This season, no matter what happens will hover under the cloud that was Brian Burke. This is after all essentially still the team he cobbled together. Bad free agent contracts; trades, and drafts; essentially Mr. Burke lived up to the Harold Ballard tradition.
The most notorious trade of course that brought the talented, but light Phil Kessel to Toronto. Phil responded to Mr. Burke’s dismissal by starting slow although he has managed to up the ante to the point where he has 26 points in 28 games.
Nazim Kadri has been a bright spot, but has cooled off of late. The Youngun has been the goal scorer for Toronto along with former Flyer James Van Riemsdyk whose hot start has him with 14 goals in 28 games. The plan of sticking with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in goal has sorta worked out too considering how bad the defense in Toronto has been.
High priced former Hab Mike Komiserek and long term signing JM Liles ride the booth as healthy scratches as coach Randy Carlyle has chosen to ride his rookies Mike Kostka, Korbinian Holzer, and Mark Fraser. The top point getter on D has been much maligned Cody Franson.
The Leafs are poised for their usual late season collapse. Team Captain Dion Phaneuf and long term contracted Mikhail Grabovski also have not had their best seasons and Joffrey Lupal is about to come back from one of his many injuries. Jake Gardiner is in the minors after suffering a concussion early in the season although he’s doing well.
Direction? Not sure. It looks like the Leaf’s brain trust want to build from within or they simply may be chasing their tails? A ton of salary is sitting in the press box or buried instead of traded away for something.
Centre Tyler Bozak who isn’t having that bad a year and has always had to player higher than his level is UFA and may be traded. Dave Steckel has just been sent to Anaheim. The only area Toronto has really excelled this year is in the penalty box. Colton Orr, Frazer McLaren, and some of the regulars have racked up near 40 minutes or more of penalty time.
As of this writing Toronto is in 7th place with 82 goals for and 78 against. It’s been a respectable first half to be honest with some bright spots and some less bright spots.
Dave Nonis has the tools and pieces to make some interesting moves if he’s aggressive. Frankly I’d suggest a fast track rebuild. Send away the spare parts for draft picks or young uns to play next year and keep developing your home grown talent.
The alternative would require skill and risk that history have shown Toronto as an organization not to have. IE the Kessel deal.
Overall I give Toronto a B- for the first half of the 2012/13 season with a current prediction of missing the play offs and getting a top ten draft pick next season which as frustrating as it would be for Toronto fans would not be the worst thing in the world.
Looking at Cap Geek here’s what Toronto could look like next year based on current contracts.
Kessel, JVR, Grabovski, Lupal, Kadri, and Kulemin if he’s not traded which I think he will be. Bozak is there if he resigns with Toronto.
That’s a very light corps with no real number one centre.
Top Four D
Phaneuf, Franson if he resigns, Holzer, Gardiner, and possibly Gunnarson.
Brutal, and a key area Toronto needs to build on.
Goalie, both Reimer and Scrivens are signed for next season.
I’m not sure if Nonis will be back as GM. Carlyle isn’t the worst coach so he might get another year in, and if I were GM and could get some value for Phil Kessel I’d pull the trigger as a real step in cutting ranks with the Burke years.
Cap: The Leafs are in pretty good shape cap wise; especially if they can trade Komiserek and Liles.
What do you think Leaf Fans? You can post your comments below.