Toronto Maple Leafs 2008 Offseason Report
It’s been three straight seasons without a playoff performance and the team looks incredibly different going into 09’. The problem for the Leafs is that the team looks even worse than years before which means the playoffs will be a long shot again. Toronto has dropped players, picked up new ones but most importantly, they hired Ron Wilson who can take a team to the playoffs but not win when he gets there.
Former Leafs coach Paul Maurice who somehow lead the Hurricanes to a Stanley Cup, could not change Toronto in two seasons so what makes Wilson different. Wilson has lead the San Jose Sharks to four straight seasons with 99 points or more but passed the second round only once and that’s with a very good team. The team he inherits in Toronto is not even half as good as any Shark team in recent years.
The main issue is if Captain Mats Sundin will re-sign with the Leafs who has been the leading scorer and heart and soul in Toronto for the past 14 years. Rumors have been speculating for months now about him retiring or signing with one of four teams with Toronto being a slim option.
To continue with negatives, the Maple Leafs were supposed to have a solid young core begin to excel in the 08’-09’ season but Alex Steen, Kyle Wellwood and Matt Stajan all underachieved. Actually, Wellwood was bought out and signed with Vancouver while Stajan finished with a -11 ratio. Not good for a team looking for positives from their youth.
Though only Sundin and Nik Antropov were the only players to score over 20 goals, the Leafs did have a total of nine guys with 10 or more goals. This makes out for a well balanced scoring but lack attack from the back. Pavel Kubina was the only defenseman to make the list with his 11 goals (six of them on the power play).
Besides Kubina, the Leafs have two other defenseman that can play in the league but one is over-paid and the other is under rated. Bryan McCabe is the most over-paid defensemen ($5 million a year) in the NHL but it looks like he may drop his no-trade clause to play in Florida. Current speculation is that he will be shipped to the Panthers for Mike Van Ryn while Tomas Kaberle is very under rated and deserves “McCabe” money but makes nearly $1.5 million less. His 45 assists last season combined with his strong skating and consistent play really make Toronto a better team than what they actually are.
With the defense so bad in front of him, Vesa Toskala did not have that terrible of a season. He finished the season with 33 wins, 25 losses and six shut out losses with three shutouts. Toskala did play under Coach Wilson during his San Jose days where his numbers were very good which makes this a step in the right direction.
The downer is net last season was with Andrew Raycroft. What the hell has happened to this former Calder Trophy winner and what the hell is Colorado doing signing him? Toronto caught a break here but replaced him with 84 year old Curtis Joseph. I suppose his $700,000 is a steal for the seasoned vet.
Toronto should be thankful for the hiring of temporary GM Cliff Fletcher after GM John Ferguson put this team into shambles. Fletcher had done a good job trying to clean up the salary garbage while attempting to keep a contending team starting with a great coach. With Darcy Tucker’s and possibly Sundin’s and McCabe’s money going elsewhere, it’s a good thing the organization invested $3.5 million on Jeff Finger (extreme sarcastic voice).
There is a long season ahead for this team that keeps getting worse.
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Notable top players staying for the Toronto Maple Leafs:
Nik Antropov, Tomas Kaberle, Jason Blake, Alex Steen, Matt Stajan, Pavel Kubina, Vesa Toskala, Alexei Ponikarovsky
Mats Sundin is uncertain of future with the team
Toronto Maple Leafs - Players added via free agency & trades:
Jeff Finger, Curtis Joseph, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers
Toronto Maple Leafs - Players lost to free agency & trades:
Andrew Raycroft, Darcy Tucker, Kyle Wellwood
Bryan McCabe is rumored to accepting a trade to Florida on September 1
What Toronto has:
What Toronto needs:
An intense forward. Tucker may have been hated but he brought a fast pace to the game. With him gone, the team will suffer with no replacement.
A true goal scorer. Blake was (past tense) a goal scorer but his 15 goals in 08’ are not good enough. We may see how good Antropov can be without Sundin.
Stay healthy. Toronto only had three players play in all 82 games last season (Kaberle, Stajan and Blake).
Expectations for the Maple Leafs next year:
Not high and how can they be. I would very surprised if they finished as high as eleventh in the Eastern Conference or repeat a 36 win season again. Funny enough, Toronto usually plays well against division rivals Montreal and Ottawa but nobody else. As I said before; it will be long season.
By Kevin Chaves
ProHockey-fans.com Director of Content
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