The Toronto Maple Leafs are a dead horse

Chris Pope
March 8, 2010

When the Toronto Maple Leafs are down and out, you can find the media and their “fans” standing above, kicking them.

Sure some people may think that the Leafs are the bane of the NHL, and they might just be. On Saturday the Toronto Sun published an article by Bill Lankhof where he says, “Brian Burke promised there would be changes when he took over as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And, there have been. It’s just that nobody expected it would be a change for the bad.”

Is it not time that the media and fans recognize this season for what it is: a success?

As hard as it is for the critics to admit, the Leafs may actually be on the right track. Burke, head coach Ron Wilson and crew acknowledge that this year has been a wash, point-wise. But it has allowed Burke to take off the shackles and handcuffs that were attached to him once he got the job and sent most of them west to Calgary.

It’s impossible to ignore that the Leafs top center is a rookie with no pro-hockey experience whose last name (Bozak) reminds me of a red-nosed clown from the 1950s and that they have two lines that shouldn’t even be in the league.

But Burke is not an idiot; he knows that he has over $15 million coming off the cap this summer. The same man that constructed a much scrutinized and very underrated US Olympic team that upset (yes Americans, it was an upset) Canada in the regulation round, is about to construct his own Leaf team this summer.

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Burke has said that he doesn’t believe in a five-year plan, but any plan right now is better than the past. The Leafs haven’t had a forward-defenseman-goaltender combo since Sundin-McCabe-Belfour (circa 03-04 – the last time they made the playoffs) that is even close to what they have now with Kessel-Phaneuf-Giguere.

Many of the uninformed, unintelligent sheep (known as Leafs fans) seem to think that Kessel has been a bust since arriving in the big smoke. And they’re right. He hasn’t walked on water, cured all Torontotonians of their illnesses and solved world hunger like the second coming he was made out to be.

Burke has said numerous times that he’d make the trade again, and how can you blame him? What is he supposed to say, ‘I really screwed that up and wish that I had the number one pick’? Let’s not forget that Kessel is a 22-year-old who has already scored 36 goals in a season – something Sundin only did four times in his NHL career. You’re not going to find that in Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin in their first few years in the league.

Don’t get me wrong, I find more joy in the Leafs situation than the next person, but let’s give them some praise where it’s deserved. They finally have the right people in the organization who have the right game-plan.

The trade for Phaneuf was absolutely brilliant. Can you imagine a Phaneuf and Luke Schenn pairing circa, well, last year? Neither Schenn nor Phanuef are having the year they wanted, but Phaneuf has been playing much better since putting on the blue and white.

More importantly though, the addition of the ex-Flame gives the Leafs something they need; a youngster to give the “C” to and follow into the future. He’s signed for another four years after 2010, and giving him the captaincy is only going to make him want to stay even longer. He’s been in Toronto for a month and he’s already an alternate.

Now Flames fans are wondering why their playoff hopes are diminishing as the days go by. If they really want to know, ask a Leafs fan, they’ll tell you. After all they’re the smartest fans in the league, right?

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The Author:

Chris Pope