Custom Search

With time-a-ticking - and upon reflection - is that “other shoe” ever going to drop in Leafland?

While I have wondered aloud in this space over the past few weeks that the Leafs may well be investigating a significant roster move prior to training camp, as the days pass and the CBA talks (not unexpectedly) crawl along slowly, it more and more raises the possibility—maybe even the likelihood—that the blue and white will in fact march into the 2012-’13 NHL season with pretty much what we see now.  That is, a young roster with some speed and skill, a bit of legitimate toughness but still one that triggers more questions for the fan base than answers.

Even in these quiet times for Leaf followers I continue to believe (at least I'm still leaning that way...) that the Leafs will indeed shuffle the roster (perhaps via something that none of us have even contemplated...) by the time the regular-season gets underway in October.  But as the summer days pass, I admit that I am beginning to wonder if something will - or even really can - be done that makes sense for the Leafs.

Some Toronto fans believe we can make the playoffs as we stand right now.  From my perspective, if that is the case, it will be because a) the Leafs will be a stronger, more consistent team under Carlyle, b) our goaltending will be solid and c) there will be some slippage elsewhere in the Eastern Conference.  (I’m thinking specifically about New Jersey, Ottawa and Florida as teams who may struggle to match their surprising success of a season ago…)

While the Leaf brass has not had what we might call a blockbuster summer so far, they have acquired van Riemsdyk and signed their RFA’s like Frattin and Kulemin, as well as recent first-rounder Rielly Morgan.  As much as many Leaf supporters would still like to get their hands on say, Luongo and or Bobby Ryan, Getzlaf or players of that ilk, that’s not quite as easy as we’d like to think.  Usually something pretty good has to go the other way, and with the current labour talks in a state of uncertainty (not only if and when they will reach an agreement, but also what the new CBA will mean regarding the cap and how players can be moved, etc.), I wonder if we will see a lot of trade action until this all gets settled.

In the meantime, we are largely in a wait and see pattern when it comes to the Leafs, so here are a few recent posts that you may well have missed, given that a lot of us aren’t visiting hockey sites as regularly as we generally would when we are in the midst of the NHL regular season…
  • Wondering how anyone, including an ex-NHL tough guy, can defend Todd Bertuzzi?
  • Discussing the different levels of player development still required for the Leafs to be successful...
Training camp gets closer every day.  Some fans may not be in 'hockey mode' yet, but I sense a lot of Maple Leaf supporters can't wait for the puck to drop, even if it's just in training camp...


  1. Hey Michael

    It's a lazy Monday afternoon down here in the South so I am going to amuse myself with some more Luongo speculation over a beer and cigar. Feel free to post or not, comment or not as you will.

    I've been persuaded by the school of thought that is saying Gillis will look to hide the loss he'll make on Luongo by packaging him up with another player. He has a glut of NHL-level defensemen who he is paying an average of $3.3m so you'd have to think he'll use one of those if he can.

    With the recent news of Kesler's shoulder surgery and with Pahlsson and Hodgson having moved on, it wouldn't be a stretch to think he'll be looking for a 2nd line centre.

    I probably don't have to join the dots here, but if Burke is at all still interested in Luongo you'd have to think he'd jump at the NHL-ready D that Gillis would package up for some goodies in return. And if there's one thing we have lots of, it's not-first-line centres.

    I've posted here before stating my ambivalence regarding Luongo but I'm starting to wonder where else he'll go. If Florida takes him they're sending all the wrong messages to Markstrom, their amazing prospect. Chicago is the only other team I'm hearing repeatedly as a destination, but from Vancouver's perspective, do you give your fiercest play-off rival an elite goalie? From Chicago's perspective, do you court a goalie you've seen melt before your eyes in playoff series past? Add to this the (hopefully) significant pressure on Burke to make the playoffs or run for the hills and we have a match made in heaven, whether we as the fans want Luongo or not.

  2. Like you, I still think the Luongo deal is on the table, KiwiLeaf. It is certainly up for discussion as to whether that would be a good move for the Leafs or not, but I believe the brass is clearly looking to improve the roster, if they can, before the season starts.

    I've mentioned here before that Chicago seems like the best "hockey" landing place for Luongo, but you mention some reasons why that may not happen.

    Lou wants to go to Florida, evidently, but that would mean he is the number one guy there for the next few years, and yes, what happens to their goalie-in-waiting, as you cite?

    As usual, there are more questions than answers...but it's fun to bat around possibilities in the lazy, hazy days of summer....

    Thanks KiwiLeaf.

  3. It's the middle of summer, even TSN doesn't have any NHL news online, the Olympics dominate the airwaves... and I'm fretting about the perceived lack of action in Leafland. In fact, that's the problem with being a Leafs fan - we can't help ourselves!!! I'm desperate to see that improved goaltending - a rebounding Reimer (in health terms, not goalkeeping); a solid, tough defence; attacking forwards who pursue the puck relentlessly; and a few beautiful goals courtesy our bona fide snipers. I'd love to see Kulemin, Connolly, Fransen, Liles, etc all return to form, and some of our youngsters finally deliver on the promise we've seen flashes of.
    And it's eerily like the old days of Pat Quinn - "Stay Pat", as he was called - in that Leaf management seems to feel the same way. No monster trades, no rabbits-out-of-a-hat... just keep calm and carry on. The Leaf universe is unfolding as it should.
    Unlike Marcel Bonn going into a corner, it's causing me to approach this season with more than an iota of trepidation, to borrow Danny Gallivan's memorable phrase. But, fittingly during the Olympics, hope is burning eternal in the O'Malley breast!

  4. Thanks Gerund O'. It's a quiet time indeed, and not just for the Leafs!

    But any time I am reminded of great old hockey names like Marcel Bonin and that wonderful play-by-play legend, Danny Gallivan, it's all good...

  5. Michael,

    It seems as more and more time has passed under the Burke watch, he seems to be less able to live up to his own hype. I can't remember if it was at the entry draft or at the beginning of the free agent frenzy. Yes, all these monikers bother me as well. Burke was adamant about this not being the roster that will start for the Leafs on opening night. I am beginning to believe that it will be the team he breaks camp with essentially.

    He is a shrewd hockey guy. As you have rightly pointed out, so are many others. Feels like fewer and fewer opportunities are available where Burke can make a deal where both sides can claim a small win. I think the best trades happen when each guy feels he is getting what he needs out of the trade. Not in feeling that you took the other guy to the wood shed. What is fair value for Bobby Ryan, or Getzlaf, if they are available?

    Vancouver seems to want a kings ransom for Bobby Lou, I am pretty sure that the contract makes it very risky for the Leafs. I wouldn't make the trade if it was up to me. The contract and whatever assets would have to go back is a lot, IMO.

    Are there any unsigned, unrestricted free agents left? The only one that comes to mind is Shane Doan. He doesn't really fit in the Leafs plans, or does he? The funny thing is, I don't even know what the plan is after all this time. From the cries of, 'I can make this team competitive right away', excuse my not googling one of Burke's direct quotes on the matter. He has made a lot of these types of statements.

    My favourite is the separate trade deadline for the Maple Leafs because it is so hard to play here. No pressure in Montreal or Madison Square Garden, or Vancouver for that matter. How long will Toronto be in the centre of the hockey universe as they continue to miss the playoffs?

    Burke would be well served if he would stop making pronouncements on how the League should be run, how the game should be played and how difficult it is to play hockey in Toronto. This kind of thing must make it more difficult to attract high profile free agents to come here, wouldn't ya think? And secondly, he can talk about all these things when he is working in the NHL head offices again. This is what I see him doing when the Leafs fire him.

    In answer to your question about the playoffs. I really would like to quote Jim Mora and say, "Playoffs? Playoffs?" The finished 14th in the conference last year. But, I actually think they can make it if a couple of things go their way. Reimer needs to stand on his head for the entire season. A Vezina trophy kind of campaign. Secondary scoring must come alive, so that there is a debate about what the top line is every game. And third, they need to be really committed to playing team defence. Some good luck on the injury front would be nice as well. A healthy team for the majority of the season.

  6. So many good things in your post, Jim.

    Yes, Burke talks way too much. I've posted on that subject many times before. It's a shame because he doesn't need to- he just needs to do his job. (One of my favourite current-era Leaf management claims is hearing.."oh, the trade market will be better before the draft..." then it..."after the draft..." and then, "after the big free-agents have signed"...and of course "before the deadline...".

    It's all b.s., just excuses and smokescreens and on the one hand that's fine. Some GM's love to play the media to get their messages out. We all get that.

    We agree that Burke is a smart hockey guy but that puts him out there with about 20 other guys in the league, and just as many who are not formally connected with teams right now. He is not a high-end GM, just another good hockey guy- full stop. He has done a great job building up his own image and boasting about how he builds "his" teams as though there is something unique about his approach. (I wouldn't want to buy his blueprint- 11 years running teams in Vancouver and Toronto, his two big "re-build" projects, and his teams have won a total of one playoff round in all those years...)

    Yes, for all the "no excuses, no complaints" creed, we hear precious little but excuses for failure every season.

    I loved your Jim Mora reference. That still stands as one of the most memorable public outbursts of all time. And it does indeed apply here, to a certain extent. The playoffs are nice to talk about, but our standard should be much higher than that.

    It will take pretty much everything you mentioned, Jim, for the Leafs to make the playoffs next spring.

    Great post- thanks.

  7. Hello again, Michael, after a bit of vacationing.

    Here in Europe, in Holland, or The Netherlands, if you prefer, is a big, capital city football (soccer) club, Ajax. The fans there can go without a title for three, maybe five, years. If it doesn't happen, a shoe will drop, because the club is run by people who understand the sport, not by suits. The club is run by people who love the game instead of their own mirror image.

    In the Leafland, there are no shoes left to be dropped, because Burke has painted himself into the corner in terms of playing field. We have nothing to trade that we can actually afford to lose, AND we have lots in spare parts that nobody needs at this point. There's just no "win" in our current situation.

    Personally, I'll start spending less on the Leafs if/or Burke gets extended. If he does, I'll continue supporting, but the spending stops right there. This, of course, is additionally a response to your earlier entry, which I'm fully behind of.

  8. You've nicely covered off the last two posts at the same time, CGLN!

    I'm familiar (albeit at a distance) with Ajax and the heritage of that prestigious organization- as well as the fan expectations there. So I get exactly what you are saying in that regard when it comes to the Leafs.

    You make a very good point about the situation Burke finds himself in. The Leafs may well surprise us, but I agree that it certainly appears as though we can't really afford to, as you say, give up any of the assets that we have to get what we need. And the guys that we would like to trade, nobody really wants. You've hit the nail on the end.

    As fans, we're all paying for this team one way or another. Hopefully they'll start getting things right sooner than later.

    Thanks CGLN- hope you had a nice vacation. Good to connect again...