I believe we can say it: the win over the Red Wings has some meaning. I say that because not all regular-season victories are quite created equal. All games are worth two points, of course, but some wins set the scale for something more to come. And the win Saturday night for Toronto may turn out to be one of those moments.
Now, I hesitate to predict turning points simply based on a third win in a row at home, or even beating a fine Detroit team. (Some context for such reluctance: as a then die-hard and young Green Bay Packer fan on the opening day of the 1970 (or was it 1971?) NFL season, I remember the TV game-announcers saying the then young Packer defensive line had come of age after a big-third down stop when the game was still close in the first half. The Packers went on to get hammered 40-0 by Detroit…)
Since then, I’m not inclined to pronounce such perceived key moments or big wins as “turning points”. In hockey, momentum sometimes only lasts until the next goal, or the next game.
But I like the fact that the Leafs were able to lose a three-goal lead but still earn a win. A sweet and very smart (and he knew he was going to get hit, too) play by Lupul was huge, coming on the heels of a surprisingly egregious defensive letdown by the Wings. But you know what I really liked? With 50 seconds to go, Franzen, I think it was, was left all alone in front of the Leaf net and one-timed a great pass from behind the net. Gustavsson was in position to anticipate and make the save. The result was two points for the blue and white.
Next time it could be Reimer- does it matter?
Next time it could be Reimer- does it matter?
In the two and a half years since Vintage Leaf Memories was launched, those of you who drop by fairly regularly will know I’m not big on rumors or trade speculation. It’s not that I don’t find it as much fun as the next person (heck, fans need to engage in some arm-chair quarterbacking--I spent most of my youth concocting possible Leaf trades in my head at school...); it’s simply that there are plenty of sites that handle this sort of thing. Even if I was so inclined, they do it far better than I could.
But we do seem to be at a point in time when the Leafs are likely engaged in some serious talks with somebody about moves that would improve upon the current roster. Burke always makes a point of saying that he likes to move ahead of the pack. (I don’t know if this is historically accurate; perhaps someone has done the actual research on his claim…) That is, he prefers to trade in advance of the deadline, when he feels he can make more fruitful moves and not be under duress.
So the timing is such that one is led to believe that something of a significant nature could transpire in the next week or two, if not sooner. And the wild (maybe it’s not so wild, given the Ducks have seemingly been fairly open about their intentions) speculation surrounding Getzlaf mounts by the day.
I have no idea what is or isn’t being discussed, and if the Leafs are in play for Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan or anyone else in Anaheim—or elsewhere—but I’m of the view that Burke does not want to be left at the altar if one (or both) of those star players are available.
On the heels of their three-game winning steak, the Leafs may feel they can stand pat, but I don't think so. And if this is indeed a possibility, chances to acquire players like that in their prime come around fairly seldom.
Now, we can sit and speculate what the Leafs would be willing to give up to acquire one or both of these premier forward talents. But I’m focused today on putting myself in the shoes of Anaheim General Manager Bob Murray, the man who replaced Burke as GM with the Ducks.
We know a few things. Murray and Burke have worked together and likely quite respect each other. The two men have made a number of trades together since Burke took over as GM of the Leafs. Perhaps the biggest deal saw Francois Beauchemin head to Anaheim a year ago in return for then injury-played (and career-stalled) Joffrey Lupul and a kid a lot of us knew precious little about—though draft geeks certainly did—young Jake Gardiner.
This was a trade that may prove to be as, or more, one-sided than the Phaneuf/Calgary trade. Even if Lupul wasn’t having an All-Star season while the Ducks struggle to win games, Gardiner’s emergence as a smooth-skating, smart and poised young defenseman seemingly ensures he will be a star in the game for years to come. He may not become another Scott Niedermayer, but he can play, and should only get better and better. Maybe even an All-Star, and I mean the kind they name at the end of an NHL season.
In any event, this is part of the backdrop, at least in my mind, of any discussions that might be ongoing between the Leafs and the Ducks. Murray is well aware of his recent trading history with Burke, and how the hockey world sees the transactions. It’s clear that the perception is that Burke has “won” the deals. He shockingly dumped salary (Jason Blake) in one deal and stole Lupul and Gardiner in the other.
So Murray won’t want to be ambushed again, and if he chooses to deal with the Leafs, I would think he has to exact a huge price to give up players of the stature of Ryan or Getzlaf. Burke didn’t draft Getzlaff but he was GM when the Ducks selected Ryan. He seems to love both players.
Bottom line? If I’m Bob Murray, my negotiations don’t proceed on offering either of those two guys to Burke unless Jake Gardiner is coming back to Anaheim. And, since Murray already gave Gardiner away a year ago in an awful deal (click to read more), he has to do a lot better than just get back a kid that he should never have let go in the first place—especially since he would now be giving up one of the best power-forwards (Getzlaff) or pure offensive talents (Ryan) in the game today.
So in Murray’s shoes, I would be insisting on Gardiner, Schenn and James Reimer, and see where things go from there. Like including Tyler Bozak and/or Kulemin, as well.
We all remember how Burke and Boston’s Peter Chiarelli went toe to toe in two major deals over the past few years. Burke got exactly what he wanted in Phil Kessel—a young, high-flying talent who had already proven he could score at the NHL level and would only get better (presumably) with time. And Kessel has. But the price Chiarelli extracted (two first-rounders) turned out to be much more than Burke likely really believed would be the case. We now know Tyler Seguin and Doug Hamilton are two awfully promising players who may be cornerstones in Boston for a decade.
The second time around, Burke fleeced Chiarelli, but while no one would ever admit this publicly, Chiarelli probably figured he had already garnered huge dividends from the first deal with Burke, so he was prepared to take a hit on the Kaberle move to get what he wanted- a puck-moving defenseman. He gave up Colborne and the first-rounder that gave the Leafs (through a subsequent draft day deal) young Tyler Biggs. Toronto looks to be the winners of that deal, long-term.
However, the Bruins won their Cup, though the role Kabby played was pretty minor, and Seguin’s contribution was limited to a few offensive outbursts, though certainly well-timed. But even when and if Toronto wins a Cup with the players Burke got from the Bruins, they will only be matching what the Bruins have already accomplished.
So now, Murray faces a decision. If he must (for financial reasons?) move one or both of Getzlaf and Ryan, he has to determine if he can get a better deal elsewhere—or can Toronto offer the “best” deal.
And if I’m Murray, that “best” deal has to include Gardiner, Schenn and Reimer.