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Marleau for the Leafs?

For those who missed yesterday's post on whether Burke has the "right idea" in passing on so many free agents, here is a link to the story....


Some of you will recall that, back in May, I mentioned Patrick Marleau as a guy (not that this is a shock, after years of trade speculation) who could be dealt this summer—and someone that could well be of interest to a team like the Leafs.

Now, I wasn’t saying it would happen, and certainly wasn’t arguing in favour of such a move, just stating the obvious: that the Leafs need high-end forwards (heck, high-end players, period) and the Sharks may well want to move Marleau by now.  (They apparently have not been able to find any takers over the years…)

An aside: can you imagine if we had a roster with as much talent, year after year, as the Sharks—in this market? And we rarely won playoff rounds?  I would guess that as competent as I believe he is, Doug Wilson would not still be the General Manager.  It’s not that he hasn’t built pretty astutely on the work that Dean Lombardi did before him, or that the team has failed to be an outstanding regular-season squad.  It’s primarily because, come playoff time, the Sharks have not been able to win (albeit in a very tough Conference)—when it is hardest but when it also matters the most.

One of the individuals, fair or not, linked with that “failure” is the ultra-talented Marleau.  Over the past few days, Marleau’s name has been loosely linked with the Maple Leafs.  Again, on one level it makes sense.  The Sharks want to go in another direction.  The Leaf need some elite skill, a playmaker who can make people around him better. (I suppose they could utilize van Riemsdyk at centre, as Carlyle suggested they might, but is that the long-term solution?)

Of course, we’re talking in a vacuum until we have an idea of who the Leafs would part with, if anyone, from the current roster or their “system” to make this kind of deal happen.  But on the surface, I’d be surprised if Marleau was the big fish they were after.  While an awfully talented player- and one who puts up points year after year - Marleau has the (fair or not) reputation as a guy who just doesn’t quite have the extra gear (or grit) required to be as successful in the playoffs as he is during the regular season.

And if I’m not mistake, he also has two years left on a contract that pays him about 7 million a year. 

I guess for me, it would be like bringing in Roberto Luongo to play goal here.  Luongo is a tremendous goalie, absolutely.  He would certainly help the Leafs during the regular season, but Luongo has also melted down in the playoffs too often in Vancouver.  (Let’s be frank:  would they be trading him so willingly if he hadn’t struggled every spring?) Vancouver is an outstanding team.  Why would I think, based on his track record, it would be any better here in Toronto when the pressure hit?

It’s the same with Marleau.  He’s a really good player.  He’ll be 33 next season, a very experienced guy.  He has been a captain and all that.  You would think he would bring much-needed “leadership” to our dressing room.  Yet I just can’t seem to bring myself to feel he would be the kind of player we need when it’s time to be a contender.  I'm hesitant to get too amped up about the idea of Marleau playing here.  Would he be better than what we currently have?  No doubt.  But... 

I guess I’m looking for too much, and it’s just not out there—or at least not available in a trade.  You know, maybe a Bryan Trotter-type center—smart, strong in all areas of the ice, tough as nails, a guy who can score himself but also set up his linemates.  Someone who plays with a big heart.

As I said, you can’t have it all, so maybe I’m wrong about Marleau.  Maybe he’d be a wonderful fit here.

Your thoughts?


  1. If Marleau is available for the right price for say Connolly Gunnerson and a 2nd or 3rd rounder, I would do the trade. Marleau may have a reputation for not performing come playoff time but a change in scenery could make him overcome that reputation. I remember Andrechuk had a similar reputation with Buffalo before he got traded to Toronto, and he managed to turn things around here. He is roughly the same age and we no longer have Wilson coaching us as rumours had Marleau not playing well for him. Speed to kill, a scoring touch, experience being a veteran, could be a good building block for this team moving forward. He may not be a number one center on many NHL teams but neither does the St. Louis Blues have any centers that stand out and they are successful in playing a team game. I would take the chance on Marleau as we know now how difficult it is to fill the number one center position.

  2. On the most basic level, I'd love to have Marleau. He'd most likely be a huge improvement over anyone we've seen at that number one center spot since, well, Sundin.

    But, I have doubts as well. I need to first see the team, as it is, look like they are legitimately, and regularly, playing to win, even if they eventually wouldn't win every night. Carlyle needs to show first that the direction has changed.

    How desperate would to move him the Sharks really are? It's not like Marleau is the sole reason of their past playoff woes. And Sharks would very likely want either proven players or solid futures in return, not spare parts, and we're stacked only in that last category. And would Marleau be interested in waiving his no-move to come here?

    So Marleau, while not getting younger, is still a quality player. And money aside, he's been a pretty low-maintenance guy for the Sharks' organization. While he has often been disappointing in the playoffs, he can certainly still help the Sharks get there in the increasingly competitive Western Conference, so unless Sharks are definitely entering a rebuild, I don't see us having the bargaining pieces to get him. If they are looking for futures, how much can we really afford to give? I don't want to give away a single first- or even second-round pick, as there is no reason to expect them to be late ones at this point. Gardiner should be off the table as well.

    So what would we be looking at? Colborne and/or Kadri to begin with, and that would most likely to be just the start. We could try to throw in Connolly or Lombardi, I suppose, but I can't see the Sharks actually wanting either of them, so that'd probably not do much.

    In conclusion, while the Sharks no longer view Marleau as a franchise player, they know that if Burke comes knocking, he's looking for a first-line center. And they will be looking for a return fitting for giving up such a player. If the Sharks were desperate to get rid of Marleau, Burke might have the room to work his trade magic and turn trash into cash, but I just can't see this being the situation at the moment.

  3. You make a very good point about Andreychuk, BluenWhite. He indeed had that reputation as a poor player in the springtime with the Sabres, but certainly had some big moments for the Leafs later in his career( and of course, even better, later won a Cup with Tampa Bay...

    Good stuff BluenWhite, thanks.

  4. I think that's a realistic assessment, CGLN. You make a good case, as did BluenWhite, that Marleau could well be a valuable contributor in the right circumstances here. But you are correct, unless the Sharks were desperate to move Marleau right away, they would want something good in return. The Leafs would have to offer at least Kadri/Colborne, for sure, since they won't move Gardiner.

  5. Good points.

    But Marleau has a two year contract. That would be about the same amount of time it would take to get a prospect like Kadri or Colborne playing well for the Leafs at centre. That would also give the Leafs a couple of years of making the playoffs. Sure, they might get beat in the first or second round. But playoff experience is playoff experience. Few teams go from non-playoff teams to the Stanly Cup finals in a year.

    If we could send players like Frattin, Bozak, Kulemin or MacArthur along with prospects like Ashton or D'Amingo (not all but a package of three) than the deal could be very worthwhile.

  6. I'd be much more keen on guys like Luongo and Marleau if we actually were a fairly strong team (we're not) with a relatively young core (that one we do have, to a degree), looking for some quality veteran presence to make the push right now.

    As things currently are, Luongo and/or Marleau might be effective short-term fixes, but it would be taking a step forward at the cost of likely having to take two steps back sooner rather than later. Right now we have been left too far outside, looking in, to go trading for quick fixes that might or might not be enough to make the playoffs, but definitely would not be enough to make us Cup contenders on the spot.

    Seems to me like our best bet right now is to keep investing on our futures, and see how (and when!) the new CBA shapes up.

  7. I like your point about playoff experience, Anon. I do agree, at least getting there and ensuring our young guys get a sense of what it's all about would be tremendous for their development.

  8. I dont understand the arguement "Burke needs to do something to get us in the playoffs" followed by the "dont get luongo or marleau or (add elite name) because they'll fold come playoff time". Comment Posters, what do we want really?

  9. I guess the question CGLN is, indeed, how close are the Leafs? Would guys like Marleau and Luongo push us forward and set a tone for a "winning culture" in the future (and, as Anon said, give our kids valuable playoff experience), or, as you say, possibly just delay our youth movement?

    I don't have the answer. That's no doubt what Burke and company are trying to determine as we speak...

  10. My first instinct reading this post was to take a pass on Marleau. A 33 year old on the downside of his career for $7 million a year?
    After more careful consideration, however, it might not be a bad idea for the right price. First thing, Burke would have to convince San Jose that he is taking Marleau's salary off their hands and therefore not give them much in return (unless they want, say Komisarek or Connelly).
    Second, this would have to happen because Burke realizes they are not in the bidding for any other big names via trade, and therefore no longer have any need to keep that $14 million in cap space open. With all the revenue the Leafs bring in, the only reason I see to not spend to the cap maximum is because the cap space is being saved for a trade or a big free agent next year.
    Maybe this is short sighted of me, but I have a hard time thinking about what Marleau, Luongo, or anyone else might do for the Leafs deep in the playoffs at this point. Just making the playoffs is a more realistic goal for the next year or two. So in the end, if they can take on this salary for the next two years and Marleau can add enough scoring (I would like to think he's still good for 60-70 points a year) and leadership for this squad, I say take a run at him!

  11. This only makes sense if Sharks get Nash and want to dump some salary. And perhaps even in a 3 way deal.

  12. Anon (who is asking what Leaf fans here really want...) You raise a good question. And I sense that's the conundrum for a lot of people.

    from my perspective, I'd like Burke to have taken a different path from the get-go - at least not talk about his lack of patience for the very plan that he is now implementing (and which will have taken longer than five years).

    But accepting the current reality, yes, there are different question to considers: of course Leaf fans want to see the team make the playoffs, and veterans could help expedite that process.

    But at this point, who are the "right" players to get this team to the real objective, which is Cup contention? For me, we need high-end players first of all who are still in or about to enter their prime. Then we fill with leaders, experience, additional grit, etc.

    So would Marleau and/or Luongo be nice? Maybe at no cost other than their huge contracts, the Leafs and many other teams might like them. But I'd prefer to get guys still in their prime, and that's easier said than done. Usually, you have to develop those yourself.

    Maybe the Leafs are doing that now, though I can't say with certainty they have those kinds of players in the organization. Maybe the new defenseman they just drafted, but we said that about Schenn four years ago....

  13. It's an interesting discussion, eh, Pete? We're talking about quality players, but trying to determine what is (does it fit) the cap cost, what does Doug Wilson want back, is just making the playoffs good enough in the short term, etc.???

    That's why I posed the question today. I'm not just trying to make stuff up. I have no idea if the Leafs and Sharks are in any kind of serious discussions, but there is some logic to this idea, at least for me.

    Bobby Ryan is another guy that will be moved- I'm not saying he is "the answer" for the Leafs, but we do know he is at least in his prime years...

  14. Hey Jeff...and I still sense the only way the Leafs may get Luongo (if he is "willing" to come here) is in a three-way as well....

  15. Anonymous, based on the the last few years, I'm not so much interested in making the playoffs right now as I would be in an honest rebuild. We have a fairly young and talented core, start building around that right now. Granted, I don't see Carlyle as a rebuild coach, but he is the coach right now. A good coach can do well while working with limited resources, as the past has proven.

    Go into rebuild mode now, hope Carlyle can instill a more competitive outlook, and hopefully bring up the perceived value of some of our current roster, so that Burke gains some room to maneuver in the trade market. Then bring in more talent that can help us, if not right away, maybe three years from now.

    The ship of quick-fixing the Leafs into contenders has long since sailed, so no use expecting miracles in that department. Hopefully that answers your question on my part, Anon, but I do have a counter-question; I know there are people who still believe in Burke and his blueprint, would like to see him get extended to give him more time, so my question is simply: "Why?"

  16. Good point bringing up Bobby Ryan, Michael. While I don't see him as a fully realistic target for the Leafs, he is the kind of player, both by age and level of talent, that we seriously should look into. I'm almost sure Burke was looking into Ryan before getting JVR, but the cost would have been too prohibitive.

    But Ryan is already an impact player, and I think he has the potential to be even more, maybe quite a bit more. So going after him might not be a bad idea, given that he has a lot of mileage left, and in all likelihood, we haven't even seen him at his peak as of yet. He could help us right now, and in the foreseeable future.

    He won't be cheap in terms of return value, not for any franchise who wants him, but he is unhappy at having been shopped around before, and wants to change scenery. He is also a big guy with lots of talent and confidence in his ability, and he will be an impact player for years to come.

    But, returning back to Planet Earth, I don't think we can afford him right now.

  17. CGLN...agreed. Bobby Ryan is a heck of a player, and he will likely be moved sooner than later. But I'm not sure we have the pieces that would be enough to satisfy Anaheim, because we won't give them Gardiner back...

  18. Michael, I'd even consider Gardiner if there was a realistic chance to get Ryan. I certainly wouldn't be keen on it, but I just might do it. We don't have much in terms of defencemen who have a keen eye for the opening pass beyond Gardiner and Gunnarsson, with Gardiner having the bigger upside, but still.

    I just don't think Burke is considering it anymore. We have quality wingers, one of whom will seemingly have to adapt to playing center, a much more demanding position in terms of hockey IQ than winger is. Schenn was always going to be a part of the deal, I get it. And making the switch of JVR-for-Schenn was always going to be much lower in expectations than Schenn+ for Ryan would have been.

    It just seems odd to me how much easier it is for Burke to go after second-tier talent, time after time, than entering a contest for the few truly marquee players that are out there. To me, his thinking seems a bit two-dimensional. He thinks in terms of going high-risk, high-reward, but remains completely unwilling to admit that when you are truly willing to play the game, you just might land a player that is almost certain to improve your roster right now and in the near future, you'll also get a window of actually rebuild once that player goes into decline before his retirement in long-term.

    If there are Leafs fans out there who can truly applaud Burke for steering our ship clear of cap-circumventing deals in the past while others were going deep in the playoffs, raise your hands. Because of Burke's solid backbone, the Toronto Maple Leafs, the biggest cap team there can be, couldn't even push Kovalchuk or Richards' eventual cap hit higher than it turned out to be, and there is your bottom line.

    Now we are left at the doorstep of a forced rebuild, a long time after it should have been started voluntarily. We are here, because while Burke has presented us with some positive trades, his utter ineptness in the UFA market, and his ridiculous overpayment in the Kessel trade has firmly placed us here. I love having Kessel, I love his moments of magic, but in acquiring him, Burke was more concerned with doing right by Chiarelli, than he was concerned doing what would be doing right by the Leafs, his employing franchise.

    The cut-throat business of today's professional sports, you just don't want a good, honest hockey guy as your GM. You want someone who goes out there looking for success and not afraid of getting his hands dirty in the process. Contracts and bargaining agreements are designed by lawyers, and general managers are there to exploit the loopholes left behind.

    So is Risebrough somehow less of a man for getting both Suter and Parise than Burke is for not getting involved? I don't think so.

  19. My sense, GGLN, is that Burke will never trade Gardiner, no matter what, because he is the one"piece" that Burke has obtained that Burke is universally praised for, without exception. (Phaneuf has many detractors, somewhat understandably so...). So I think Gardiner stays.

    But what is there on our roster to bring in a Nash (who some Leaf fans think is over-rated...but who over-rates our own players more than many of us Leaf fans?), Bobby Ryan, Getzlaf, etc.?

    On your broader observations above, there is food for thought there.

    To answer your last question, the GM now in Minnesota-- Risebrough is gone, right, it's Chuck Fletcher now??) no, I don't think Fletcher is any less standing up for his own principles than Burke, for example, is- based on what Fletcher feels is in the best interests of his own franchise.

    Every GM has to do what they believe is the right thing to do.

    What Burke could have done is, years ago, state his opposition to long-term "cap-circumventing" deals and say: "I oppose this vehemently. I will play according to rules I find distasteful but will fight to have this changed in the next CBA..." so everyone knew where he stood. And, if and when he dipped his toe into the insane world over-spending madly on UFA's, he could simply reiterate his earlier stance...and people would have understood.

    I'd be interested in hearing if others (though it's a hot, hazy summertime period here in Toronto- not sure if this will get a lot of visitor traction!) agree or not with your thoughts above.

    Thanks CGLN....

  20. Yeah, it's Chuck Fletcher who is nowadays in charge in Minnesota, of course. Don't know why I was still thinking Risebrough, but I blame Crown Royal for that. I got it in case of the then-seemingly-inevitable-Prust-signing, which I'm now subconsciously celebrating for not happening. Or maybe I'm just not a very responsible guy.

    And I'm sure Gardiner is not realistically on the table in any trade negotiation Burke is involved with. Which is not a bad thing, because I like Gardiner.

    It's just that there are GM's in the NHL who say something, and and don't feel the burden quite of it as heavily as Burke does when he says something. And Burke is someone who likes to say things. And even though he has been hampered by what he has said before, he refuses to go back on his word, and he still keeps on speaking.

    Burke's nothing but a windbag to me at this point, and I just want to see him either change his approach, or just plain gone.

  21. Ego seems to play a role in his decisions, CGLN.

  22. We both know it does, Michael. And while being a man of conviction and character might be a good thing as such, it has no place or future in a world where those traits prevent you from doing your job.

    And the most frustrating thing about Burke is his preaching to the choir. Nobody actually likes the cap-circumventing contracts that both NHL and the current CBA allow. Nobody. Not a single person. Not even crickets. They are done, because it is allowed. You don't have to like them, but if you are with a cap team, you get involved, because otherwise you won't get your man.

    But Burke's high horse has gotten so high, that climbing down would almost certainly result in an ego-crippling injury, an injury so severe, that apparently even the Toronto Maple Leafs are not quite as big as the bruised ego of Brian Burke.

    So screw the previous assessment of me either wanting Burke to change his approach or gone, I actually just want him gone.

  23. Conversations like this, CGLN, where we actually take time and think through various points over the course of several hours can lead to what you just described: adopting a position that you maybe didn't have yesterday. Nothing wrong with that. I've enjoyed this dialogue.

    My position on Burke remains: smart hockey guy, but one of many currently in (and outside) the NHL. He's not smarter or more principled than everyone else. Louder, yes. Filled with hubris and ego, for sure.

    Like most GM's, he has done good things, also made some awful decisions (or at least decisions that have turned out awful, in fairness). He finished Bryan Murray's work and was "successful" in Anaheim.

    In his two major re-build projects (Vancouver and Toronto) he has won one playoff round in 11 seasons, I think it is. I wonder why that is almost never brought up?

    I'd simply appreciate a lot less talk, less mis-directed anger toward the media, and the flexibility to make moves as needed, not beholden to an inflexible "ideology" ("I build from the back end out....", etc..) that he doesn't really stick to anyway.

    Just build the team, don't pick unnecessary fights, do the job you're paid millions a year to do.

  24. Well I have to agree with you there for most part, Michael. While he might not get enough credit for Vancouver, he gets the public credit for the Ducks Cup, but the Ducks were not a house Brian built. It was a house that Burke may have painted with the blood of Pronger's victims, but it got the job finished, right?

    But to me, a smart hockey guy should spend more time making phonecalls and less time preaching about cap-circumventing long-term contracts than Burke does, because it's like Gretzky said, you'll miss 100% of the shots you won't take.

    Burke said the GMs make the worst, most panicked decions at the deadline, so he didn't go for it. Then he said exactly the same thing about free agency, and won't get involved there, either. Is this what we, the fans, deserve? A GM who won't get involved on the two busiest days on any GM's calendar?

    For me, Burke may have been a smart hockey guy at one point, but now he's just a man bloted with his own hot air. He needs to take a good, long look into the mirror, and that's just not happening until he goes unemployed for a while.

    But, as always, it's just my two cents, and my two cents, as a fan, are very subjective at best.

  25. I'll admit to being a little confused about one thing: why is everyone referring to Marleau as if he's a centre? I'm fairly confident he's been playing left wing for years.

    Assume I'm wrong for a moment, if you look at why we want a #1 centre, he still hardly seems to fit the bill:
    1) our two top line wingers don't want to play in their own end and a great centre will free them up to remain reasonably irresponsible on defense because he'll make up for it.
    2) our best forward needs some attention taken away from him
    3) our best forward looks like he could score even more points with a slick passer at centre.
    4) our best forward will benefit long-term by playing on a line with someone who can mentor him at play-off time

    Now, if that's a total straw man, by all means hammer me for it, but if that's even vaguely fair Marleau is a total fail.

    He isn't (1) because he isn't defensively responsible himself. He isn't (2) because if he's on a line with Kessel, Kessel is still going to be the D's primary target. God knows he isn't capable of (4) because, as has been pointed out already, his extensive playoff experience seems riddled with years of disappearing when he's needed most and that's exactly what Kessel needs to learn NOT to do given his style of play seems to lend itself to that tendency already. At best, he might manage a bit of (3) out of sheer raw skill.

    If it's not already obvious, I'm not a fan of adding talent just because it might be available. That's called buying a championship and it's what I expect from New York franchises (I mean Rangers and Yankees, not the Islanders necessarily) not my Leafs. By all means let's go hard at the best payers we can find to complete our roster, but let's make that about filling holes and developing a team that we can feel like we, as fans, own on an emotional level.

  26. CGLN...there's no question the Leafs have a tendency to say things like (and they have done it often...) "the market will pick up closer to the draft"...then, "the market will pick up after the big-name free-agents have been signed" and such. It's always a moving target in their world. The truth is, there is no perfect time to trade- unless you find a desperate trading partner!

  27. On the Marleau point, KiwiLeaf, I believe (I stand to be corrected) he has played both centre and wing with the Sharks over the years. From my perspective, I'm thinking of him as an elite forward, a first-line guy with size, though he is not a physical presence as such.

    As I said in my post, I was not/am not advocating the Leafs do this. I was putting the notion out there, because I do believe the Leafs are kicking tires on Luongo, Nash, Gretzlaf, Bobby Ryan, Marleau and anyone else that might be "available".

    I think it's a fair point that you don't just get someone because they are available. The question, I guess, is: will that player make a difference in the short-term, and also when the Leafs are ready to compete for a championship? And, if the Leafs were to make a trade for a given player, at what cost?

    Thanks as always, KiwiLeaf.

  28. Hey Mike.

    I completely get that you weren't personally advocating the trade. I just hope that, if this isn't just rumour, Burke is focusing his attention on specifics, not on general upgrades like Marleau would be. For all that our season-end results have been appallingly bad, there has been a lot of small things to like about the last couple of years and I'd like to see us build on those.

    Don't get me wrong: I'm all for him throwing bucketfuls of money at or judiciously trading top prospects for the right players, but for me "right players" will complement our existing strengths. Hence, I'd chase Getzlaf over Ryan, Suter over Parise (hypotheically now, of course).

  29. I think we're on a similar page, KiwiLeaf.....

  30. I don't think Getzlaf is available. Marleau was converted to a winger at San Jose after they got Thornton, but he was not a winger at junior level or in the NHL until that, as far as my memory serves me. Could be one of the reasons why he hasn't been a big playoff performer; when the going gets tough, the good wingers have to really start grinding. Marleau never even got trained for that.

    Marleau is not a small guy, but grinding in the corners is a game of its own, one that intensifies in the playoffs, maybe that's what got to him.

    Back on Getzlaf, he won't be available. Simply because he had an "off" kind of season, doesn't make him available. Ryan is available, because Selänne might always come back (right now it looks like he probably will), and they have Corey Perry, and Ryan has been the odd man out in that equation. That's why he has been shopped around in an attempt to get something the Ducks need, but it's Ryan, so the cost has been too much to swallow for anyone who has come in to kick tires.

    But Getzlaf is not a winger, he's a big, physical centerman who has won the Cup, and is still well under 30 years old. One disappointing season is not going to bring his value down as much as some people would like to think. He was never available for Schenn, he won't be available for Kadri, Gunnarson and Colborne combined, and while he might be available for those three adding Gardiner to the mix, how many takers among the Leafs fans are there left at that point?

    That's why Marleau is a much more reasonable idea for our central first-liner than Getzlaf could ever be. But he would be our answer for how long? Three to four years, tops, being optimistic, and the Leafs are simply not there at this point.

  31. What's the problem with bringing on players who don't do well in the playoffs? What does that matter if we don't get anywhere close to playoffs?