If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably found yourself wasting a good bit of time dragged into the the internet searching through past NHL drafts and such.
Of course, watching a team like San Jose in the playoffs will send you on this type of ride. Why does it seem like some teams can roll over four lines that can just cruise out of the gate and play with incredible speed and intensity?
I think this explains some of it:
I feel like there’s a theme with high pick forwards who bust, in that they’re awesome bottom sixers but people don’t realize it.
— mc79hockey (@mc79hockey) April 21, 2014
There are some teams who are clearly in the loop on this, and obviously the Leafs aren’t one of them. But I won’t pick on them too much, because it’s clear that other teams fall into the same trap.
Benoit Pouliot is 27 years old and hasn’t made nine million dollars total in his career after going fourth overall in the Crosby draft. Cam wrote about him last summer as someone the Leafs should definitely pursue. They didn’t, opting to dump nearly 60 million dollars on Bozak and Clarkson. Pouliot signed with the Rangers for 1.3 million, scored 15 goals and 21 assists during the regular season, and already has a couple points in these playoffs. He’s set to become a free agent again this summer.
James Sheppard made 830k this season. He’s 25 years old and his career earnings barely add up to Clarkson’s annual cap hit. He was drafted ninth overall in 2006 and didn’t exactly set the world on fire from there on. The Sharks plucked him from Minny for a third round pick, and this year he had 20 points in 67 games. He has 3 points in these playoffs so far.
There are a bunch of guys in the NHL who have followed a somewhat similar path. The Kings took Trevor Lewis in the first round of the 2006 draft and just held on to him, now he plays bottom six minutes and does pretty well with them. He makes 1.5 million. Even some of the slightly higher-priced guys like Frolik, Torres, and Brassard are all examples of cheap options that can do well on the third line or fill in on one of the top two. For some reason the Leafs have seemed to miss the memo on these types of players, when ideally they should be filling their bottom six with them, along with Marlies graduates. They need to start doing it.
I think it would be wise for the Leafs to clear out what they can from the bottom six. Let Raymond and McClement go, toss aside the facepunchers like Orr and FML, and stay away from Bolland. In a perfect world they would get out from under Clarkson as well, but it looks like it will be Kulemin leaving town. I’d keep Bodie around, play Holland, and then hit the bargain bin for some first round busts who can still play, whether by signing or trading a magic bean pick. Throw in a couple Marlies and you’ve likely got a decent looking lineup.
Do I think they need to go out and try to get all these guys I mentioned specifically? No, but it’s about getting in that mindset where these are the types of bargains you’re looking for. And this isn’t anything groundbreaking, fans and writers have been pointing this out for a while. It’s just especially important for Toronto to recognize it at this point, as this could be a summer that seriously sinks them in the long term if they’re up to old tricks. I’m not sure what the Leafs could be afraid of when it comes to changing their approach, it isn’t like things can get much worse.