TLN Roundtable – Why not us?

There’s a 9.5% chance our lives could change tomorrow. No, not our personal lives, but our “sports lives” as Leafs fans could take a massive swing. 

The league is entering what looks to be a franchise-altering draft this summer, and while we know Toronto will at least walk out of it with essentially a “can’t-miss” prospect regardless of how the lottery balls tumble, tomorrow they’ll know if they’ll end up leaving with a Crosby-like talent: Connor McDavid. Generational.

In the past we’ve written about how moving up would shift the Leafs’ rebuild plans and perhaps present management with some tough decisions on a number of current players, so this week we asked our own writers how they believe the organization’s approach will deviate with a lottery win. Do the plans for the Leafs’ “core” change? And how would it influence the search for a new coach?

Justin Fisher

Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs win the NHL Draft Lottery, it’s still pretty important that the organization sticks to the rebuild. I have no doubt in my mind that Connor McDavid would step in and immediately improve this hockey team. Hell, he could very well turn the Leafs into a playoff team overnight, but would that kind of success really be sustainable?

See, Toronto’s core is like a decade older than McDavid.

Phil Kessel is great, but he’s also in his late twenties. James van Riemsdyk is about to turn 26 and Jake Gardiner is somehow about to turn 25? Young Bozak is 29. Both Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf are in their 30’s. If you’re going to build your team around McDavid, you need to surround him with players he can grow with – not a bunch of guys that will start fading fast just as McDavid starts hitting his prime.

That’s not to say all of the players mentioned above need to be shipped off, but the majority of them probably should be. McDavid or not, Phaneuf can’t anchor this defensive group all by himself. Now’s the time to trade him. Lupul and Bozak are quickly diminishing assets and need to be moved. You can make an argument that one or both of Kessel and van Riemsdyk would be nice to keep around to take some of the offensive responsibility (and defensive pressure) off of McDavid. Not sure if you need both of them though, and either one of them would bring the Leafs back some very significant assets, so that’s a tough call.

As for how McDavid affects the coaching search, he’ll change things big time. It doesn’t matter who you are (or how comfortable you are living in an affluent Michigan suburb), it will be tough to say no to coaching McDavid, turning around the Leafs franchise, and getting paid a literal metric tonne to do it. The Leafs will have no shortage of experienced coaches and executives lining up for an interview if they win the draft lottery.

Elizabeth Bate

I think if the Leafs win the draft lottery and bring in McDavid it’ll go along way to helping the rebuild, but I agree with Justin, the rebuild is definitely important and shouldn’t be abandoned for the possibility of one superstar. We’ve been here before, hanging all our hopes on one incredibly well paid would-be saviour. And we were all happy to see him go to Columbus this year. The Leafs need to stop thinking about the one linchpin that will win them the cup and face the truth. We are not a single player away from the playoffs; we are short a whole playoff worthy team.

My wish list looks something like this:

Shoring up defence is important, I’d like to see some new talent in net, and getting some fresh blood who can move a puck around offensively would be great. (Is that McDavid? Maybe). As for a coaching staff, we need one.

In short, the Leafs need to hang a big help wanted sign out front. “Now hiring: one hockey team.”

Jon Steitzer


Ryan Fancey

A lot has already been said about the current players but, to Justin’s point, the coaching search could be impacted quite drastically if the Leafs come away with the McDavid pick tomorrow. 

Yesterday Thom wrote about the oddsmakers slotting Babcock in as the favourite to be the Leafs’ future coach AND general manager, which seems unbelievable. But when you think about it, the talk around the team has often focused on GM options that need to fit in well with current management like Hunter and Dubas, not someone who’s established enough to look for full autonomy. To bring Babcock aboard as the general manager in name and paycheck (on top of being the coach, of course), and allow him to have input with this front office team Shanahan is establishing doesn’t really sound that ridiculous. A long shot? Surely. Nonsensical? I don’t think so.

The chance to step into a club and coach and/or build around McDavid should be the most sought-after gig league-wide. That’s why no matter how much you hype this pick it never seems like enough. McDavid alone is a franchise-changer, but the spin-off from acquiring him is probably overlooked. 

      • What were the Leafs (or other teams) chance of winning the lotto when Crosby was the grand prize? I’m sure the Leafs could of used him then too but being a dirty Habs fan, I guess he’s not as destined to become a Leaf as McDavid, being a Leafs fan and all? Both the Sabers and Yotes could use a star like him more than Toronto just to insure the franchise’s future – in reality where ever they move. So to fix the lotto that is best for the fans I think Toronto wins, if it’s best for the league, buffalo or arizona will win it…and the league can care less for what the fans want or like.

    • Honestly the more I think about it the more it seems the stars have aligned….

      -the nhl just so happens to change their draft format THIS YEAR.

      -the team goes on a historically bad run that was virtually impossible to sink this low in the standings.

      -they finally commit to a rebuild that should have happened 10 YEARS AGO!

      -buffalo still gets their top centre so none feels bad.

      -the kids just happens to be from Toronto.

      -Phaneuf is being moved meaning we will have our next captain lined up.

      – After almost 50 years without a cup we draft a player that ail win us the next one.

      -getting him would bring in the best coach available.

      -But finally… FINALLY this fan base would get the team (from Shanahan all the way down to ice) that it actually deserves.

      if he ends up here it would be an absolutely storybook ending. THe kind of storyline the NHL would absolutely want to have.


      • 1. I wouldn’t feel bad for Buffalo AT ALL. They’ve totally tanked on purpose this year, I’m sure Karma will bite them in the ass.

        2. McDavid would be exiled in Arizona, I’m sorry, but no one watches hockey down there.

        3. Edmonton has had three first overall picks three years in a row!! And how many in the top 10 over the years!? They just simply don’t deserve McDavid.

        4. Carolina is another franchise that needs saving, but they’ve won a cup, they have not one but two of the Staals brothers, and would probably get more use out of drafting Hanifin.

        5. That brings us to the Leafs. You’re absolutely right. I think the stars are aligning for Toronto, and Shanahan will present him with gold, frankincense and myrrh.

        Can you honestly picture him in any other jersey? exactly.

  • silentbob

    Getting McDavid shouldn’t alter the Leafs rebuild 1 bit. I have no interest in seeing Kessel/McDavid play together and maybe get the Leafs into the playoffs for a few years before Kessel starts to regress.

    That would be like the mid-90’s when Sundin and Gilmour overlapped. Instead of rebuilding the team around Sundin they played the “old and new” together & focused on making the playoffs. They did make the playoffs a few times but it wasn’t sustainable, Gilmour left, and they spent the remainder of Sundins career looking for 1-2 players as good as him to play with him.

    If the Leafs get the 1st overall pick they should still trade the core of this team and focus the next few seasons on developing their current prospects and adding another 2-3 top tier prospects to the pool.

    I’d much rather see McDavid playing with Matthews or Chychrun or Patrick or McLeod then Kessel or JVR.

  • This is going to sound insane (and it just might be) but have any of you watched “the secret” or read the book? OK, well, it’s pretty much about the law of attraction/positive thinking and BELIEVING that X will happen, in this case X would be McDavid. Everybody, go change their desktop wallpapers to McDavid and be certain that the Leafs will win, do it!!! I’m telling you, maybe we can will that lottery in Torontos favour. And if we still don’t win? Well, you can get Steve’s Wizardry and BS shirt, since it will be BS if McDavid goes to the coyotes or across the border to Buffalo. *tear*