Nov 8, 2009

The Sixty-Million Dollar Leafs

If this was a 70's television show like "The Six-Million Dollar Man" we'd be listening to a narrative right now ... "Gentlemen, we can rebuild him. We have the technology. We have the capability to build the world's first bionic man. Steve Austin will be that man. We can make him better than he was before. Better, stronger, faster." Perhaps that was in some form the pitch that Brian Burke made to MLSE prior to his hiring and the hiring of his staff.

"Gentlemen, we can rebuild them. We have the knowledge. We have the capabilities to build Toronto a Cup competitive team. The Maple Leafs will be that team. We can make them better than they were before. Belligerent, Stronger, Faster and Truculent"

If this were a 70's television show we'd also be listening to some cheesy opening theme song right now and looking at a show title of possibly "The Sixty-million dollar Leafs"

"The Monster" The highly touted goaltending acquisition that gives the team hope for the future
But, this isn't the 70's, nor a made-for-TV series. This is a professional sports team that is 15 games into the most solid "rebuild" of it's 42 year Cup-less drought. While the Phil Kessel trade will continue to be viewed with skepticism for several years yet, in the immediate term, Phil is providing a credible scoring threat and confidence to the team. Jonas Gustavsson, a highly touted goaltending acquisition over the summer, has panned out even though the skeptics warned that he'd never played an NHL calibre game. "The Monster" in the net has become a soothing influence on the play of the defensemen in front of him and has provided an awe-inspiring save in every appearance thus far.

These changes are showing up in the win column as the Leafs are now riding a two game win streak and have received points in the last seven games.

Where do they go from here?

A big part of the rebuilding structure of Brian Burke. "Not bionic, but definitely competitive."
The Toronto Marlies are playing future Leaf regulars like Christian Hanson, Viktor Stalberg, Tyler Bozak, Juraj Mikus, Carl Gunnerson, to name but a few. Burke certainly hopes to add another one or two College prospects this Spring as well. He has also acknowledged that this may be the last Spring that he will be able to draw from that feeding ground as College free agents tend to be drawn to teams where they can jump right in. The Leafs hope to be beyond that stage for the 2010/11 season. The hope is certainly that Bozak, Hanson and immediately Gustavsson will compensate for the loss of the two 1st-rounders and one 2nd-rounder that was relinquished in the Kessel deal and that any player signed this Spring as another College free-agent will just be added to that list. Seems like a decent trade-off to me. We get Kessel and add him to three really decent players that have become skilled, undrafted gems for nothing but a contract proposal and we give up three draft picks that haven't even been picked yet.

The rebuild is in full swing even though some folks are decrying the deal for 21 year old Kessel as a shortcut, or a regression to the win now, Toronto mentality. When looked at thoughtfully, Brian Burke has positioned this team to be successful not only presently, but down the road as well. Not bionic, but definitely competitive.

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