Home
 
Choose Your City
Change City

Draft may be Leafs’ only hope

The other night, on my Twitter feed (twitter.com/proteautype), I said: (a) the Maple Leafs got stuck in a wintry hell for five hours after their Boxing Day game in New Jersey (stranded on a freeway, thanks to the East Coast snowstorm); and (b) their fans have been stuck in a wintry hell since Toronto last played a playoff game more than six years ago.

The other night, on my Twitter feed (twitter.com/proteautype), I said: (a) the Maple Leafs got stuck in a wintry hell for five hours after their Boxing Day game in New Jersey (stranded on a freeway, thanks to the East Coast snowstorm); and (b) their fans have been stuck in a wintry hell since Toronto last played a playoff game more than six years ago.

In truth, the agony of Leafs fans dates back to the year that’s never mentioned anymore around the team’s headquarters: 1967. (Google “Leafs” and “67” for a full explanation.) That’s why there’s deep, ongoing angst over the Phil Kessel trade, why Nazem Kadri’s every muscle twinge is overanalyzed and why customers at the Air Canada Centre have resorted to throwing breakfast foods on the ice.

In short, people have lost it, big time, in Toronto. And I’m afraid the only way they will be cured of their anguish is by the Leafs rebuilding through the draft.

I know Brian Burke doesn’t agree with this, both by his actions since becoming Leafs GM a couple of years ago and by the many loud pronouncements he’s made in playing down the benefits of a draft-first philosophy.

As Burke has noted, the Penguins landed superstar Sidney Crosby because a ping-pong ball fell Pittsburgh’s way during the draft lottery — and depending on ping-pong balls isn’t the way to build a team. That said, there is no denying that the higher you select in any given draft year, the better chance you have of selecting a player to build a franchise around.

One thing is increasingly clear in the salary-capped NHL: Teams don’t willingly part with the services of franchise players; rather, they re-sign them.

(Sure, the Bruins allowed Kessel to walk away, and the Calgary Flames gave up on Dion Phaneuf, but neither has established himself as on par with Crosby or Nicklas Lidstrom.)

Burke may have some more tricks up his sleeves, but I don’t see how he lands that franchise player unless he concedes failure with his current plan and turns to the draft process he claims to distrust.

 
Consider AlsoFurther Articles