In part seven of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at how the new faces will fit in with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke has always argued the fact that July 1st is his draft, the time where he does his best work in bringing in key pieces that will push his team to that next level. Â While he isn’t inept on the draft floor, it isn’t his strength. Â To his credit, it’s something he doesn’t necessarily hide either.
And while this summer’s free agent frenzy is more calm than in the previous years, there is no doubt that through free agency, and the days leading up to it, that Burke took steps towards continuing to shape this team in his vision. Â The moves have been made, and barring any sort of changes, this may well be the team we see enter training camp in under a month. Â With that in mind, it’s time for Leafs Nation to ask, exactly how will the new faces fit into place in Toronto?
Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.
Those who know me can tell you I am an avid reader. Â I devour books at a staggering pace, specializing in sports books and autobiographies mostly. Â And as the warm weather approaches, and the hockey season gives way to deck weather, my reading habit ramps up considerably.
Book of choice at the moment? Â ”The Yankee Years” Â by Joe Torre. Â A fantastic account of life in the major leagues and life as the manager of one of the most popular, most traditional, and at times, most dysfunctional franchises in the world.
Torre does an excellent job of taking readers behind the scenes of his time in New York, including a fist hand look of one of the biggest rivalries in all of sports. Â That is, the Yankees and the Boston Red Sox.
And that’s where the parallels started standing out to me as a Leafs fan.
Aside from the occasional hardcore junior hockey followers, the majority of NHL fans will track the progress of their team’s top young prospects through highlight clips or boxscores. For the most part, the development and potential NHL impact of a young player then becomes a function of the amount of goals and assists they record at that level. I mean heck, it’s hard for Islanders fans to look at the 356 points that John Tavares has scored over the past 3 seasons in the OHL without getting excited. And rightfully so. All indications are that he’s going to be a very special player for a long, long time.
On the flip side, you’ve also got the purists who value a keen scouting eye to judge traits such as leadership ability, instincts, emotional drive, among other skills that cannot be represented numerically. Back in March, when news spread of Tavares breaking the all-time OHL goal scoring record held by Peter Lee, the first reaction by many was “Who the heck is Peter Lee?” Just some guy who scored 81 goals and 161 points in his last junior season is all… Well, point taken. Stats and numbers don’t mean everything, but the question is: how much DO they mean?
Kicking off the week with another update on a whole lot of nothing around the NHL: The Leafs get ripped in ESPN’s Ultimate Team Standings, P.J. Axelsson signs with Frolunda, CBS Sports assigns offseason grades for the Northeast Division, and Kaberle bought out?
- Update #1: Rumors of a Calgary -Toronto trade involving Anton Stralman.
- Update #2: RDS confirms it. Stralman and Stuart to Calgary for Wayne Primeau.What the heck?
Haha maybe Ray Emery has a personal vendetta against caps (baseball and salary), who knows. Seriously, this guy has a Owens-esque ability to attract negative media attention. Will he ever get it?