This is a Guest Blog as part of the current competition we are running here on Puck Central
Last night marked the beginning of the Toronto Maple Leafs pre-season games versus their Provincial rival the Ottawa Senators. Both sides dressed line ups mostly made up AHLers and kids straight out of Junior all vying for a chance to crack the line up.
The Sens beat the Leafs 5-0 with what would seem like a completely one sided affair. The Leafs had ample opportunity to keep the game close if not outright win the game given they had EIGHT 5 on 3 power plays!
That being said, it was after all, the first pre-season game of the year and everyone in Leaf Land is all up in arms quitting on their team already this season and even calling for the head of Coach Wilson. I get it Leaf fans are probably the most passionate fans in the game and are completely sick of backing a losing product that has been a loser for the past 5+ years and hasn’t smelt the Stanley Cup since 1967.
As we have seen as recently as last season with the Chicago Blackhawks being crowned Champions after a Cup drought similar to the Leafs, winning takes time, sometimes a long time but it will come. The smartest way to build a winning team seems like smart drafting as seen with the Hawks OR make a few big trades to bring in superstars or potential superstars and by doing that you generally have to sacrifice valuable draft picks.
It’s obvious to see the route that Brian Burke has chosen to take. Given the Leafs losing past, some of his moves have been heavily criticized mainly because part of the deal that landed Phil Kessel in Toronto turned out to be Tyler Seguin taken 2nd overall by the Bruins and if the trend continues Boston will be given another lottery pick.
Phil Kessel is a terrific talent and will do great things for his team unfortunately he cannot do it on his own. Slowly the Leafs are making their team better by acquiring some more scoring punch with Kris Versteeg, who in his first two full time seasons in the NHL as scored at least 20 goals. Tyler Bozak is in his second season with the Leafs should be more comfortable and more improved thus giving the team more scoring ability although I am not convinced he is a number one center at the NHL level but given there is no one else to fill the void the job is Bozak’s. Then you have Nazim Kadri who in my opinion should play a large majority of this season with the Maple Leafs AHL affiliate the Toronto Marlies as their number one or two center, getting a ton of ice time and playing against bigger stronger players than he would play against in Junior.
Now I am not going to run through the whole Leafs depth chart here but the point I am trying to make is, those players I just mentioned, and a few others are all under the age of 25/26. They have some improving to do but they have assembled a core group of young kids with high talent level and are headed in the right direction. Leaf fans just need to relax, there are brighter days ahead. It will not be this season and it may not be the one after that, but in the next few years you will be cheering for a playoff team.
- Rob Veevers
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