I also cannot say that I am too impressed with the Leafs 2016 draft class. They passed on a few high-quality players and selected overage players that may not have the highest ceilings. And yes, I am still bitter that they passed on Vitali Abramov. Twice, even!
Another thing I question is the Frederik Andersen trade. The move reflects a win-now mindset- one of the first of it’s kind in the Leafs organization left a lot of people wondering where the Leafs are headed next season.
I know I am not an optimist. After the last few years, can you blame me? The moves made under the leadership of Brendan Shanahan had me optimistic and excited about the future. However, these past few weeks have made me begin to question what the heck the Leafs are thinking.
We know that Toronto is a forward-thinking organization. They have reinforced this concept time and time again, beginning with the hiring of Kyle Dubas in 2014. Last year’s draft class and free agent signings reflected that of an analytical-minded organization. Many of their picks and signings were justified in the numbers. There were not a lot of questionable decisions made last summer, Jonathan Bernier’s contract extension aside.
It is July 3rd and I have already listed 4 questionable moves by the Leafs. The Anderson trade is potentially justifiable, especially by a team who needs a quality goaltender. Assuming that Jonathan Bernier is traded, the Leafs goaltending situation is slightly above, if not, average. The 2016 draft class could also maybe be justified. Maybe the Leafs see something in those players that the rest of us do not.
The free agent signings, on the other hand, are pretty bad. I’m sure many of you have seen Matt Martin’s numbers, and they are not pretty. For those of you who haven’t, take a look at the comparison below:
I chose David Clarkson as a comparable for my own amusement. Unless the Leafs paid a premium for shot suppression (… eek) or the average salary for a fringe third/fourth line player is 2.5 million dollars (it isn’t), this is not a good signing. I do understand that veterans/fringe players are needed for a team to function, but I would rather see those opportunities and minutes given to younger/developing players rather than overpaid vets.
If you have watched the Leafs over the past few years, you know that Roman Polak is not a good hockey player. Though the signing itself is not fantastic and Polak is not a great player, he will be playing for the Leafs next year. This takes away a roster spot from a young and potentially developing defenceman. Frankie Corrado did not see a lot of ice time this past season, and the Polak signing hints at a similar situation developing amongst Toronto’s defense core for the upcoming season.
SO WHAT HAS CHANGED?
Though there may be a few answers to this question, it is hard to fully place the blame on any one executive. Fans have been loving Lou Lamoriello, but as the team’s general manager, many of the club’s important decisions are linked back to him. We all know that Lamoriello has strict and strange rules. We also know that he is very insistent on getting players who he’s deemed as “his guy” (as seen in the Anderson trade). Did he see Martin and Polak as “his guys?”
I have also seen some blame fall upon Mike Babcock. Babcock has a tendency to play his veterans over his developing players; this may or may not be the reasoning behind the Polak signing. Again, it is so hard to speak to the decisions of this club when practically no information leaks to the media/fans. Everything I stated above is pure speculation.
*Drafts size over skill*
“Chill bro, it’s one move”
*Signs Matt Martin*
“Chill bro, it’s one move”
*Signs Roman Polak*
“Chill bro, it’s on
— Platinum Seat Ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits) July 2, 2016
As a fan, I am frustrated with the Leafs decisions in the past couple of weeks. I still truly do believe that the Leafs have the best prospect pool in the league. I have a lot of faith that Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and Mitch Marner will develop into NHL stars. The favouring of skill over grit/size is a philosophy that I strongly believe in. Toronto’s decisions of late do not reflect this sort of thinking- this is concerning only because it has been the downfall of many regimes before them. I don’t think the organizations mindset has shifted over the past month or so; that is an absurd conclusion that I have little basis in arriving at. I’m just hoping the Leafs’ recent decisions do not, in any way, dictate the direction they are heading in the future.