With the NHL Entry Draft 2013 less than a month away, many Leafs fans are amusing themselves with thoughts of who the Leafs should draft with the 21st overall pick, or of how we might be able to trade-up to grab a more desirable player. Leading up to the draft, I’ve tried my best to keep up with the prospects and have gotten a sense of where the “experts” think these young hockey players might be selected. We’ve also started our NHL Draft Profiles, with the next coming later on today. Many have compared this draft to the 2003 draft, where ample high end talent was available into the late first round and the likes of Shea Weber, Corey Crawford, Patrice Bergeron and David Backes were snatched up in round 2. In other words, if the hype is true this draft offers major opportunities for those teams that get their selections right.
We aren’t in the dog-days of summer yet, but in terms of Leafs content things are in a lull until the draft and free agency. With that in mind, I answered some of your questions:
It’s not often that a tectonic shift like realignment occurs in the NHL, but when it does the competitive landscape is bound to shift, with winners and losers emerging from the rubble. From a scheduling and time-zone perspective, Detroit, Columbus, Winnipeg and Dallas stand to benefit the most. The new scheduling mandate will also ensure that fans in every city will get to watch every team play in their home building at least once, thereby allowing Coyotes fans to fill half the stadium to watch Sidney Crosby torch their team. All joking aside, this will be great for the game as the league’s stars like Stamkos, Tavares, and Giroux will get more exposure around the league, and I’m all for growing the popularity of the game we all love.
Of particular interest to Leafs fans is the renewal of the Detroit-Toronto rivalry, an Original Six tradition that stretches back to the earliest days of the league. I may be too young to remember the battles of days gone by, but I’m not too young to appreciate the wondrous skills of Datsyuk and Zetterberg. I’m looking forward to the renewal of a storied rivalry and being able to one day tell me kids and grand kids about amazing playoff duels. However, as I watched the Red Wings dominate the Blackhawks in Game 3, it made me wonder what their introduction into Division C would mean for the Leafs.
Photo: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images
While there is said to be continuity between the two managers given their close working relationship for several years in the Leaf front office, Brian Burke was always more transparent and vocal than Dave Nonis when it came to how he ran his hockey team. For that reason, I’ve decided to research Nonis’ time with Vancouver in order to see if I can come up with some logical ideas of what to expect from Nonis in the upcoming months.
Last summer, before the draft, we were able to look at Brian Burke’s own quotes and pretty well nail that Lupul-Kessel would be on the top line to start, Grabovski-Kulemin would be on the shutdown line, and Kadri, along with Frattin eventually, would be on the second scoring line. That’s not exactly how the Leafs ended the year, but if I could tell you how the full season would go I’d be playing the lottery and blogging from a beach in Europe.
In case you missed the end of year interviews today, Dave Nonis and Randy Carlyle’s EOY addresses are below.
Chris Young/Canadian Press
I really wanted to write a wrap up notebook, but I wasn’t going to subject myself to watching that game again, nor do I particularly want to write about it. I mean, the only time I watched that Bergeron game winner was live and that’s how it is going to remain, so I wouldn’t be much of a source for insight or analysis.
It really was a great year for the Leafs, though. At the beginning of the season I didn’t think they would make the playoffs, and at the beginning of the first round I wasn’t sure they would make it much of a series. They proved me wrong both times. They proved a lot of people wrong.
In order for the Leafs to get better, though, they’ll need to have a strong offseason and smooth out some of their rough edges.