Brighter Days Ahead; Kaberle Revisted

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    A message to those disappointed in yesterday’s anti-climactic outcome:

    Stop expecting the big deals (except Kaberle, see below). Watch the small things in the context of the big picture. Yesterday may not have been ideal, but it symbolically stamped the new regime in Toronto as legit. No more stop gap solutions.

    Gone are Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore, the tie-in to JFJ as the last transaction before his dismissal. Moore, claimed off waivers for nothing and flipped for a 2nd round pick, somewhere between 45-50 overall. It’s the symbolic abandonment of old regimes, archaic thinking of a club that had squandered so much over the past few seasons in an effort to get back into playoff -not Championship – contention.

    That’s changed; it’s the dawn of a new day. Yesterday left a plethora of (baby) footprints reaffirming a new positive direction.

    The Day After

    We’ve all heard it as fans, especially ignorant haters that spew the same drivel as if it’s a revelation. MLSE only cares about money.

    Wow. So … profound.

    Usher in a new era, folks. That scratch, the blood-sucking Leafs have been raking in, actually worked out to be used for the club in a positive manner, indicative of creative thinking by Leafs brass.

    The Tampa Bay deal rings in a new order with the NHL; a dangerous swap with ramifications for revenue sharing and other factors, but accepted yesterday nonetheless.

    The element of money, the greed of the organization raking in millions from fans, had been used to bring in high priced free agents, high priced busts, and nothing tangible in return.

    Money has always been a big part of a Championship team’s structure. Look at the Rangers to see the way they won the Cup in the mid-90’s, and Detroit restocked with free agents Luc Robitaille and Brett Hull for their early century Stanley Cup win. In Jim Devellano’s book, Road to Hockeytown, he always dipped into the grateful attitude of the Illitch family, owners of the Red Wings, opening the wallet for the bettering of the team.

    Now, it’s Toronto’s turn.

    The coming economic crisis may scare the bogeys out of the entire NHL, but in the Leafs case, this is an opportunity and a reason the team didn’t bring in contracts for beyond the 2010-11 season; the reason some clubs will find it more difficult to be as competitive in the lowered cap environment.

    Instead of using the money to go out and bring in high priced free agents, the Leafs could be in the best situation to pull off similar moves to that of Philadelphia, and turn around the franchise in a shorter time frame. To do that:

    a) Get the financials in order

    The money coming isn’t as big an issue for the Leafs as other clubs, but it still is a concern. Corporate dollars line the pockets of MLSE and the economy is taking a hit on these faceless corporations, which in turn decide to lay off the luxury of entertainment in Maple Leafs hockey. Less revenue, and less prospect of revenue equals a dire situation for stakeholders all round

    b) Restock that prospect cupboard

    I don’t believe exclusively building through the draft is the only strategy to produce Championship clubs. Having said that, its utter lunacy to be throwing away draft picks for players for stop gap measures. Calgary Flames GM, Darryl Sutter, yesterday repeated the fact that it’s ‘nice’ to be able to trade away a first round pick, instead of stockpiling due to economic and competitive factors. Get a lot of different types of players into the system, as quickly as possible and get that cupboard filled.

    Note *** Jiri Tlusty scored six points (2-4-6) in a 6-4 victory over ex-Leafs goaltending prospect, Tukka Rask and his Providence Bruins. Clearly a sign in the correct direction, but it’s not enough to have one kid coming through the ranks, there needs to be more.
    Ideally, having prospects available gives teams flexibility, economic and strategic, and ensures a constant flow of promotion of self-developed talent (*ahem* Red Wings, Devils, San Jose). Teams don’t always win with homegrown talent. At some point picks and prospects become vital trade pieces to bring in a player for a Cup run. The rentals if you will. It also ensures there are cheaper alternatives to fill out a roster complimented with legitimate NHL stars (homegrown or attained) with big contracts.

    If the lineup contains enough decent prospects, they allow management to look at trade possibilities of stars with big contracts to restock the cupboards (while building to a Championship), or to acquire other talent for a Championship run.

    It all starts with retaining picks, drafting smart and developing even smarter.

    c) Create an environment of winning and one in which players would want to don a Leafs jersey.

    It’s already begun, and this point is self-explanatory.

    d) Use the disadvantage of some teams in the NHL, to take on their problems

    Dump salaries, as long as there is a pick involved. Just like Tampa Bay.

    I also think that yesterday was specifically designed to play out this way only to have the future take hold with some other creative methods of getting top of the line talent.

    It starts and ends on the blueline.

    Ghost of Tomas Kaberle

    I find it interesting to hear big name hockey analysts talking about retaining Tomas Kaberle. Mainly for the fact that if he’s dealt now, in the off season, or some point in the future, the Buds will have to find a player to replace his skill set.

    OK, there’s truth to that.
    Interesting analysis, buoyed by the alternate that his favorable contract situation will lapse in two more seasons, and his skills could deteriorate.

    Having seen the forward thinking of the current Leafs management group, it brings to light another possible scenario, in particular regarding the two 2nd round picks now attained from yesterday’s deadline.

    There’s a player in Windsor by the name of Taylor Hall. We’ve gone over this (tank!!). But there’s a blueliner that also deserves consideration for bringing to a team the skill set of one Tomas Kaberle.

    Currently featured at #9 on the 2009 NHL Draft – McKeen‘s Spring Rankings Top 60, Ryan Ellis could be exactly what the Buds intend to target at the draft.

    Could the fact that he wasn’t dealt now only give the GM the flexibility to deal league-wide, with the intention of moving up the draft to snag Ryan Ellis? A bit undersized by NHL standards, the diminutive rearguard has a smooth skating stride, exemplary vision and escapability. He’s Kaberle the Younger.

    Now, this is just speculation, but could the two 2nd rounders be flipped, for a shot at Ellis, should he fall down in rankings enough to make the flip feasible?

    It would give the Leafs two first round picks and replacing the skill set that every GM is coveting in Kaberle with Ellis. It then gives them the opportunity to trade Kaberle for the King’s ransom fans are expecting and acquiring more assets going forward.

    Even if it isn’t a direct flip of both 2nd round picks, it could be Kaberle to the team with the draft pick at the ready to pick up Ellis.

    There wouldn’t be any ‘no-trade clauses’ at that time, and partner Pavel Kubina could also be moved, should the need arise. Burke and Wilson love him off, but with one more year on the contract, could they look at moving him?

    We’ve seen the Leafs thinking outside the box already. Can we see more at the draft?

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