It was the same with the Bolland deal. Some Leafers see him as exactly what the doctor ordered; others are less sure that his career is still in its ascendency, and fear he may be, at best, a nice third-line player as opposed to someone who will play in the team’s top-six forward group on a regular basis.
Nonis has traded away a number of picks since he assumed control of the operation back in January, including via some moves he made on draft day. Whether the current Leaf building agenda is new, his, or Leiweke’s is hard to decipher. But Nonis must feel now was the time to move some of the organizational 'futures' that have been built up over the past few years to bring in some timely pieces like Bernier and Bolland, who both come from winning organizations.
Now, for all the activity, there is almost certainly quite a bit more roster shuffling to come. You just get the sense that Nonis is working to massage the roster to bolster our strength in goal and at the center-ice position.
That said, if we are serious when it comes to the notion of discussing the Leafs in the same breath as the really good teams in the NHL, there remain some roster holes that desperately need plugging.
On paper, we should be stronger in goal, right? We now have two competitive, mid-20s guys who want the top job. Of course the Blue Jays had a word-class starting rotation this past winter, but their reality has been somewhat different so far in the 2013 Major League baseball season. Things don’t always, as we all know, go as hoped.
On paper, we should also be stronger in the middle, with Bolland in place and McClement still here, with Kadri now having a full NHL season (well, half a full-season, if you know what I mean) and some playoff experience behind him as well. We also have Grabovski in the fold, at the moment our presumptive first-line center. (I think Bozak, another of our centers, is gone. So is MacArhur, one of our wingers...)
However, it could be argued by some that we still don't have truly elite NHL netminding, and I would argue that we certainly don’t have anywhere near the best center-ice lineup in the league, either. I mean, I like Reimer a lot in goal, and I’m sure Bernier will be solid. And each of the centers I mentioned are good NHL players. But if we’re talking about being among the best of the best, well, I don't think so.
So there were sit. We continue to tinker with the roster, presumably making it a bit better here and there. Is it a lot better? I don't know. My instincts aren’t telling me that, but I can certainly be proven wrong.
We know we need a stud defenseman. We need a frontline center, someone with size, elite skill and toughness. (I’m talking about the right kind of toughness—someone who can play in traffic, take and give a hit, and handle the pressure of facing shutdown lines…)
We all know those players don’t grow on trees, but this is the 'gap' that will need to be addressed by sometime next season, if not sooner.
As of this moment, the Leafs, I would suggest, are a competitive team in the East. They could make the playoffs, or not. They could win a round or two in the playoffs, or not. It depends on so many factors and some intangibles, as well.
So with that as the backdrop, as you project what our GM may be thinking and what he may be inclined to do, what’s the next move on the horizon? Are you expecting a major UFA signing this weekend? Or something more subtle, say along the lines of the McClement signing from a year ago?
Are one of the goalies in play? (They can’t both play at the same time and boy, as much as I have defended Carlyle, do I ever dislike hearing “if you win you’re in” as the coaching philosophy when it comes to goaltenders….Is that really how we judge how our goalie is playing?)
Is Phaneuf truly on the table? Or is that all just idle media speculation?
What do you see as next concrete move that Nonis makes? A trade? A free-agent signing? Will we get that stud defenseman? Are we in the running for a big-time center?
There are intriguing free-agent names out there, and not just Lecavalier and Clarkson (who many seem to feel has an arrangement that somehow guarantees he will sign in Toronto). Though not centers, do any of Ryane Clowe, Jarome Iginala or Nathan Horton appeal to you? How about Dustin Penner, who runs from invisible to oustanding?
(Quick aside, based on all the hype from the TSN crew on the weekend at the draft, where every pick was fantastic, I could not help but look today at a list of available UFAs and recall how many of them were once being hyped the same way. Many will be lucky to even get a contract offer….)
In any event, I have to believe there is a real plan in place, and Nonis and the brass are looking to put the right players into the right holes.
Maybe you have a surprise idea that you’re prepared to share with the rest of us, something that you think Nonis will do that will send Leafworld into a tizzy…
Bottom line: what shoe drops next, in your opinion?