The Leafs seem caught in a situation where management has to determine whether the roster, as presently constructed, is close to being a factor in the Eastern Conference.
If so, I suppose Nonis and Shanahan will stay the patient course, continue to build around the edges of the roster, and hope (as with the baseball Blue Jays) that much same roster as the year before can make significant headway and be more consistent in the upcoming NHL season.
If not, it may mean more dramatic moves are in play—as in, a fundamental shake-up of the roster is at hand because Shanahan has determined that we don’t have the required experience, leadership or “will” to compete with the NHL’s best. That’s not the way Shanahan has talked publicly, but if his ongoing analysis suggests the Leafs lack certain traits, that could mean re-making the roster, and moving out players (names like Phaneuf, Kadri—who I do think was in trade talks two years ago, not sure about now—and Gardiner have been bandied about) for a return that would no doubt be debated for some time in Leafworld.
But do the Leafs really want to deal their best defenseman, or youngsters with skill who have been developed here for years already?
I raise this in connection with the NHL entry draft, now only days away—though an outstanding and entertaining NHL playoff year is still just wrapping up. If the Leafs decide they need and want some veteran help right now, might they deal their first-round pick for immediate assistance?
Of course, they could do something a bit less radical and trade down. If they believe the player they want will still be available, they could deal their own pick to acquire a pick later in the first round and also a player that could help on the third or fourth line.
There is always the option of moving up in the draft as well, but I don’t have the sense that there is a surefire superstar waiting in the first round this year, though there are always youngsters who end up surpassing what was projected for them in terms of their development. So you never know.
Leaf supporters here at VLM have long identified our roster “needs”. They include the aforementioned leadership, a dose of grit, another top-line forward, depth on defense and improvement on the third and fourth lines.
My question for today is: as you review the Leaf roster and try to read between the lines around what Nonis and Shanahan are thinking and saying, would you stay with the status quo and just pick at number 8, or would you try to get creative and make a move?