UFA Day: It’s time for Nonis to deliver

UFA Day: It’s time for Nonis to deliver

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Dave Nonis

With free agency upon us – and fresh on the heels of Mikhail Grabovski’s buyout – the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to be an incredibly different looking team come the fall.  Through General Manager Dave Nonis’ machinations since taking over the reins in January, the Leafs roster now looks more shallow and vulnerable than it did at the end of the season less than two months ago.

Quite simply, Nonis slowly and quietly backed himself into a corner with the choices he’s made since taking over from Brian Burke.  On a team that appeared to over perform benefitting from a shortened season, the general consensus was that there were a lot of upgrades that need to be made if this team was going to remain a winner.  Nonis has to have a master plan, because right now, the Maple Leafs do not look equipped to contend for their first back-to-back playoff berth since 2004. And that’s all on him.

I can think of four moves that Nonis has made in his tenure that I completely support, ones that showed clear direction and made the team better.  And they are all fairly marginal.  The first was the forcible demotion of Tim Connolly to the Toronto Marlies.  The other three were the trades of Matthew Lombardi, David Steckel and Mike Brown.   This freed up space for the likes of Nazem Kadri and Matt Frattin, young talent that made the team better.  It made the team look like a meritocracy.  Talent won out, and replacement level veterans were sent packing.

Just about every move he’s made since then, from acquiring Ryan O’Byrne and Frazer McLaren; and all-but-begging Calgary for Miikka Kiprusoff; to his recent off-season antics have been at best, dubious decisions that haven’t clearly made the team better at the time or down the road.

Even the area where Nonis is getting plaudits heading into today – cap management – appears to be something of an illusion.  As of this writing, the Leafs have a little less than $25-million in cap space available; second most in the league heading into free agency.

Half of that will quickly be eaten up in contract renewals for Kadri, Jonathan Bernier, Carl Gunnarsson, Cody Franson and Joe Colborne.  So they’ll realistically have about $12 million to play around with to replace an entire forward line (Grabovski, Frattin and MacArthur) while finding an upgrade on a rail-thin defense corps.

I’ve been told by many Leaf fans on Twitter since Thursday’s noontime bombshell to practice patience with Dave Nonis.  I don’t sit in on the meetings.  I’m not privy to the trade proposals being flung MLSE’s way.  I am not their organizational architect. They’ve got a point, certainly.

But patience is in short supply.  After only six months into his tenure as the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, I believe that Nonis has inherited a playoff-calibre team assembled by Brian Burke and whittled it into something almost undefinable.   He’s stripped the team of a few cheap, useful parts.  His availed cap space only becomes beneficial if he uses to it to upgrade on parts let go or expunged; not to re-sign Tyler Bozak or overpay on a similar mediocre center talent. The team has let go of their only centre to crack 50 points in a single season.  He solidified goaltending, though it was not an area on anyone’s radar and comes potentially at the cost of destabilizing morale.

This is his time.  He’s got two months, starting at noon today, to reforge this team into his own image.  There’s no greater stage in hockey than Toronto, and Dave Nonis is going to have to put on one hell of a show to convince me that he’s building a winner.  Cause it’ll be his job (and fans’ hopes) that’ll get terminated if not.

Michael Stephens has been writing for Maple Leafs Hotstove since 2010, and has featured in the 2010 and 2012 Maple Leaf Annuals. Former Editiorial Intern at The Hockey News. Undergraduate degree from the University of Windsor. Chat me up about all things hockey on twitter @MLHS_Mike
1001 comments
Doorman
Doorman

I Need a Refreshment!!!

Claymish
Claymish

RFA offer of under $900 000 wouldn't cost any picks...hope about take a guy like 23 yr old Nick Petrecki from SJ? 6'3 225lbs 1st pick 23rd overall. 

ingy56
ingy56

Helene St. James ‏@HeleneStJames

45s

Dear Senators fans tweeting at me, even if I "go to hell" as you've suggested, really won't impact Daniel Alfredsson going to Detroit.

Classy bunch, those Sens "fans"...

Cameron19
Cameron19

It is odd agreeing with the Sportsnet panel.

Doorman
Doorman

Well Nonis had better have something to show for dumping Grabs or Im going to be one pisssed off Leaf Fan!!!

RielledUp
RielledUp

Guys is the FA frenzy on TSN going to be streamed?

Ensign
Ensign

I have a feeling that when all the chips are played the Leafs will not have improved as a team

ingy56
ingy56

The " Daniel Alfredsson Special" now airing on SN....ugh

newkb
newkb

@Loric76 And he's most likely correct...that is the scary proposition.

newkb
newkb

@Doorman He'd better have something....other than this soon to be overpaid UFA crop.

2minutes
2minutes

Thats pretty hefty. I am prepares to give him 5M for 5 yrs.

SETTLE DOWN JVR, I KNOW IT'S NOT MY MONEY

Captain Morgan
Captain Morgan

@Ensign They have already improved....they have some veteran leadership coming in and a whiner who wanted to do things for himself on the way out....now we have two goalies that can compete as well.

Ensign
Ensign

Who is the whiner? I'm not expecting much from

Bolland and if its possible our C lineup has gotten weaker. I would say goaltending has improved

Ensign
Ensign

I would say he did do what was asked of him and he didn't say anything unti he got bought out. He's pissed they bought him out and feels he got screwed by RC, something i would agree with

Captain Morgan
Captain Morgan

@Ensign Grabs was the whiner...I was always a fan of his, but alst year you could see he did not compete and his play really lagged...now he comes out and bashes Carlyle for how he used him....it's a team game and you do what task the coach asks of you to the best of your abilities...that's how you win.