In part 11 of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at one of the hottest topics in Leafs Nation today: just how long of a leash does Ron Wilson have?
In the summer of 2008, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a major overhaul. Â Much maligned general manager John Ferguson, Jr. had been relieved of his duties with the organization, and as nice a man as JFJ was when I met him at the Leafs rookie and orientation camp a year prior, there is no solid argument that can be made for him as a good GM.
Ferguson Jr, to his credit, can take solace in the fact that a few of his draft picks are now cracking the Leafs as legitimate players, Kulemin and Gunnarsson among them, although even that fact can be debated Â - how much was scouting and how much was general managing?
In a word, John Ferguson Jr. left the Toronto Maple Leafs in shambles, and some of the moves he made, continually sacrificing youth for a quick fix solution (or at least something he thought was a quick fix) have very well set the Maple Leafs back at least an additional few years in the rebuilding process.
Strengths: Prior to the start of this season, the Leafs prospect list was a list full of question marks. But it has become clear that the Leafs at the very least have some talent to work with in the coming seasons. First and foremost would be OHL star Nazem Kadri, who has come on in the second half of the season after a slow start in London. Two other forwards that appear to have a future with the Leafs are former collegians Tyler Bozak and Viktor Stalberg. Jerry D’Amigo, one of the stars for Team USA at the 2010 WJC, is another promising forward currently in the college ranks. The acquisition of Luca Caputi adds another solid forward with some size, a trait valued by Leafs’ GM Brian Burke. In goal, Jonas Gustavsson has emerged as a legitimate future starter.Â Weaknesses: Where the Leafs may lack future support is along the blueline, with trade deadline acquisition Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson representing the only current prospects of real magnitude at defense. But, considering where the Leafs were after last season, the future is looking brighter. Top 5 Prospects: 1. Nazem Kadri, C, 2. Jonas Gustavsson, G, 3. Tyler Bozak, C, 4. Carl Gunnarsson, D, 5. Viktor Stalberg, LW
Of no surprise is that signings Jonas Gustavsson and Tyler Bozak played a major role in boosting the Leafs up the rankings. That’s not to say that they don’t count the same as key young assets, but both Gus and Bozak will not qualify for this list next season after turning 24 and/or surpassing the 65 game mark of their NHL careers. To see Stalberg and Gunnarsson listed in the top five of a sixth-ranked prospect group as former sixth and seventh round picks respectively certainly represents some form of silver lining from John Ferguson Jr’s reign.
The author’s omission of the name Jesse Blacker in assessing our blueline depth weakness was curious to me. After standout performances at the rookie tournament in Kitchener in September, Blacker notched 30 points in 48 games following a trade request to the Owen Sound attack from Windsor in search of increased playing time. Granted, past Aulie and Blacker among players yet to feature in a Leaf uniform, depth certainly does thin out, and this is likely a priority for Burke with the remaining picks he has to work with come June 25.
More on the Leafs’ top ten placement here.
While Hockey’s Future has yet to release their top 10 organizational prospect rankings, the highly-respected source for prospect information has released their 11-20 and 21-30 lists. To the pleasant surprise of many, the Leafs aren’t on either of them.
Adding to the joy, division rivals Buffalo, Montreal and Ottawa have all already appeared in the 13th, 16th and 21st positions respectively.
Unrelated Update: New signing Brayden Irwin to play tomorrow night against Atlanta (link).
#36 in Blue and White is proving to be everything his number-sake Anton Stralman never became in Toronto. Hear me out, Andrew R.
The big club’s off until a Friday night date with the struggling Hurricanes, so let’s take this opportunity to review the progress of several Maple Leafs’ prospects across various levels and highlight upon the season’s surprises and disappointments thus far. The verdict: fairly encouraging results early on across the board.
This must be the mantra Brian Burke is following after recent reports indicate that Jason Allison has been invited to the Leafs training camp on a tryout basis.Â Some of you remember Allison from his 2005-2006 season with Toronto.Â He was often seen losing in casual races with the young children of Timbits Hockey.Â At 34 years of age and having not played for full three seasons, this move probably has some Leafs fans scratching their heads and worrying that John Ferguson Jr. has somehow been reintroduced into the organization.
Although the season prior to lockout would prove the Maple Leafs last playoff foray in half a decade, neither year that straddled the infamous labor disputes would be remembered with any particular fondness. Ushering in the reign of John Ferguson Jr., 2003-04 became, in hindsight, a defining landmark in an era of decline when overblown hype would manifest a country club malaise. Regardless, those lockout sandwiching years can also be remembered, at least in a very in a small way, for the gracing of the Toronto blue line by a cult stay at home defenseman who defied the â€œnewâ€ NHL dictum and refused to be culled from the game.
Part 3: 20 Years of Maple Misery
From Gord Stellick to Cliff Fletcher Version 2.0
Itâ€™s been over 40 years since the Leafs won the cup and while others make fun of the fans for continuing to cheer, here is an overview of why you shouldnâ€™t make fun, but feel bad for themâ€¦
>>>DISCUSS IT HERE
It wasnâ€™t more than a year ago that head coach Paul Maurice announced his team would make the playoffs and compete for the Stanley Cup. Players such as Simon Gamache and Tony Salmelainen were recruited from Europe by general manager John Ferguson Jr. and provided solid try outs. Colaiacovo was announced to not be in full form for the season opener, which we later discovered he would not be ready until late December, after arthroscopic knee surgery and an awkward fall in a pre-season practice after attempting a slap shot.
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
Original post: http://www.hockeybuzz.com/blog.php?post_id=16747&blogger_id=48
The Battle of Ontarioâ€™s prospects ended in triumph for the Senators in an action-packed, end-to-end tilt featuring 12 goals split 7-5.
The night started brightly for the Maple Leafs following Phil Oreskovicâ€™s bout with Geoff Waugh three seconds after puck drop that was seemingly a spill-over of bad blood from last AHL season and/or an arrangement made in warm up. Off an early face-off in the Sensâ€™ zone, Darryl Boyce drew the puck back to 5th overall pick Luke Schenn who fanned on his point-shot only
>>>DISCUSS IN THE FORUMS
Every professional hockey organization, particularly one in the Leafs’ current plight, must exhaust every possible avenue when it comes to importing young talent into their system.
In addition to the chance to evaluate the progress of your developing prospects front-and-centre, the upcoming rookie tournament provides a valuable opportunity to invite undrafted youngsters for a 3 game trial run. Last year this event proved fruitful for the Maple Leafs, who uncovered a hidden gem by the name of Darryl Boyce. The Summerside native was already preparing for life-after-hockey at the University of New Brunswick when, after a fantastic championship-winning campaign with U of NB he was signed to a minor-league contract and invited by John Ferguson Jr. to play in the 2007 rookie tournament in Kitchener.