In this weeks Hodgemail feature on TSN, Dave Hodge asks ” WHAT SHOULD BURKE DO TO FIX THE MAPLE LEAFS?”
I drafted a response last night but decided to post it here instead of sending it to Dave. Some of you may be tired of the “how to fix the Leafs” question but….I’m more tired of hearing rediculous ideas….
Do nothing for now….or at least very little.
Once you come to the realization that making the playoffs is an unlikely goal at this point, you need to make sure you don’t negatively impact your ability to be better next year. Yes, the net result might be a top 5 pick in the draft for the Bruins…but that’s not as bad as screwing things up even worse and giving the “B’s” another top pick the year after.
There is very little Burke can do on the trade front. What other teams want we need to keep; namely Kadri, Kaberle (NTC) and Kessel…the three “K’s”. I’d put Ian White on the list but his name starts with a “W”. Under performers have high price tags; Beauchemin, Blake, Kamisarek to name a few, and would be difficult to move (and should not be given up on yet anyway).
What about moving guys to the minors? To that I reply…who? Burke needs to do what he can to maximize the value of the guys who are UFA’s at the end of the season (Stajan, Ponikarovsky, Stempniak, Primeau, Mayers, Exelby)…with the hope that he can move them before the deadline for picks (albeit low picks). Time in the minors won’t increase their value.
If there was a desire to bring up guys like Stalberg, Hanson and perhaps Bozak from the AHL, then he can waive a guy like Mayers or move guys like Hagman, Grabovski Finger and Kulemin down….though I don’t know off hand what the impact would be in terms of losing them on entry or return to the NHL. That said; this might be the only type of move I’d contemplate at this point. I wouldn’t mind seeing the aforementioned threesome play a few games on the big club. This will become a must-move at the backend of the season to give these guys some NHL experience to prepare them for next season.
How about the coach? I was never a fan of Wilson…I think he’s particularly problematic for a team that doesn’t have a captain to provide shelter / act as a liaison between players and coach. His pre-game comment last night that suggested that Kessel is the only talented player up front may be true but doesn’t help the fragile psyche. How often do you want to hear how bad you are from your coach? As playoff hopes dwindle it’s going to get even harder for Wilson to get the guys to play for him. That said; I don’t see Burke dumping him at this point.
In my opinion; the most pressing need is up the middle. A true #1 and #2 centre will make the world of difference. Centermen are the most impactful forwards in terms of support/help for the defence…they increase possession time by winning face-offs and are usually the quarterback for the office…they can make mediocre wingers look good. There is a reason why most star players are centermen. Imagine shooters like Kessel and Blake (yes Blake) if they weren’t required to also be the guys to consistently be the puck carriers…what if they could spend more time skating to find openings to receive a pass? Addressing our issues at centre won’t happen mid-season. I don’t think we have what’s needed to make a play for Patrick Kane or Jordan Staal. Bozak and/or Kadri could be part of the answer but it’s the UFA market in the summer that is the more likely place to find what we are looking for in terms of immediate help…just not sure much will be available. Savard (rumored to be presented a $6M deal to stay with the “B’s”), Marleau? Jokinen? Not sure….
PS: I wrote this before last nights brutal loss to the Canes! Move them all to the Marlies!