Thursday, November 8, 2012

Day Dreaming: Former Leafs We'd Like to See Return

The NHL lockout talks have been heating up this past week (they even met in person, yay!), but in the spirit of the old adage ‘once bitten, twice shy’ we here at BCP aren’t getting our hopes up just yet. Taking a break from all the talk of HRR, contract length, revenue sharing...etc we wanted to do some reminiscing.

Interesting news surfaced this week regarding the Toronto Raptors and their former star Vincent Lamar Carter, also known as Air Canada, the human highlight reel, or as he was known to me in the summer of 2004: the man that forever shattered my fragile teenage heart.

While speaking on the radio to Tim and Sid of the FAN 590, Carter confirmed that he would consider coming back to Toronto and the Raptors. The question was seemingly asked as more of post-retirement, type of return, as in would Vince consider coming back to the ACC to have his number 15 retired. Carter said he would come back in a heartbeat, going on to say that all of his career highlights came in a Raptor uniform.

The mainstream media has picked up this story and ran with it (as they’re wont to do) claiming that the 35 year old Mavericks forward would welcome a trade back to Toronto as a player. Having heard the discussion and read the reports I’m not ready to say that. However, he does appear to have warmed considerably to the city that he so desperately wanted to escape from, going so far as to demand a trade, fake knee injuries, and refuse to ever dunk again – for you non-basketball people, think 1986 Wayne Gretzky refusing to pass the puck again – ever – because he didn’t feel like it.

Whether or not Carter is serious about a return is very much up in the air. He’s an above average veteran bench player who is currently producing well for the Dallas Mavericks. At 35, his value to a non playoff team in the midst of a lengthy rebuild is questionable, nostalgia aside.

All this talk of comebacks got me thinking about Maple Leaf players that have left the city, and ones that I might like to see come back for one last hurrah.

I know there aren’t any Carter-esque type breakups in the recent past. The tear down your closet poster, burn the jersey in the backyard, and boo mercilessly for a decade type of breakup. But there are players that have donned the blue and white who part of me wouldn’t mind seeing come back.

Below are a couple guys that came to mind, but throw up any names you’ve got in the comments section.

Steve Sullivan

He was drafted by the New Jersey Devils in 1994 and was traded to Toronto in 1996-97, playing with the Leafs until early into 1999-2000, before being claimed off waivers by the Blackhawks.

Sullivan’s career with Toronto was for the most part nondescript; a hard working, undersized forward who never really cemented himself as an offensive contributor. In 1998-99 he had 20 goals and 20 assists in 63 games, his most productive season with the team.

What’s heartbreaking about Sullivan his career he has had since leaving Toronto. With stops in Chicago, Nashville and most recently Pittsburgh, he has been an effective player everywhere he's played. His career best year coming in 2005 with the Predators – 31 goals, 37 assists in 69 games.

Injuries have been an issue for Steve, as he only played a full 82 game season once, in 2002. However, even with missed time, Sullivan would be considered by most a legitimate top 6 forward in the league. When we look back at the dearth of scoring talent on the Leafs after the 2004 lockout there is no doubt Sullivan could have helped right the ship.

After the addition of JVR in the offseason, there isn’t much space in our top 6 right now, and at 38 there are legitimate questions as to whether Sullivan can produce at that level. But, on a one year deal, for a team that lacks veteran presence, we could do a lot worse than Steve Sullivan.

Alexander Steen

The Swedish-born forward was for a time considered the favourite to carry on as captain after Sundin. Steen is a peculiar case, as his time in Toronto is viewed by many as a disappointment, but I wonder how much of that was his play, or the unrealistic expectations heaped upon him.

Drafted 24th overall in 2002 he played with the Leafs until 2008, when he was dealt alongside Carlo Colaiacovo to the St.Louis Blues in return for Lee Stempniak (Fletcher 2.0 not as good as Fletcher 1.0).

His production in Toronto was consistent, finishing with 45, 35, and 42 points in his 3 full seasons with the team. After being dealt to the Blues, Steen seemed to find another level in his game. Shooting the puck more consistently than he did in Toronto (3.1 shots per game last season) and meshing well with players like Backes and Oshie.

Steen’s season was cut short last year, however he was on pace for over 50 points, a continuation on his career best 51 in 2010-11.

What makes Steen such a great fit is his flexibility. He’s capable of playing anywhere in a teams top 9 forwards, at center or the wing, possessing a strong 2 way game to go along with his consistent offensive production. His heavy shot has allowed the blues to utilize him on the point during the man advantage.

At 28 years of age Steen likely has a number of quality hockey years left in him. I think many fans would welcome him back for a second stint in Toronto.

Editor's contribution: Francois Beauchemin

If I could bring back any for Leaf to play for today's team, it would without question be Beauchemin. Is there anything this team needs more than a physical, minute eating, possession-driving defenseman?  Ok, sorry, is there anything other than a goalie?  Given that our best goaltender since the lockout has probably been J.S. Giguere, my retread is Beauchemin.

How comforting would it be to have a second pairing that featured the steady Beauchemin with the riskier Gardiner?  Instead, we're reduced to crossing our fingers that one of Komisarek or Liles can put together a competent season, or hoping that Holzer ends up being a lot more than anyone expects him to be.

For me, it's no contest.  Come on back, Beach.  I'll never let you go again.

No comments: