The Toronto Maple Leafs have apparently already decided to surrender the upcoming season. With no major moves being made to shore up any of the glaring holes that left them well out of playoff contention at the end of last year’s regular season, and even more being created by the releases of some of the top players on last year’s squad, Leafs fans everywhere (myself included) had better brace themselves for a tough season.
If any solace may come from the dismal showing that Toronto seems destined for, it will be the chance for the Leafs to draft Canadian sensation and Toronto native John Tavares.
For now, however, the Leafs have watched a steady stream of players depart the franchise. Fan favorite Darcy Tucker signed with Colorado, as did goaltender Andrew Raycroft. Kyle Wellwood, once thought to be a budding prospect within the organization, was placed on waivers and claimed by Vancouver.
The most notable departure was the release of long time captain and star player Mats Sundin. While most thought that Sundin would be dealt at the trade deadline, the Leafs were unable to get him to waive his no-trade clause. Sundin has been in talks with a number of different of teams, including Montreal, Detroit and New York, but nothing serious has materialized thus far. Without Sundin, the Leafs will need to find a new face for their franchise.
The acquisitions of Jamal Mayers, Jeff Finger, Mikhail Grabovski and Dominic Moore will do little more than fill up roster spots in the next season. Signing Curtis Joseph as the backup goalie puts a familiar and reliable keeper behind starter Vesa Toskala, who will be expected to carry a heavy load and face a good deal of rubber come next September. Picking up Ryan Hollweg brings no recognizable offensive ability to the roster, and seems to be somewhat of a waste of a draft pick. However, GM Cliff Fletcher has been the architect of a number of strong teams, including the Toronto teams of the early 1990s that went to the Conference Finals in back to back years. The addition of Joe Nieuwendyk as his special assistant will help keep his take on the game relevant and up to date. The duo of Fletcher and new coach Ron Wilson should be more than enough to help the Leafs regain shades of their former glory within a season or two. For next season, though, fans of the blue and white will probably have very little to look forward to.