Monday, December 6, 2010

A Letter from the Fans

Dear Mikhail,

It has been many a fortnight since I last wrote to you, and for that I am deeply apologetic. So many times I have sat alone in the study with pen and paper in hand – wanting to write to you – tell you everything – but alas I cannot. It seems like only yesterday since we met in the summer of 2008. It was a warm July afternoon, only days after the summer free agency period had opened – when like an angel emerging from the clouds you arrived on my doorstep, bearing a more than reasonable and cap friendly 1 year $850,000 contract.

I welcomed you with open arms, welcomed you into my home, into my family, and most importantly, into my heart. You were small, but powerful, graceful – yet tenacious – perfectly suited for the brand of hockey played in the new NHL – or so I thought.

Greg McKegg: The "Steal of the Draft"

The rumour mill hasn't been spinning quite as furiously around the Maple Leafs as one might expect given the team's position in the standings.  The Leafs sit nine points behind Atlanta (with two games in hand) heading into Monday night's tilt with Washington.  Not exactly the competitive squad that Leafs fans and management were expecting heading into the season.

Despite this, much of the talk in Leaf Land has been about improving from within.  With no first rounder this season, and our strongest trade chip possessing a no trade clause, it seems that what we've got now is what we have to work with.

Friday, December 3, 2010

When the Love is Gone - Move On

Break ups are hard.  Very hard. You’re forced to cut ties with someone special in your life. The sad thing about most break ups is that they’re rarely a clean split. Nope, instead they generally involve a lot of name calling and tears (by her and you) over the course of 3 or 4 gut wrenching weeks. You’ll try to be strong in the wake of a break up – but undoubtedly you’ll find yourself on her doorstep pleading for a second chance at 3am on a Saturday night....sigh. In the end, you mope around your house in an old pair of sweats for a month listening to James Blunt, until one day MC Hammer Young MC’s “Bust a Move” comes across the radio – and boom! Your ex is old news.

NHL break ups between GMs and Coaches really aren’t that different. For weeks the media hounds both Coach and GM as the team (let's think of the team as the “relationship” – bear with me, it was a weak metaphor to start with) sorely struggles and drops further and further in the standings. Of course both Coach and GM will claim there is nothing wrong – “we are just working on things” they will say, “we can get through this”. Truth is, once a relationship starts on the dark path towards breaking up, it’s nearly impossible to avoid the inevitable end.

Ron Wilson and Brian Burke have reached the tipping point in their partnership as Maple Leafs Head Coach and GM. It’s setting up to be an unfortunate end to a 2 year relationship that began with so much promise and excitement.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Is it too late for a rebuild?

Tonight's 5-0 loss at the hands of the worst team in the NHL's Western Conference makes one wistfully look back and question the direction of Brian Burke's truculent Leafs. What would have happened if, instead of trading for Phil Kessel, the Leafs had kept their first round picks? Would they have Tyler Seguin? Would they have Taylor Hall? Would they have a shot at Adam Larsson or Sean Couturier?

Ultimately it doesn't matter. What's done is done and enough ink has been spilled on The Kessel Trade. I was among the most vociferous opponents of the trade at the time, but there is little to be gained by the sort of "na na na boo boo" commentary that is prevalent in the Leaf blogsophere now. The Leafs are a team of poor quality and no amount of second-guessing will change that.

What's important is whether or not it's too late to go back.

I've heard people posit that now that the Leafs have traded their picks for Kessel they might as well push on and acquire the Brad Richardses and Alex Semins of the world. That would undoubtedly get them back in the playoffs and from the 7th seed...anything can happen!

I'm here to tell you it's false. Don't believe the hype, it's not too late! There IS another way.

Sure, the Leafs' first rounder is gone, but another can be acquired. Burke could abandon his "principles", pressure Kaberle into accepting a trade and acquire a first rounder in the 20-25 range. He could trade Giguere for whatever he could get and throw Gustavsson to the wolves over the next year and a half. Don't kid yourself, the Leafs are bad enough to earn a top pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. A lot of cap space and a lot of liquid cash means some cap space can be spent on the Wade Reddens and Sheldon Sourays of the world being acquired with picks. With a top pick in 2012 and another few picks in the 2nd-3rd round, could the Leafs be a good team in 2013? Would the Leafs be better or worse than they would be in 2013 with Kessel, Semin, etc?

Is Leaf Nation ready for a rebuild? I mean a REAL rebuild? There are two schools of thought: 1) it's too late to rebuild now, forge on, and 2) tear it down, push the restart button. Who's in which camp? Who has the stones to say, "tear it down, it's not a championship team, I'm ready to take on 3 more years of out-of-playoffs hockey"?

I am.

Picture of the Week: That Kind of Week

I think this picture sums up how we're all feeling right about now.

Yeah, it's that bad.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Does Kessel Need Help or Does He Need to Do More By Himself?

Today on the Fan 590's Greg Brady Show, the topic of Phil Kessel was broached.  Brady asked the question 'Does Kessel need to do more or does he need help?'. 

This led to an unusual realization on my part - I rarely ever talk or write about Kessel.  It isn't by design.  There was no conscious decision on my part to avoid talking about the Leafs' top forward.  So why don't I?

In asking myself this question, I came to the conclusion that it's because Phil Kessel is exactly what I thought he would be.