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The Maple Leafs: A pessimistic view (Part II)

Today, a less flattering analysis.

How do you look at what they are building?  Which of the two perspectives do you “buy”?

Send your comments along.

Management and coaching

Burke is a sharp guy, but his reputation was highly overblown when the Leafs hired him (and obviously had their eye on him long before he arrived).  He won a Cup, yes, in Anaheim.  But just as he and Nonis receive credit for what Vancouver has now built, the Anaheim Cup-winner was largely built by Bryan Murray.  Burke added some important pieces, for sure.

But in Vancouver, he never dealt with the goaltending issue, which is supposed to be the key element of his building from the back-end formula.

He enjoys his celebrity and rarely misses an opportunity to be quoted.  He tries to use the local media to get messages out to other GM’s (how often do we hear him forecast where the trade market is going, and when teams will start making better offers for Leaf players…).  While a good hockey guy, for sure, in a team-oriented sport there seems to be a lot of focus on him as in his way, his method, "my" teams, as he often says, etc.  (Click here to read my earlier story, Brian Burke and the "I" in team...)

Wilson is a good coach, but two things stand out about his tenure in Toronto:  unlike many coaches, he did not come in and immediately make the team better.  And, when Burke turned the roster over to give him a more competitive bunch, he still hasn’t been a difference-maker behind the bench.

He remains acerbic with the media in too many of his daily encounters, and may not be the right fit for this market and its demands.


The Leafs have one “proven” goalie (Giguere) and he is obviously a health risk and past his prime.  In addition, he is not signed beyond this spring, and may not draw much of value in a trade, given his recent injury history.  A third-round draft choice?  That won’t be a first or second-line player in the next two years.

Otherwise, there is not a proven goalie in the fold.  Many “prospects”, but that’s it.  The Monster looks unsteady despite many attempts to give him valuable time in the Leaf net.

Reimer has been really good, but many young goalies have shown well early, but didn’t stick.

Many fans would prefer one Luongo to five guys who provide “depth” but not all-star quality netminding.


The Leaf defense is part of why the goal differential is as bad as it is again this season.  Gunnarsson has had a rough second season, taking a step back most of the year.  Schenn is improving but Phaneuf, despite recent glimpses of the physical play, has not been a dominant, “all-star” type of performer.

We also don’t know if, even though he wears the “C”, Phaneuf will ever be a tur leader, someone that others will follow.

The veterans—Kaberle, Komisarek and now Lebda, with Beauchemin gone— make rookie mistakes too often, and haven’t often enough been at their best this season.


The Grabovski line has been a revelation, but it begs a question:  with Grabbo and MacArthur having career years, what happens if they slide back into what had been “normal” for them?  Will they get better, or worse?

Kessel is a work in progress, a supremely talented forward who is still a one-way player.  He is a gunner who often misfires.  Will he ever become a complete player?  He isn’t one yet.

The rest of the Leaf line up, while we can always find positive attributes for every player, scares no one.  Too often offensively unproductive, and not gritty enough to shut down other team’s big players on a consistent basis, or when it matters most, in a tough playoff series.


The Leafs still have too many holes, and promise doesn’t always equal results.  For all the talk of significant strides being made, they remain, in the current NHL standings, three points behind the Florida Panthers.  That's the Florida Panthers.  And Florida has one game in hand.  The Buffalo Sabres havre had a very medicore season and they are ahead of the Leafs, too.  And their goal differential is a whopping 29 goals better. 

Look at Montreal's roster.  Throw in all the serious injuries they have dealt with, to top players.  The Leafs have been relatively healthy.  But there was no comparison between the two teams on Saturday night (or in the standings).  It's just one game, but...

Until and unless they develop a true number-one goalie who can carry the team like a Miller, Price, Thomas, Luongo, Lundqvist or Fleury, it will be tough to win a lot of close games consistently.

The defense corps is better on paper than it is on the ice, it seems, and the forward corps need more snipers and more grit.

When you take into consideration that other teams are working to get better, too, this less-than-hopeful perspective can feel discouraging.

Your thoughts?


  1. My thoughts are simple. I watched Detroit and Boston play today. Toronto has only a couple of guys who could play for either of those teams right now. They simply don't have enough talent. Detroit manages to draft well despite being at the bottom of the list every well. Boston has rebuilt themselves into a solid outfit. It starts with the draft and goes from there. Until the Leafs draft better, there is little to discuss.

  2. Long suffering Leaf fanFebruary 14, 2011 at 6:00 PM

    Mr. Burke likes to state to whoever will listen that he has the youngest team in the NHL. OK lets compare his young studs that are under 23 years of age to two other retooling or rebuilds. First comparison, Punch Imalch in 1958-59 team; the forwards are Dick Duff 22, Frank Mahovlich 20, Bob Pulford 22, Billy Harris 23, Bob Nevin 20: the defense is Bob Baun 21, Carl Brewer 19, and a young veteran name Tim Horton at the age of 25.

    Mr. Gregory's 70-71 under 23': Forwards Jim Harrison 23, Gary Monahan 23, Darryl Sitter 20, Dennis Dupere 22, Brian Spencer 21, and Errol Thompson 20. The defense was young: Jim Dorey 22, Jim McKenny 23, Rick Ley 21, Brad Selwood 21, Brian Glennie 23, Mike Pelyk 22, and a young future hall of fame goaltender name Bennie Parent at the age of 25.

    As I look see this present roster and compare it to the previous rebuilds or retooling I would have to side on the pessimistic view. Can we as Leaf fans seriously believe that Phil Kessel will blossom into a Frank Malovlich, Darryl Sittler or a Dick Duff? Do we see Dion Phanuef leading this present defense core like Tim Horton did? Mike, if you and others believe so, then you have more faith than I do.

  3. Long suffering Leaf fanFebruary 14, 2011 at 7:10 PM

    I honestly believe that some of the young players on this current roster would not measure up to any of Mr. Gregory second rebuild of young players. Having Darryl Sitter as a cornerstone, Mr. Gregory added some nice pieces like a 20 year old Lanny McDonald, 23 Borje Salming, and 20 Ian Turnbull in 73. It has been 41 years since the Leafs have drafted a franchise player like Sittler!

  4. Hi Long Suffering...Like you, I loved what Gregory was building in the early 1970s. As I recall, Sittler was an 8th overall pick. and after the WHA took some good young guys, Gregory re-built again with all those young rookies in 1973 (Lanny, Neely, Turnbull, Borje and Hammarstrom).

    Today's Leafs? Not the same prospects, in my view. Not yet, at least.

  5. I was in the dumps about the Leafs, too.

    But then came a kid named James Reimer!