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Fantasy post: the Leafs need just one guy to be a legitimate Cup contender: who is your guy—Datsyuk or Crosby?

I wanted to take a day off from the "real" world of what the Maple Leafs are working toward this season (i.e. being on the cusp, as we speak, of a playoff berth for the first time in almost a decade) to ask you to ponder something that is more, I acknowledge, fantasy than reality.

The hypothetical scenario is straightforward:  projecting a bit, the Leafs are, say, a really, really strong team (maybe a year from now; maybe two).  They need one more absolutely elite, world-class player, a forward, to make them legitimate contenders not only for a playoff berth, or the Eastern Conference crown, but for the Stanley Cup.

We’re not talking about what, in the real world, they would “have to give  up” (Detroit and Pittsburgh would never make such a trade) to acquire these players.  That’s not the issue.  I guess we could, in this scenario, assume both of these guys were UFA’s and the Leafs could spend whatever they wanted to get one of these players—and the players wanted to come here.

Here is the question:  if you had a choice between Sidney Crosby and Pavel Datsuyk, who would you choose as the guy to get the Leafs to the top?

By all means take their age (Datsyuk is getting up there in years already), where they are in their careers, health (we know Crosby's history) and anything else you can think of as a Leaf/hockey fan into consideration.  We know they both have championship pedigree, having each won Cups.  Both are smallish but strong- in each their own way, they are bulldogs.

Some may see Datsyuk as more savvy and artistic and Crosby as a combination of skill and a guy who fights hard for the puck, but both have remarkable vision, always make their teammates better and seem to be leaders in their own way.  That they are both skilled well beyond the norm is obvious any time we get to watch either of them play.

So there’s your challenge for the day:  as you're getting ready for the Leafs to face the still surprising Senators Saturday night, you're (hypothetically) looking into the future and the Leafs are "this close", just one player away from the Cup.  You can have either the Penguin captain, or the smooth Wing veteran.

Make your choice, and tell me why...

And while you're thinking along tbose lines, is there a player out there right now who might be available before the trade deadline that, in the "real world", you'd like Nonis to make a pitch for, to help the blue and white with their stretch drive this season?


  1. I very much appreciate Datsyuk and realize that both he and Crosby could be closer to retirement/departure than anyone would like to think - the former to the KHL following his contract and the latter, who could still be 'one hit away'...

    I would be rather inconsistent if I said anyone other than Crosby, given that I had proposed 'the concussion case for (acquiring) Crosby' when his return was still in doubt.

    On the heels of the breakout year for Mac-Grabbo-Kulemin, I figured that combination was our best asset to acquire Sid the Kid... So if I was seriously considering that risk-reward ratio, I would have to say Crosby in that fantasy future, too.

    In the real world, the anticipated cost of resigning Bozak seems 'astronomical' for a guy that should be on the 3rd (or maybe 2nd) line - and I do like his development - BUT, I can see his agent arguing for low 1st line pay. So it would seem there are two significant paths to follow... the first is to retain the player, the chemistry and the friendships (especially NOT unsettling Kessel prior to the playoffs) and the second is to acquire an asset (like a coveted 1st rounder or to upgrade a hole somewhere in the lineup).

    It is quite possible that either course of action could lead to signing Bozak in the offseason. When the reality of the lower (64M) cap hits, I believe the market will 'diminish' for players of his skillset and he may realize that a chance to play with Kessel and the boys, might be worth doing for less than his agent might be anticipating.

    I think Phil is capable of 'handling' the trade of his buddy, and it struck me today that if the management decides to upgrade the future prospect pool (while possibly resigning Bozak anyway), that Bozak's (temporary?) departure could open the way for a sleeper to plug in between Kessel and Lupul, that being the guy they hired for the job in the first place... the much maligned Tim Connolly.

    If we don't have any takers for Tim in the next few days, why not use him for the role that others would have tried... a seasoned player with playoff experience, who has better hands than Bozak and maybe some other unexpected benefits. Food for thought, perhaps!

    If he doesn't fit in, then go with the plan B that didn't include him (because of a trade)... it'll be interesting to see what happens and I do hope Bozak would sign more in line with his abilities than his opportunity to play where he's been placed. With a reasonable salary, I'd like to keep him (or get him back, once his agent comes to his senses)!

    Two futures - one this year, the other (probably) never... sorry if I derailed your train of thought!

  2. Good stuff, InTimeFor62. You may not have precisely answered who you would choose between Syd and Pavel, or who you want the Leafs to go after before this deadline, but it was a good post! Bozak does pose a challenge for Nonis. I would be very hesitant to pay him more than 3 million a season, if that- regardless of what he thinks he's "worth" on the UFA market.

    1. I would definitely go for Crosby in that alternate universe where it was possible at this point AND in this universe, I'd go for Kipper if he's not too expensive (give him a couple weeks to report, provide whatever his wife and baby need in support while in Calgary or setting him up in Toronto with her if they so decide. I would keep 3 goalies and not risk losing either of our guys... I'm thinking that IF the Leafs could talk him into the playoff run, he might be the perfect guy to replace Tim Thomas on the Islanders' non-playing roster, while we take DiPietro (for buyout) and some valuable plum for being so helpful.)

      Hmmm which universe am I in again?!

      My number for Bozak was 2.75M (with the market possibly pushing up to 3.25M), so looks like we are in the same ballpark on his value. I'd hate to see him make more and disappoint any fanbase (but especially ours) at the higher numbers the media have been proffering as possibilities.

  3. It has to be Crosby. He has 10 years on Datsyuk and puts up better numbers. I like Datsyuk and realize he brings a lot to the table the only problem is he is 34 already and probably wants to play in Russia for a few years. Not only that I think Crosby is the better player period.

    As for the real world what I would like to see is a trade for two players. One is Kipprusoff. I would like him over any other goalie that is out there. Between him and Luongo it isn't even close. The return the other way is Scrivens and something else maybe a second round pick.

    The other player I would like to see is Fedor Tyutin from Columbus. He puts up about 20-30 points a year. He is young (29) and just entering his prime. He averages about 24 minutes a night and he has size. He is signed for a reasonable cap hit of 4.5 mil per year for another 6 years. I don't know what it would take to get him but I would start with Bozak.

    Failing that move I would look at Bowmiester. To me the Leafs need another 24-25 minute a night guy. I don't like his contract but I would look at it.

    Under no circumstances should the Leafs look at Luongo.

    Ps I love hockey homework.

  4. Each of the names you mention as guys you'd like to see the Leafs check into are very interesting, Willbur. (I'm sure I wrote a piece here months ago about Kipper being a possible fit for the Leafs; maybe I'm making stuff up in my mind...)

    You have seen him more than some of us in the East- is he still an elite, consistent goaltender?

    Tyutin was a kid with all the promise in the world years ago- wasn't he a pretty high first round pick- or am I thinking of someone else? Maybe the fact that he plays in Columbus keeps him off the radar, though he and the Jackets have certainly hit their stride over the past month.

    Bouwmeeter is fascinating to me. All that talent, such a high draft choice...yet never in the playoffs in junior or as a pro. I have to believe he gets dealt to a playoff team (Detroit?). I wonder how most Leaf fans would feel. He would definitely take some of the "minutes" burden off Phaneuf.

    Great stuff, Willbur- thanks for taking the challenge!

    1. Tyutin went 40th overall in the second round. I remember him from the Rangers a few years back and he never seemed to develope the way they wanted him too. I think he would fit in nicely on a 2nd line pairing. He plays a lot in Columbus so I think he could handle the minutes.

      As for Kipper I don't know how good he still is. I mostly follow the eastern feed of sportsnet so I can keep up on the Leafs. The couple of games I have caught are so-so. Getting out of a dead end situation in Calgary may do wonders for him. Probably only has 1-3 years left in him which would be perfect for Riemer's development.

  5. Kipper is probably the last thing the Leafs need or should want. His save numbers are pretty abysmal (you could describe them as Toskala-esque) and trading for him would mean losing Scrivens unless the Leafs carried 3 goalies on the roster for the rest of the season. Getting the veteran leadership is a nice thought in a vacuum, but the cost to acquire Kipper, his pretty poor play this year, and the fact that you'd have to lose Scrivens makes the idea a no-go.

    1. Your right his numbers aren't good this year and he got shelled again last night by Columbus. However, there are some extenuating circumstances. Apparently, the birth of his last child was has some complications. I can attest from personal experience to the fact that any scare with a loved one is hard but espicially so with your children.
      Secondly, he is playing in a dead end situation that has got to be wearing on a guy. Waiting for the team to be dismantled around a guy can't be fun. Thirdly his contract is only for next year so it is a gamble worth taking.

      As for Scrivens I guess it comes down to the value you put on the guy. I tend to think that as a 26-27 year old his ceiling is where he is at now. A good decent back up at the NHL level. As such I would never hesitate to trade a back-up.

  6. That's why I was asking Willbur how he has looked this season. A few years ago, Kipper was one of the best in the business. Thanks mapleleafmjt.

  7. Assuming the Leafs had the same players and only needed one more guy to win it all, I would say Datsyuk is who I would pick.

    Crosby is better offensively, but I think Datsyuk's defensive game would be a better asset for us. He's not to shabby around the net either. Great defence is needed to win cups, and he is just the type o player any team needs.

    If the Leafs didn't have the scorers (Kessel, Kadri, Lupul etc.) I would have picked Crosby, but I think our offense is fine.

    I don't think Pavel's age is a setback. 3 or 4 good years left in him could mean 1 or 2 more cups.

    So, in 2 years time, let's have this discussion for real.

  8. I love both players - and like your optimism, portuguese leaf!

  9. Sid the kid would be my choice Michael as I believe he would be the one to give us multiple cup runs. I read that the leafs are exploring luongo again, say it ain't so! He is the last thing this group needs.Let the two goalies grow,why are we so impatient? What has any stop gap measure gotten the Leafs? I am content to go with the two goalies we have,Reimer being the go to guy. We can see the growth in this group not just this year but over the last 3 years. And why do some think so little of Bozak? He is not a 5 mil player but how do we know what it will take to sign him? I bet 29 other teams would love to have him,he seems to be able to handle the pressure and scrutiny. A top 4 defense is all I would add as long as it cost no one on the big league roster.

  10. Sid's not bad, eh, purch?

    As for the Leafs and the deadline, I'm with you on Luongo (though I've said that so often here in the past, I'm mostly just repeating myself at this point...). Bozak is a guy who has supporters and detractors. But if he does want 5 million, 'bye!

    I think every team is always looking for a solid defenseman heading into the stretch drive and the playoffs, purch. We're likely not a,one on that one. As Willbur inferred above, Bouwmeester may be out there. Thanks for chiming in, purch.

  11. That's fair, Willbur. I do wonder if the Flames actually want to deal Kiprusoff? It would make sense, given they are starting over. Maybe he'll just retire if he's not of a mind to work elsewhere...