Thursday, July 06, 2006

No Man's Land

I'm not sure what to make of the current composition of the Leafs.

Defensively, I can't recall the last time the Leafs could ice a top 4 that compares with this year's group.

Up front, well let's just say there are some serious gaps.

The short-term success of this club is clearly going to come down to their ability to compete better in five on five situations. The Leafs definately need to find some players that can generate offense outside of special team situations if they're going to have any success.

Considering the challenge facing the composition of the Leafs' forwards, I wonder if JFJ may have mis-allocated his prime trade bait in the Raycroft deal. Given the absolute over-supply of goalies on the market and the complete lack of impact forwards that are available, it likely would have made more sense for the club to deal Rask (or combine Rask in a package) for a forward and scoop a goalie off the free agency/fallen starter/disgruntled player pile.

JFJ's activities since the trade deadline made me think of this Billy Beane quote from a Fast Company interview:

"The key," Beane says, "is identifying the moment" -- the time when continued success with incremental change has become impossible, when you have to cast off existing talent and start fresh.

"The worst is when you try to do it halfway: when you think you can compete and you also think you're trying to rebuild. Then you're stuck in no-man's-land. You either do it or you don't."

I have a bad feeling we're stuck in no-man's land...hopefully, JFJ will do something with the forward corps and prove me wrong.


  1. Anonymous7:39 pm

    No-man's land is better known as the post-lockout NHL. The salary cap guarantees that no team can do it all in terms of assembling a powerful team top to bottom.

  2. That's an interesting thought about the glut of goalies on the market, and how that surplus now makes the price of Rask too high. Maybe we did give up too much for Raycroft. Did JFJ misjudge the landscape in his rush to not look flat-footed?

    How good does Raycroft have to play for this deal to be considered in a positive light? 35 wins? sub 2.00 GAA?

  3. Anonymous4:28 pm

    I think the Leafs should have done what you suggested. Deal Rask/player for a forward and pick up a free agent goalie. Like Manny Legace for example who earned 1.1mil last season.

    As for JFJ doing something about the forwards??? Like what? There is about 4 to 5 mil of cap space. It all went out on 2 defencemen and a goalie. Peca won't sign for less than half of that, or Anson Carter. Do you want to tie up the cap with one of those 2? I don't think so. They have only the funds to get average at best forwards.
    Next season Belfour comes off the payroll and Sundin. I think they will wait till then to re-tool the forwards.

  4. Anonymous: The new CBA does make it exceedingly difficult to build and maintain a fully loaded club, that said I don’t think it puts all 30 GMs in no-man’s land.

    Beane’s point, as I read it, is you’re better off committing yourself to one of two camps – the contenders or the re-builders. Looking at JFJ’s moves (tying his hands on the backend, rolling the dice with a goalie, leaving glaring holes in the forward mix) I’d say he’s in no man’s land. He’s clearly not loading up on prospects, picks, and undervalued commodities for a future run and he certainly hasn’t built a club that can compete for the big prize. Unless JFJ pulls a fast skating winger that can score 5 on 5 and play on Sundin’s wing out of his hat, the Leafs will (once again) be life and death to make the playoffs this year.

    Ninja: It’s not so much that JFJ overpaid as it is he just misread the market (again!).

    Want to know what the market is like? You could have acquired Cloutier (don’t laugh, he had better numbers than Raycroft last year) for a second round pick (likely to be 39th to 50th overall).

    At the end of the year, who do you think will have better stats – Raycroft or Legace? I’d wager on Legace. To make it more interesting, Legace earns 50% of what the Leafs are paying Raycroft and he’s available for the price of a phone call. Don’t like Leagce? Biron is awaiting a trade from Buffalo and earns $2M a year. He’s an RFA, so he’ll require a 5% bump to be qualified. Be interesting to see what Buffalo acquires for his services.

    What will Raycroft have to do to make this trade seem like a good move? I’d like to say win 30 games, hit a .900 save percentage and keep his goals-against under 2. Unfortunately, I’m a typical Leaf fan so all he has to do is be consistent, steal the odd game and not let in too many back breaking, weak goals.

    Ben: I agree that JFJ has snookered himself with the forwards and that’s why the Leafs will likely end up with another combination of high-risk, high-reward signings like Allison and Lindros. They’ll each average .75 pts a game, be slow as molasses and injury prone and the Leafs still won’t be able to keep up or compete against the higher echelon teams.