|Jeff McIntosh – AP|
Editor’s Note: This is an entry in our search for Fresh Blood at TLN. Every possible contributor will get three posts to strut their stuff and then we’ll ask you readers to help us choose who is going to join. This is blog # 3 for Andrew.
BY: ANDREW BATES @SILVERFOXTO
As the 2012 Trade deadline has come and gone, the Maple Leafs yet again sit outside of the top eight in the Eastern Conference; while the Leafs didn’t do nothing, Burke virtually stood by his usual MO which is trading before the deadline and refusing to over-pay for players, something as Leaf fans we should be very thankful for.
A big question around Toronto is whether or not they should be buyers at the deadline or sellers. I’m of the belief that they should have been sellers, unfortunately there wasn’t too much to sell off as teams at the deadline look to add expiring contracts for their playoff push. Lets take a look at the moves Burkie made and didn’t make yesterday.
What the Leafs did
D Keith Aulie to TB / F Carter Ashton to TOR
Keith Aulie, known for tagging along with Dion Phaneuf to Toronto last year, really just didn’t find his game Toronto. There was a ton of hype for him after his first stint with the Leafs, he paired with Dion and at first glance looked alright. However with a deeper look into his play last year he was saved by the fantastic play of James Reimer, having a horrible Corsi rating and an unreal on-ice SV% is a recipe for disaster. Couple last years iffy play and his brutal showing in the AHL and NHL this year and you get a prospect that falls out of a win-now teams plans.
Aulie isn’t guaranteed to be a dud, as defensemen tend to take longer to hit their potential, but things aren’t looking too great for him. Hopefully he turns it around in Tampa Bay, although if Dwayne Roloson is playing net for them, don’t count on it too soon.
Coming the good way in the Keith Aulie trade is a man named Carter Ashton. You may recognize the name from the World Junior Hockey Championship a couple of years ago. Ashton has been on Tampa’s minor league affiliate the past year and has been producing the best he has in his career. His WHL career was pretty underwhelming with his only PPG+ season coming in his fifth season, something that isn’t too spectacular, seeing as he was probably double the size of nearly everyone else that year. This year however he has 35 points in 56 games in the AHL, without knowing what line he was playing on this seems to be good production, hopefully (like Joe Colborne) he can start putting up some serious points with the Marlies and add some scoring and toughness to the third line with the big club next year.
F Dale Mitchell to ANA / D Mark Fraser to TOR
Dale Mitchell has yet to crack the NHL roster since his draft in 2007. While the Leafs haven’t given Dale a shot in the NHL yet he may still be able to crack a roster, he actually showed some promise in his junior career putting up a solid amount of points in his second year in Oshawa.
Fraser will most likely be joining the Maple Leafs AHL team, likely filling in Keith Aulie’s recently vacated position. He actually has some NHL experience with the New Jersey Devils something that will likely give him a leg up the next time Burke is looking for an injury replacement. Mark is basically a career AHL’er though.
What the Leafs didn’t do
Off load boat anchor contracts
Mike Komisarek, Matthew Lombardi, Tim Connolly and Colby Armstrong are all players that are currently earning more then then they are producing. Lombardi, Connolly and Armstrong are all players that could be serviceable for the Leafs, if they were making less money. Komisarek on the other hand just cannot play at the NHL level anymore, and with the amount he sits in the press box now is likely gripping the stick too tight to make any sort of contribution when he hits the ice.
A big reason these players couldn’t get unloaded is because they are signed through next year and beyond, hopefully (with his actual salary being lower then his cap hit for the next two years) Komisarek can be moved in the Summer.
A huge problem on the current Leafs squad is the defense’s inability to actually play defense, while they did subtract one of the worst culprits in Aulie, they failed to add anything to solidify the blue line. Heading towards the uphill battle into the playoffs, the Leafs are crossing their fingers that Jake Gardiner can continue his strong play, Dion finds his early season game, Gunnarsson continues to be solid and Luke Schenn somehow convinces Ron Wilson to play him more then 12 minutes a night. In a couple years this could actually be a very solid top four, but as of right now it doesn’t look like enough to make the playoffs.
All in all Burke did what a lot of people hoped he would do: basically nothing. He didn’t screw up, he didn’t trade Kadri, Colborne, Schenn and 18 first round picks for Rick Nash (yet), but he also wasn’t able to clear up cap space for a run at a big Free Agent in the summer.
All is not lost though, trades are allowed throughout the summer so it is still possible to trade away some of our big contracts. Even through the Leafs latest struggles their franchise is still on the right track with a solid AHL team full of young guys, and a developing young core with the big club.