Custom Search

Burke’s state of the nation address hopeful- but I’d rather be the Oilers

Leaf fans saw glimpses, in recent weeks, of the competitive club that they will need to be if they hope to make the playoffs next season.

GM Brian Burke is always comfortable interacting with the media types and outlining his “vision” and as usual yesterday, he provided a relatively blunt yet hopeful assessment of where the team is and what he hopes to do over the summer to make the team a playoff contender.

He mentioned that precious commodity - a “top-six” forward and more toughness as some of his priorities. He also reiterated he’s not interested in a “five-year plan”. But the fact is, by the time this team is a true contender, it will be that long that he will have been in charge.

This past Monday I posted my own views about who should stay and who should be gone come September - recognizing that there are certain cap realities that face the organization.

I particularly like Gustavsson’s development in goal, and Gunnarsson, Phaneuf and Schenn on the blueline as a young corps, with Beauchemin on hand as a steady veteran presence.

While I look forward to seeing Bozak’s continued development and Kulemin’s next steps, beyond that I’m not sure I see a lot of legitimate “top six” potential in the current Leaf mix. Kessel, of course, is a highly-skilled winger, but I just have this sense that there are potential conflicts on the horizon. Don’t know exactly what or why, but we’ll see, I may well be wrong.

Hanson may be a player and everyone is excited about Kadri - maybe he’ll he a top-line center in the fall. I just sense he will benefit from time with the Marlies. But he’s an important part of the future, for sure.

The Leafs finished last in the East, the Edmonton Oilers last in the West. And it just may be that Oiler fans face a brighter future than their Maple Leaf counterparts.

Why? The injury to Khabibulin was devastating to the team this past season, but it necessitated the organization fast-tracking the development of two young goaltenders (Dubnyk and Deslauriers), both of whom, by the end of the season, had developed to the point where they may be excellent back-ups to the veteran goalie.

On defense, they have Ryan Whitney, Tom Gilbert and Ladislav Smid as three proven, under-30 defensemen. But they don’t have Toronto’s depth beyond that trio, though there is some potential with youngsters Theo Peckham and Taylor Chorney.

Up front, though, is where the Oilers may, two seasons from now, have more going for them than the Leafs.

While Hemsky may or may not be moved, he is an elite player that, if traded, would bring significant assets. If healthy and an Oiler, he is a special talent that will help the Oilers significantly next season, at least. Importantly, they have young, developing forwards in Gilbert Brule, Andrew Cogliano, Marc Pouliot and Sam Gagner- all 24 or younger. There are also youngsters in Ryan Jones, Ryan Stone, Ryan Potulny and Zack Stortini who play with an edge.

Dustin Penner, while not consistent, is big forward who scored 30+ goals this past season and at 27, is heading into his prime years.

But the real difference makers are three guys who have yet to put on an Oiler uniform. They are unproven to be sure, but few doubt that they will all be impact players.

I’m thinking specifically of Jordan Eberle, Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson and either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin, one of whom the Oilers will select in the upcoming June draft.

Those are, by all accounts, three exceptional talents, all forwards- all 20 or younger.  I’m not sure the Leafs have anything like that in their system.

I believe that both these last-place teams will make strides next season and, within two years, could be playoff teams.  But at the moment- without seeing what the free-agent future holds- Oiler fans may have a bit more to be excited about.

But nothing is sure - that’s part of the fun in being an ever-hopeful fan.

No comments:

Post a Comment