Of course Brian Burke would pull off a substantial trade on the eve of a midterm. Such was the case last night when I was trying to study, but had my eyes glued on Twitter for anything about the Leafs and what had transpired. And after zillions of characters typed and an equal amount of opinion being thrown around, I’m ready to discuss the Versteeg departure.
Upon first reading about the deal, I was a little angry. Why? Because Versteeg has 50 point capability and it seems counterproductive to let him go at such a young age. And after a night’s sleep and some more time to think about it, I pretty much feel exactly the same.
Now, I totally understand that a lot of people are excited that the Leafs received a first round pick in the deal. It’s what many have been requesting for quite a while: a chance at a true rebuild. Fair enough. But..
The difference between sending Versteeg to Philadelphia (a Cup favorite) and dealing him to a team like Ottawa, for example, for 2nd and fourth round picks isn’t all that different. I mean, really… it isn’t. And Versteeg for a 2nd and fourth doesn’t sound too great, does it?
Then there’s the argument that Burke has essentially turned over Phillipe Paradis, Viktor Stalberg and Chris Didomenico for a 1st and a third. Not too shabby, right? But I thought the Versteeg deal for those players was a good one to begin with.
This most recent deal seems to be another step backwards. The Flyers pick will likely land at about 25-30. Phillipe Paradis was drafted #27 overall in 2009, so that gives you a good idea of how much risk Burke has taken on.
Many folks have been discussing the fact that Versteeg may have wanted out of Toronto. While I have no real evidence to support this, he did seem quite happy to be on his way to the Flyers. But really, who wouldn’t? If there was a rift between #32 and Ron Wilson, it isn’t out in the open yet… but I guess it’s plausible. Either way, anyone would love to leave a dead-end team to join a Cup contender, so we can leave it at that.
As far as performance goes, Versteeg is only one point behind Phil Kessel with three fewer games played this season. For fans to say he “did nothing” is greatly exaggerated. Personally, I thought he was the type of player the Leafs could use – a versatile, character guy who could score and wasn’t afraid to muck it up.
Did I mention he’s only 24? If Nazem Kadri (a #7 overall pick) can rack up 50 points or more by the time he’s 22 – something Versteeg did as a rookie in 2008-2009 – I think it would be considered a success. So why are people jumping on Versteeg as some sort of failure?
Again, if there was something outside of his on-ice performance, like a rift with the coach or management, then I guess his departure is somewhat warranted. But for a guy like Versteeg, who seemed to get along great with teammates, to not see eye-to-eye with the powers that be, you’ve got to wonder how good of a job those “powers” are actually doing.
This piece isn’t trying to trash on those who believe this deal is good for the Leafs. I can totally see where you’re coming from, and it isn’t like Burke destroyed the future in this deal by any means. I just believe there are a lot of questions to be asked about the real direction in which this team is headed. Win now? Win later? Beats me. I’m not really sure what to think.