative, and scoring - and who look like they'll be doing it for many years. The Leafs have guys who, so far this year, aren't scoring (once you get past Kessel and Lupul). The Grabovski line is really underachieving at this point, and I wonder how much longer they can be kept together. Prospects like Frattin and Kadri are always on the verge of that scoring breakthrough - but keep missing the net or getting stopped. Our PK and PP are way sub par as well...
    So right now, I give the Oilers the edge. In two years? I think we'll be just about even. And if Reimer/Scrivens/Rynnas/Gustavsson turns into a bona fide #1 goalie, it should be good times in TO!

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  2. I would rather be the Oilers. I also don't think I'd necessarily give us the edge in net. Dubnyk has looked nearly as good as Reimer and definitely had the higher pedigree of the two...

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  3. Long suffering Leaf fanNovember 15, 2011 at 11:25 AM

    It all depends what you mean future...is it immediate or distance? If it is the immediate future I would give the Leafs the advantage only on the merit that their young forwards are establish NHL regulars. The D on the Leafs are differently better than the Oilers...even though they are not shown it at the moment. In goal I would have to agree with Greund O'Malley on this one. Khabibulin is the type of goalie that will steal you game when he is hot...especially in his contract season, which he is! Only the future will tell if one of our young netminders will establish themselves in the status or better of Khabibulin.

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  4. As much as I love the Leafs, as soon as there is something positive building, management does something and we are left with a team struggling again. I hope management sticks with this group. They look more promising than any team since the 1990's.

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