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The first day of summer means what, exactly, for Leaf fans?

I have to be honest, I get confused every year as to what day in June is actually the first real day of summer.  As a kid, I assumed summer always began on June 21, but somehow I have this notion that it's not that simple.  Something about….oh, never mind. (I also have a theory that the days should not start getting shorter on the first day of summer and that we should easily be able to have the “longest” day of the year in, say, late July.  But my now grown -and much smarter than I- sons have assured me this cannot be done, while providing what I perceive as a very technical explanation about the sun or something.  Oh well…)

In any event, by some standard we have reached the first day of summer; the NHL just held its annual Awards ceremony (Las Vegas style); the draft is hours away; player signings (e.g. Karlsson) have begun in earnest and Leaf fans await anxiously for any piece of real news that we can get our teeth on.

And that’s usually where we end up, right?   News, just give us news, even if we won’t like what we hear from the inner sanctum of the ACC.  Make a move, do something. Just give us something to talk about.

So what have we “learned” in the last few days, if you listen to a) mainstream media folks b) Brian Burke c) Mike Gillis or d) various other outlets, such as Twitter…..?

The answer?  Not much.  I mean, lots of things are being said out loud, but, as we should always expect, no one is saying anything that betrays their well-rehearsed public stand.  Every GM, for example, says they are “listening” to trade proposals but, amazingly, no GM ever admits that they are actually offering anything.  Apparently, no GM ever starts trade talks; it's always the other guy.

We are supposed to believe that they are all being approached by fellow GM’s and are just listening—which is odd, because, as we all know, if no one is actually offering any players and all they all are doing is responding when approached, well, no trade would ever happen, because no one is initiating anything.  Everyone claims to be just listening.

You know what I’m getting at and it is simply this:  while there is a tendency for fans to hang on every word someone like Brian Burke says, the reality is what he actually says bears little if any resemblance to what he may ultimately do.  No GM or team wants to look desperate, even the Leafs—who have precious little of real hockey value to trade from the present roster.  (And, since they don’t seem willing to give up anything of quality, we shouldn’t expect to get much back, I shouldn't think…)

Oh, they can offer to trade away contracts (bad ones), all right, but that’s not exactly what most other teams are looking for, even in a cap-crazy hockey world.

But back to my earlier observation, modest as it is: what have we at least been told (if not “learned”) in the past few days?  Let’s review (and by all means add detail around some of the events that I’ve not included here):

  • Vancouver is “listening” to clubs on Luongo.  They want at least one good player in return; fellow GM’s are offering Gillis their bad contracts. (Someone will have to blink first, or an uncomfortable Luongo will return as a back-up in Vancouver, until they can find a team desperate for goaltending next season—which should be by Christmas time or thereabouts….)
  • The Leafs say that they are happy to go into next season with Scrivens and Reimer as their tandem.  I love Reimer, but those are brave, empty words, after what has happened in goal here throughout the Burke era.  It was his undoing in Vancouver. 
  • The Leafs, we’re also told, will take the “best player” available in the draft.  Doesn’t every one, every year, just about every time?  (Burke had earlier said he may consider drafting for positional need, but since none of these guys will likely play right away, why draft for positional need that may be very different in two years?)
  • Media speculation suggests if the Leafs really want a big fish, like Jordan Staal (who Ray Shero claims is not available), it will require something really good going the other way.  I’ve said here for months that if I was a rival GM, and Burke wanted one of my top players, the first name out of my mouth would be Jake Gardiner.  Since Burke won’t deal Gardiner, he just doesn’t have the quality assets to bring in a Bobby Ryan, Staal, Nash, Patrick Kane, etc.
  • The Senators are supposedly in on Nash.  I think it’s more likely he ends up with the Rangers or Chicago, but the Senators do have a number of young players with a high ceiling (potentially) that they could wave under Howson’s nose…
  • If the Leafs don’t get Luongo (and that’s not my desired move from the Leaf side), it looks they they will indeed go with Reimer and Scrivens.  Harding and Lindback are off the market.  Who’s really left?
  • The Leafs are supposedly not interested in acquiring the first overall pick.  Really? Or is it that they don’t have enough to make it worthwhile for the Oilers?

And hey, in light of Karlsson’s new contract in Ottawa, we know what the Leafs will soon have to pay Jake Gardiner…

Bottom-line:  we’ll all enjoy this more when we have something of substance to talk about—an actual draft pick in hand rather than draft “projections”, as well as trades or free-agent signings that actually happen.

I'm not a Star Trek afficionado, but didn't one of the captains' on one of the versions of the TV series used to say, "Make it so…?

I second that motion.


  1. what have we at least been told (if not “learned”) in the past few days?

    Jagr appears set to test the free agent market on July 1, as was first reported by TSN's Darren Dreger.

    Would you like to see Jagr on the first line with Kessel as the center and Lupul as the other wing?

    Would you like to see Jagr on the second line with Grabovski?

  2. I agree with DP. I have been thinking about this for a while now too. As of last year, Jagr was still an effective player. If he is interested, he seems like a good choice as a veteran presence, an experienced, effective player who could buy us a year or two of development time. Or, would he just stand in the way of existing players' development? Does he have some deficiency I am not seeing? I wonder what others think about a blue and white Jagr?

  3. Michael, this post drives right to the heart of what I'm feeling right now. Logically, I know that all of the hot air coming from GM's at this point are either pumping the tires of their assets for a trade or blowing up the air mattress to offer their fans a soft landing when they fail to get done what they set out to do. Frankly, I'm getting rather weary of all the speculation but you know what; I still can't get enough. I guess because as a Leaf fan, if you don't have hope, you don't have anything at all. All these years of missed playoffs is like a war of attrition on the Maple Leafs faithful soul. But whether we're the irate cynic or the eternal optimist, we all have that same hope buried deep down. So today, I'm not reading between the lines. Today, my faith in Brian Burke is unflappable and if he doesn't accomplish the game plan as laid out at the end of last season (upgrade goaltending, #1 pivot, size and nastiness to fill out the bottom 6), then it just wasn't worth the price. Good luck and God speed at the draft Mr. Burke.........Maybe tomorrow I'll throw him under the bus. Go Leafs Go!

  4. DP, Bobby C...Interesting notion re Jagr.

    It's not one I have envisioned. Let's see if others have any thoughts....

  5. Love your post, Wendels Moustache. You capture the roller-coaster emotions of so many hopeful but worn-down Leaf followers. Good stuff. Thanks.

  6. Hey Michael... good food for thought as always.

    In terms of Luongo, Reimer, Scrivens or anyone else... the Vokoun/Lindback/Harding situations have certainly skewed the goalie market. I think Luongo could work as a Leaf, contract and perceived inability to win big games notwithstanding. I also like Reimer and Scrivens as young goalies. But while Burke hates 'the Pittsburgh model' he should be wary of following 'the Philadelphia model'... ie never addressing the need for a solid goalie who makes your team better. And Luongo would make them better... he's a good regular season goalie who can win you 5 extra games, and that could be enough to push them into the playoffs. He doesn't have to win the Cup in a season, this team needs far more than a decent goalie for that. All that said, I am not sure Luongo is the only option, but then you start getting into acquiring less proven guys, goalies like Raycroft or Toskala, hoping they return to form. We've been down that road.

    Best player available (BPA)... I think to an extent, people are afraid we'll see less 2008 than 2009. In 2008, Luke Schenn was probably among the BPA, though now perhaps perception is Hodgson, Myers, even Del Zotto have surpassed him. But in 2009, I think most would say Kadri was a surprise pick... someone Burke decided he wanted, over someone like Kassian or Cowen etc. Perhaps it's unfair, as Kadri has been jerked around a bit, but for me the fear is at the mic the Leafs will announce some kid who isn't in anyone's top 10, based on Burke and his well-known tendencies to eschew conventional wisdom in favour of his own 'blueprint'.

    As for trading for Staal or anyone else... I do realize Gardiner is likely the best of the Leaf prospects. But frankly, it should be a non-starter, period. I mean, when CLB sent Carter to LA, I am sure Howson's first words were "I like Doughty", but it's just not a deal that can be made. You do have to give something of value (and Jack Johnson is something of value), but I think there's some inflation by speculators as to what some of these players would cost. The speculation over Rick Nash... 2 roster players, your top prospect, your first round pick and maybe another pick... ludicrous. Jordan Staal is a very good player, but if he is worth a top prospect plus plus plus, then what would Malkin or Crosby be worth? your next 3 first round picks, 2 top-6 forwards and your starting goalie?

    Honestly, I also can't see how much benefit there would be to moving up to 1st overall. It always depends on what it costs, but again, the Leafs have so many needs, it's not like there's so much talent drop off at 5 they won't get a player who will be very good. Even if you take Yakupov, Murray, Galchenyuk, Faksa, Trouba, Dumba, Grigorenko, Forsberg... only 4 of them could be gone, your odds are still good to get someone you had ranked highly. To send the #5, plus Schenn and maybe more picks to draft first, you'd have to be zeroed in on Yakupov alone. I don't see it making much sense.

  7. As always, you've covered the Leaf landscape well and realistically, Mark.

    I'm also guessing they simply stick with #5 and take a solid young player. (It's likely not worth the aggravation and assets to move up...)

    I'm not a Luongo guy, but I concede that, if the cost is low to bring him in, he could certainly help us get to the playoffs.

    Staal is an interesting case. I agree that Gardiner is not going anywhere. Just not sure we have the assets (or would be willing to part with them) to get someone that young- and with his ceiling.

    Like Wendels Moustache said above, if the Leafs do not makes moves, it will no doubt be because the price was simply too high.

    Thanks Mark.

  8. Jagr always looks like he is wearing childrens hockey pants. For that reason I would rather he play elsewhere.

  9. Great post Mark. Interesting view on going for the proven goaltender over the Raycroft Toskala. I say it all depends on what u have to give up. I am not convinced Luongo is the guy but it always seems other teams acquire good goalies without giving much up. FAs Smith and before him Brysgalov who was just waived in Pho, Elliot and Anderson traded for each other and even kipper for I think a 3rd rounder. We on the other hand seem to give up a lot to get back goalies who perform less than their expectations.
    As for trading up in the draft, it is still no guarantee the guy you get first is that good anyways. We need to look no further than 1999 to see Dallas trade up and select P. Stefan.In fact the entire first round was weak after the Sedins with havlat being the only notable player drafted and that being at 26th overall. Scouts say this years draft is not that deep but we will only determine that until a few years from now. So it may just be wise to stay put at 5 and get the bpa.

  10. Thanks bluenwhite- agreed, Mark delivered a strong comment, as usual.

    You hate to over-pay for anyone, bust you're right, there is a recent Leaf history of goalie moves that simply have not worked out.

    Which leads me to your next point, re staying put at #5 in the draft.

    We all often criticize GM's and scouts for lousy "picks", and that's fair game. That's the business they are in- assessing, evaluating and projecting who will actually be good pros.

    But I think we all understand that, at the end of the day, the scout or GM can do their best homework- it then comes down to the individual player, their ability, their motivation, their willingness to do the extra things to improve, etc.

    Who thought Mike Smith would be a star goalie this year? Clearly not Yzerman. So he had to give up a ton of valuable assets to get Lindback.

    Bottom line, Leafs should - and likely will - stick at 5, and, having done their "best homework", all they can do then is to try and nurture/develop. But it will largely be up to the player, in the end.

    Thanks bluenwhite...

  11. A goalie possibility I've been hearing is Halak. It's so under the radar, I wonder if it might be on a burner - perhaps the flame is low, but the burner's on!
    The question vis a vis Luongo, for me, is: how would he do with our defence? They certainly had a tendency to leave Reimer or Gus to dangle on their own last year. Will Carlyle's new system make any goalie seem "better"? I didn't see it at the end of last season, but...
    The draft is such a roll of the dice, and the NHL results so far away, usually, that I don't see the Leafs making a move. Our pressing need is immediate!

  12. Halak is a very interesting name, Gerund O'...and you are right, as important as building up the farm system has been, they need help now, too.

  13. The Monster appears to still be considered in Toronto, watch this new interview from Burke:

    Are they trying to talk down the price on Luongo

  14. I'd be shocked if they honestly gave Gus a new contract, DP. I doubt Gillis will be swayed if this was an effort to drive the price down even further. I still believe Vancouver will hold out as long as it can for a deal that includes a real asset going back for Luongo....