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Brad Richards: somewhere, but not Toronto

It’s natural for Maple Leaf fans to look for solutions to a sometimes skill-challenged roster, especially when the goals are often so hard to come by.

We’d all like to see some upgrades—throughout the line-up.  And the idea of acquiring a proven player who can be a difference-maker is kind of tantalizing.

One name that is often bandied about is that of Brad Richards, who may be available either before the trade deadline or as a pending free agent next summer.

While that sounds appealing, it just doesn’t work for me.  Why?  Well, it’s not just what the Leafs would have to give up in a trade, or the big cap price that Richards would no doubt command in free agency.

No, the bigger issue is, the Leafs would, yet again, be getting somebody past their ‘best before’ date.

I’ve posted here in the past about a number of players I would, as a Maple Leaf fan over many decades, loved for the team to have had—only much earlier in their career.

It’s a long list, and certain names come to mind as I write—Dickie Moore, Norm Ullman, Pierre Pilote, Gary Sabourin, Bill "Cowboy" Flett,  Dan Maloney, Brad Maxwell, Al Second, Kirk Muller, Owen Nolan, Ron Francis, Ed Belfour, Brian Leetch.

I’m sure I’m forgetting some names, but you get the idea.

Each of those guys were good or even great players—in their prime.  Some were Hall-of-Famers.  All contributed, to varying degrees, to the Leafs in the time they were with the blue and white.  Some even did well after they left Toronto (e.g. Murphy). 

And I'm not saying the Leafs made a mistake in acquiring all of them, though in some cases (an aging Pilote for a young, emerging star in Jim Pappin) it was.

But in each and every case, we ideally would have had those players in our line up a while before they actually got here.

Hey, there are times when a veteran “star” is exactly what a team needs to help put them over the top.  Absolutely.  Or a really good role-player who can come in and be that last piece of the puzzle.  But there are also times when a team acquires or signs a guy, and the fact is, what they want is what that player was—five years ago.

Brad Richards is a wonderful player.  He probably will be for a few more years.  I’m just not sure that getting him now would make a huge difference.

Five years ago, absolutely.  He was a guy making his name and fighting to become one of the better forwards in the league.

Now, he is a good, veteran player, looking for one last big pay day.  And the Leafs are not just one piece away from being a true contender.

The Leafs have tried this before.  Let’s not try it again.


  1. in Nolan, Francis, Muller, Belfour I think we can be forgiven, management was trying to put us over the top to a Cup...of course with what we now read of the infighting between Dryden, Quinn and Ferguson, we did not know how far away we actually were.

  2. Long suffering Leaf fanDecember 13, 2010 at 10:11 AM

    I have to agree with your assessment once again. Pappin went on to be a 40 goal scorer for the Hawks. Gary Unger who was part of the Ullman deal would have looked very good in a Leafs jersey. The Leafs could have drafted Al Secord if they didn't give up so much-two first, a
    second and goal scorer (Errol Thompson) to get an aging Maloney.

    However, what really bother me more is the bad trades that the Leafs have made in the past by given up young prospects for these aging players that seem to hamper them from becoming a strong contender every year. Rod Seiling, Arnie Brown, Gary Unger, J.P Praise (Zach's dad), Rick Kehoe (wouldn't he have looked good playing with Sittler and McDonald), Randy Carlyle, Vincent Damphousse, and Kenny Jonsson just to name a few.

  3. Michael-
    I don't know why we're not talking about taking Shane Doan off of the Yotes roster- $4.5 cap hit for this year and next, pretty solid 60+ point player. Only drawback is the RW status.

  4. Thanks Long suffering. Pilote was a wonderful player, but at the end of his career. Pappin was just beginning a fine career. Bad deal for Imlach. I actually posted in the past on the Bathgate for Nevin, Duff, Brown and Seiling deal. Bathgate helped them win the Cup in '64, but those guys could have helped the Leafs for years.

  5. Kidkawartha- Your Doan point is a really interesting one. We all understand he started the season slowly, but he certainly is the classic "character" guy who can still play. He might best be suited for a team that is contending for the Cup, but he would provide some inspiration for the young Toronto forwards, one would think. Thanks for your comment.