Strome or Marner? Marner versus Strome. Hanifin or Marner? Hanifin? Strome? I think we’ll go Marner. No, maybe Strome. Gotta like Hanifin.
That’s basically the Leafs and their fanbase in summary over the last month or so.
The organization is going to welcome at least one major building block in June, this much we know. There’s a great – possibly elite – player on the way in that top pick, but Shanahan and company will want to make sure they’re getting the absolute most out of it, and the picks beyond. And apparently they’re going above and beyond to maximize their chances of hitting a homerun or two.
Everything I’ve read or heard about Mark Hunter suggests he’s a rink rat; someone who wants to get an edge on every other scout by simply outworking them and clocking in as many viewings as possible. According to Zeisberger at The Sun, his level of commitment to watching games at the junior or college levels is unparalleled – keeping in mind we’re talking about the Leafs’ Director of Personnel here, not a scout at the lower levels trying to get ahead.
Just how many games has he watched?
“I started (with the Leafs) late, didn’t I? I think it was late October,” … “So, I’d have to say probably only about 200, if not a few less.”
My quick garbage math tells me there haven’t even been two-hundred days since Hunter’s hiring, so basically he’s been watching junior or college hockey every day since joining the Leafs. I wonder if he’s tired of stadium fries yet. Is it possible to eat too many stadium fries?
And Hunter isn’t the only one subsisting on deep-fried potato and bleacher gum.
“Kyle (Dubas) doesn’t get enough credit,” Hunter said. “He’s been all over the place watching games.”
No doubt the Leafs view this draft as the true kickoff of building a contending team, and they’re going to try and raid it. Dubas implied the same thing in a recent interview. It’s struck a chord through the fanbase as well. We talk draft constantly – I’m talking draft right now.
There’s no secret here, the Leafs are going wall-to-wall with preparation for bringing in talent, and I think it’s a testament to what Shanahan is creating. By dipping into the OHL ranks and pulling up the brightest minds, he’s given Dubas and Hunter a chance to create a contender in the Leafs, the largest franchise in hockey, in their home province no less. They’re new to the pros, but likely motivated beyond anyone else you could put in those chairs, and just as importantly, they’re smart.
There’s no entitlement here, no yelling about truculence and making headlines. For once, it feels like the Leafs are actually focusing on the process.