Leafs’ Drought Hits Six Years

…..and that’s seven if you want to include the lockout.

How has it already been seven seasons since this happened against the Flyers?! I guess time flies when you suck. But the optimist would say that hope is on the horizon. They could have three 30 goal scorers since who knows when, they have seen their third/fourth stringer in camp come up and be phenomenal for over three months, and they have a ton of cap space.With that said, I still think they need a ton of work.

First and foremost, Brian Burke needs to be just as active as he has been in past seasons if the Leafs want to compete next year. The problem is, there isn’t too much talent out there at this point. Brad Richards is almost a given to head to Broadway, and there is a steep fall off after him. Tim Connolly and Jason Arnott are the only other two on the current list that I’d consider a number one centre.

They could take a risk and go after Tomas Fleischmann, but who knows what his status will be after suffering from a blood clot back in January. He did have 21 points in 22 games after being dealt to the Avs though. Another route could be giving out some offer sheets to the restricted free agent market, as there are a ton of high calibre players available, a few of which are on teams that don’t exactly have a lot of money. Problem is, do they really want to give up even more draft picks to acquire one player? I’m not comparing Phil Kessel to Steven Stamkos or Zach Parise (two of the RFAs available), but check out the compensation for accepted offer sheets:

Amount Compensation Due
$863,156 or less None
$863,156 – $1,307,812 3rd round pick
$1,307,812 – $2,615,625 2nd round pick
$2,615,623 – $3,923,437 1st and 3rd round pick
$3,923,437 – $5,231,249 1st, 2nd, and 3rd round pick
$5,231,249 – $6,539,062 Two 1st’s, one 2nd, one 3rd round pick
$6,539,062 or more Four 1st round picks

Stamkos and Parise would definitely garner the maximum, which would mean say goodbye to 1st round picks until 2016. I’ll be 30. No thanks. But there are still a great stockpile of talent (especially under performing talent) that would probably end up in that $2.6 million – $3.9 million range; Comeau, Bailey, Perreault (Bozak replacement), Marchand, Grabner, Gerbe, Berglund, Oshie, Voracek and Turris come to mind. The chances of these players not being qualified are quite slim, so the Leafs have to hope that some decline and end up in arbitration.

Now, although we have to be past the point of thinking this sensation is a flash in the pan, the dreaded sophomore jinx will more than likely rear its’ ugly head for James Reimer next season. I don’t they go after either Bryzgalov (who supposedly hates goalie coach Francois Allaire) or Vokoun so finding Reimer a goalie to split duties at least 50/30 is a must. Yes he’s played 35 games this year and been exactly what they wanted the Monster to be, but I think we can all agree the latter is not the answer for Toronto. Neither is the aging and injury prone JS Giguere. Thankfully, there are a ton of viable options out there this summer. They could look at career backups like former Leaf Joey MacDonald, or guys like Boucher, Auld, Labarbera or Conklin to name a few. But can any of those guys handle the load if Reimer falters? This is why I think the perfect fit for the Leafs next season is none other than Jose Theodore! You heard me…more on that later.

The thing that scares me about next year is that while we have seen career years from guys like Kulemin, Grabovski and MacArthur, they are putting up numbers that no one expected. Yes, it’s possible that we had all three of them wrong and they could turn into perennial 30 goal threats, but career years are often followed by at least some sort of disappointment. This is where Nazem Kadri and potentially Joe Colbourne step in. The former will be on the team next year, the latter is supposedly going to play his first game as a Leaf on Saturday. Kadri will be put into a scoring role and has to be ready to face the opponent’s top defensive pairings on a nightly basis. It will be interesting to see how much he puts on during the offseason.

And what about Keith Aulie? There was a young stud Leafs’ defenseman that had a breakout rookie season not too long ago, and followed it up with an awful sophomore campaign where he looked like he would have struggled to make the Marlies for much of it. Im assuming there will be more additions to this corps before 2011-12 (as well a buyout of Mike Komisarek), but as of right now their top 4 defense are Schenn, Phaneuf, Aulie and Gunnarsson. That won’t do over 82 games.

Rounding out the Leafs’ checklist and sort of relating to my last point, Tim Brent cannot be the quarterback of the powerplay next year. If he is, Brian Burke will have failed and should be fired. I don’t care if they overpay on this one, a powerplay quarterback is something that is very hard to find and Dion Phaneuf isn’t it. The Canucks need to sign Kevin Bieksa and Christian Ehrhoff, while Montreal definitely won’t be keeping both Markov and Wisniewski with the way Subban has developed. Then there’s Joni Pitkanen and former Leaf Ian White.

Somehow the playoffs are less than a week away and I just wrote my second article back in action on the friggin Leafs…..

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