Thursday, July 14, 2011

Is This The Final Phase of the Rebuild?

Over the past couple of days, I've spent more time than ever on Cap Geek and Hockey's Future.  I find that whenever I write about the Maple Leafs' rebuild or do any praising of Brian Burke, I'm always talking about the acquisition of assets and when I go over these sites, it's plain to see that the club is much better off than it was when Burke inherited the team.  As it turns out, years of trading away first rounders for past-their-prime role players or shaky goaltenders isn't a viable longterm strategy.

Things are starting to look up as it pertains to the state of the franchise.  The roster, as it currently exists, is comprised entirely of NHL-level talent.  There's no line of Hanson-Bozak-Stalberg, fresh off of seasons in the NCAA.  There's no pressure for Kadri-like rookies who need pro-level experience to step into the lineup immediately.  Even Joe Colborne, who was drafted in 2008, is likely to get some more AHL seasoning before stepping into the NHL.  This wouldn't have been the case a few short years ago.

Nowhere is this more evident than on defense where our opening day roster should be something to the effect of Aulie-Phaneuf, Schenn-Liles, Gunnarsson-Franson, with Komisarek in the pressbox.  This means that both Jesse Blacker and Jake Gardiner (who impressed in prospect camp this summer) will both play heavy AHL minutes and get strong tutelage from Marlies coach Dallas Eakins.

Forwards Greg McKegg and Jerry D'Amigo will start the season with the Marlies alongside Colborne, while Brad Ross is expected to play one more season in the CHL.

There's no rush to see this year's first rounders Tyler Biggs or Stuart Percy in the NHL.

All of that is really just a convoluted way of saying "we have depth".  Looking at all this depth, I think this roster is due for one more fairly significant turnover.

Each year, Burke has made some major moves to pickup pieces he likes.  His first major acquisition was Phil Kessel and whether you like the deal, hate the deal, or haven't yet made up your mind, Phil Kessel is a player with three consecutive 30 goal seasons at the age of 23.