In the NHL, teams either improve for the playoff run or via rebuilding. When it comes to the Toronto Maple Leafs, however, many people have been wondering what route they are actually taking.
The Leafs certainly do not have a Stanley Cup winning team and have been notorious for trading away fairly good draft picks in order to become better for the present and not necessarily the future. These decisions primarily are why Leafs fans have been frustrated for the lack of success from the Leafs since the lockout and why it is the same story every year.
Let us go back one year in time, back to February 2010.
The NHL Trade Deadline is fast approaching and Leafs fans everywhere seem to be running around like a chicken with no head, waiting for Brian Burke to pull off another blockbuster trade. Just a couple weeks earlier, Burke had pulled off two blockbuster trades that shipped seven Maple Leafs out of town bringing in both Dion Phaneuf and Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Despite moving those seven players, Burke still wants to move more. More players like Alexei Ponikarovsky, Lee Stempniak, Mikhail Grabovski, and the biggest piece of the puzzle, Tomas Kaberle.
Let us now fast forward to March 4th 2010.
The day after the trade deadline and Burke was able to trade Ponikarovsky and Stempniak but the only return the Leafs received is minor-leaguer Luca Caputi.
Another year went by without trading Kaberle. Leafs fans for the past couple of months have been running around going crazy hoping that somehow they would be able to trade him and bring back a star player to help turn around this franchise. Rumor has it a year ago it was almost complete, but Kaberle ended up rejecting the trade that would have sent him to Philadelphia for Jeff Carter and a 1st round draft pick– a rumor that most Leaf fans will never be able to let go of.
Fast forward back to the present.
It is now almost a year since the 2010 Trade Deadline, and as usual, the same story is going on again. Kaberle is subject to a countless number of trade rumours, Grabovski, who is the Leafs leading scorer, has been involved in trade rumours, Francois Beauchemin who simply eats up ice-time, and new-comers Kris Versteeg, Colby Armstrong, and goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere have all been surrounded by crazed Leaf fans and the media, hoping that Burke will bring something huge to this team to help make it a playoff contender.
So far, Burke has made a number of trades. Trading Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks and receiving Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, and a conditional 4th round selection in the 2013 draft, and most recently trading newcomer Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 1st and 3rd round selection in the 2011 draft. Yesterday he even moved Kaberle to the Bruins in exchange for Joe Colborne, BOS’s 1st in 2011 and conditional 2nd in 2012– if Kabby re-signs in BOS or if they go to Cup.
The story seems repetitive. Every year when it comes close to the deadline, Leafs fans get all excited hoping for a player that will help them transform into a competitive team and every year the Leafs end up making the same little trades; but never ones that are good enough for the media or the fans.
Leafs fans need to remain patient and hopeful that Burke does indeed have a plan on rebuilding this team into being a competitive force once again like the pre-lockout era.
There are many things that Leaf fans can look forward to, whether or not they believe it is true.
The number of prospects developing in the minors, and juniors proves that there is at least some hope for Leaf fans in the future. Along with players such as Grabovski, Nikolai Kulemin, Clarke MacArthur, Phil Kessel, Luke Schenn, and James Reimer that have proven themselves capable at the NHL level to produce.
Furthermore, the acquisitions and players that the Leafs have on their roster mostly came from Burke’s roster moves, showing that they are somewhat on the right path of once again becoming competitive. Nevertheless, when will they erase the thoughts of the Leaf fans who ask “Will the Leafs’ Trades Pay Off?”