On March 27, 1997 I posted the following to item to my personal webpage under the heading - Thoughts of a Bitter Leaf Fan, a devout follower questions his faith. It's startling to me to see just how little has changed. Here we are nearly nine years later to the day. Another decade and no closer to the cup...
Starting to Re-build
- This is the most sensible direction for the club to take for three reasons:
With the current leaf line-up, available draft picks, and players in the system, they have no footing on which to compete against the better teams in the Western conference. There is very little upside to the current leaf roster, including players throughout the system. The Leafs must re-build if they hope to even compete with the better teams in the league.
- Should the Leafs acquire more veterans or maintain the status quo, their team becomes another year older, another year slower, and when rebuilding does occur - as it has to, the value of their tradable talent base will be further in decline.
- With the Leafs moving into a new stadium in three to four years, a rebuilding process initiated at this time would have an exciting young team on the rise moving into a new stadium to take advantage of new revenue streams.
Finally, although it has been said elsewhere by many, I would like to address the charge that Leaf fans do not have the patience to rebuild. This is simply rubbish. Leaf fans have endured horrible leaf teams for 25 of the last 30 years. I'm sure if a poll were taken, people would rather see a rookie take a dumb penalty late in the game instead of Macoun, or see a Neidermayer ill timed pinch than a Larry Murphy one. One can always hope that young players can learn from their mistakes. A young club also means a leaner payroll, something Mr. Stavro would most certainly be interested in.
There is a downside to re-building that must also be considered:
- Team management predicted this club was capable of a 90 point season, while most others were looking at the club to finish out of the playoffs. Given this discrepancy, how qualified is team management to evaluate talent and decide a future direction for this club?
- Drafting has an associated risk, 18 year old juniors are not known commodities. Look at recent Leaf draft picks...
- The club does not appear to have a solid scouting base
- The Leafs' farm system has not been able to develop drafted players who can step in at the NHL level. Felix Potvin, and to a lesser extent Todd Warriner, are the only leaf prospects to compete in the NHL and Warriner was a Nordique draft choice. The development of Jeff Ware will offer insight into how the Leafs will approach developing talent in the year to come.
- Rebuilding requires patience, Toronto and the associated media scrutiny may side track a GM away from re-building plans. Ottawa has a solid development plan, but as they approach the playoffs ahead of schedule will Gauthier modify his plan in pursuit of playoff experience?
- The Leafs do not have a first or second round draft pick in this year's draft and may have to pay a heavy price to acquire one.
- I don't think the Leafs have as good a young core to rebuild around as management might have us believe. Other than Sundin, the young Leafs are average. This season Potvin has been a disappointment, Schneider - when healthy - over handles the puck and makes poor play selections, Warriner shows signs but is inconsistent. What the Leafs have is an average youth core with some potential