Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leafs Have Limited Options

Brian Burke has been preaching accountability and threatening to waive and trade players for nearly three months now.

To date, his threats have been emptier than the lower bowl at a Coyotes game and bring to mind a parent counting out-loud to a misbehaving toddler (although in fairnes, most kids usually respond by the time a parent gets to three).

Let's face it, Burke really doesn't have much in the way of options.

There's no cap space to take on new contracts or provide wiggle room in a trade.

There's no more prospects or picks left to be dealt.

As I understand it, the window for buy-outs doesn't open until the off-season.

The only option that remains is waiving a few players to the minors, but even that has a potential long-term cost.

Balancing Short-Term Issues with Long-Term Needs

In the short-term, there's no argument that this team needs a shake-up. But every player waived represents a potential lost draft pick at the trade deadline - something this club desperately needs to replenish. For the long-term good of the club, are the Leafs better off just riding out a 50 point season and cashing in all their spare parts in February?

This franchise is so bereft of talent, both in the bigs and throughout their system, that one has to wonder if it's almost worth it to keep Mayers and Primeau in the press box for the potential 5th or 6th round picks they might bring next February.(Rickard Wallin is the other prime candidate for demotion, but I have a feeling his presence on the roster is tied up with Jonas Gustavsson and right now that kid needs all the support he can get).

The other candidate for demotion to the Marlies, and the only waiver exempt player on the roster, is Luke Schenn. Unfortunately, his demotion means more ice time for Garnet Exelby. As a pending UFA, and to date large-ish bust on the Leafs blue line, I think limiting Exelby's ice-time is in the best short-term and long-term interest of this club.

Who Comes Up?

The next question is, if Burke finally makes a move, who comes up?

Neither Stalberg nor Tlusty have impressed during their short time with the Leafs. Bozak has struggled with illness and has yet to find his game with the Marlies. That leaves Christian Hanson as the likely candidate. He has impressive stats to date: 15GP 5-8-13.

My guess is it will be more dallying around the edges from Burke. He can't waive more significant roster players that might net much needed picks at the trade deadline, nor can he create an atmosphere that appears to be or is perceived by UFAs as antagonistic.

In the end, I fear it's all small beer anyways.

Does anyone really thinks demoting Mayers (8 GP) or Primeau (13GP) is suddenly going to make Blake aim before he shoots, fix a moribund PK, or help one of the goalies find their game?


  1. Anonymous6:21 a.m.

    How did it all happen; where did it all start? THAT would make for a great analysis.

    Leafs look like they will be simply playing out the string for the rest of the season, and there do not seem to be any management tools to use. All that remains for fans, coaches and the team itself is to hope for a handful of players to suddenly, inexplicably and consistently play better than their talent allows.

    I hope the movie playing on the team bus, team plane and in the locker room is "Major League". The Leafs could take some lessons from that about hard work.

  2. Anonymous12:54 p.m.

    The Leafs have a really weak schedule for the next couple of weeks. If they can only string half a dozen wins together they'll be right on the doorstep of the playoffs. Providing, of course, that everyone in front of them, lose all their games.

  3. Burke had a chance to address his lack of skill in the off season. He chose grit instead. Kessel was a nice pick-up but it also shows how talent starved this team really is upfront. He talks a good game about the farm, but let's face it, we don't have much in the way of top-level talent there either. Let's hope Burkie has some tricks up his sleeve at the trade deadline. Until then we will have to be content with what we have now. Luckily the team we have has given us some entertaining hockey recently. The trick now will be to be even more patient ... let's not ruin the little talent we have buy over-playing them in impossible roles and let them develop into the players we hope they can be.