Would the Leafs be better off drafting a defenseman?
Many Leaf fans are counting down the days until Draft Day 2009, when we anticipate that our beloved Leafs will draft the franchise player that will lead the blue and white to the promise land. Some dream of John Tavares after witnessing him lead Team Canada to Gold at the WJC. Others dream about Evander Kane and his amazing hands or Brayden Schenn, who seems to be the Burke archetype we could all potentially revere. What you’re not typically finding on fans’ wish lists is a defenseman, which most aren’t prioritizing due to the fact we have, in some beliefs, eight NHL-caliber d-men. We do lack the type of star player upfront that can potentially compete for the league lead in goals. So I ask the question: is that really what this team needs right now?
Looking at some stats, the Leafs are tied in 12th overall with 150GF in the NHL and are 7th overall in the east. That’s not too bad for a team that supposedly only has one top 6 forward. So why, then, are the Leafs bottom feeding this year as they will continue to do for the next year or so? Some will be quick to point out the fact that our goaltending has been less than stellar which at this point seems irrefutable. Toskala has let in his fair amount of weak goals this year but let’s not place all the blame on his shoulders as two other goalies have also donned the pads this season and neither have fared a whole lot better (Pogge’s solid play despite 5GA against says a lot). The Leafs’ defense, which in pre-season was touted as our best blue-line assemblage in years, has really laid an egg this year and it’s definitely not been of the golden variety. The Leafs are dead last in goals against this year. How many people would of thought that at the start of the year with our eight “nhl-calibre” defenseman and defensive-minded coach? Not me. I and presumably many others were much more worried about the Leafs putting the puck in the net this year and gearing up for a lot of low scoring games.
Going by the numbers so far this season, it’s patently clear that our defense and goaltending are an area in dire need of bolstering. I’m aware this draft is very forward-heavy with only 2 dmen likely to go in the top 10 come June. I’m not saying the Leafs should beyond any shadow of a doubt draft a defenseman, I’m just saying that its an option that should be considered a bit more closely than it is currently, especially if you have a shot at a guy like Hedman. And Cowen is no slouch either. We have Pogge sitting in the wings waiting to take over between the pipes so hopefully that will be able to solve the goaltending problems. People will also say that we don’t need a defensive cornerstone as as we have Schenn.Â Schenn’s a great building block, but by no means the whole wall.
Burke says he likes to build from the net out so if he’s happy with Pogge then the next logical step will be further bolstering a suspect defense core. With up to 3 dmen rumoured as possible trade candidates, it might make sense for the Leafs to look towards Hedman or Cowen. We saw it with the Ducks: Burke likes to have two stud Dman who play a whole lot of time, usually by placing them on separate pairings. Although, let’s be honest… who doesn’t want that, right?
Should I receive any, I’ll be posting fanposts Friday and/or Sunday nights. If you’ve got a bone to pick and are interested in speaking your mind on Leaf matters or anything NHL-related, send in your thoughts to [email protected] MLHS reserves the right to withhold anything shitty and edit your typos