The Curtain Comes Down
As expected, the final 24 hours of NHL trading did include a couple of dozen trades, and as expected Cliff Fletcher couldn't pull a rabbit out of a hat. Asking him to do so after just over a month on the job was a MLSE fantasy, of course, but it does make you wonder whether John Ferguson, with more preparation time, could have done more.
Instead, the Leafs still have their five no-trade heroes - Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina, Bryan McCabe and Tomas Kaberle - and have failed to use the trade deadline to significantly advance their rebuilding needs.
"One thing I can assure you is that the face of the Maple Leaf hockey team will be different come October," said Fletcher.
Hal Gill got the Leafs Pittsburgh's second rounder, which could be helpful. Dumping Wade Belak and Chad Kilger for middle-round picks probably isn't going to mean much, but you never know.
All of this is nothing, however, that couldn't have been done without Fletcher. The notion that he could somehow recreate the magic of the Doug Gilmour trade for this franchise 16 years after the fact was foolish at best, but that's what the MLSE board tried to sell the public, and now those same board members look foolish again.
It's sad, really, to see such a prominent franchise reduced to playing on the periphery while teams like San Jose, Pittsburgh and Dallas take centre stage. The Pens deal for Marian Hossa, stealing him from under the noses of the Montreal Canadiens, while the Sharks landed Brian Campbell and the Stars added Brad Richards.
The Leafs, meanwhile, added four draft picks - and not high ones - and are remained wedded to players they clearly would like to be rid of, like Kubina, Tucker and McCabe. Fletcher had no bold moves to make, and so made three easy, simple ones. He did say one of his Untradeable Five initially agreed to a trade before the Leafs' game against Ottawa on Monday, then changed his mind after the game.
"We weren't skating in the same arena as some other teams," said Fletcher. "We're happy with the results of the day based on going in knowing the situation of all our players."
"This is just the first step of the process," said Fletcher. "I did not think we could do more."