The Future, Always a Slippery Notion
|Luke Schenn impresses as a rookie.|
Ah, it's always fascinating to watch the Maple Leafs "build."
We're into, what, the sixth or seventh rebuilding phase since the '67 Cup triumph, and sometimes there's been the patience to at least try and do it right, and sometimes not.
Jim Gregory tried to do it right in 1970s until Punch Imlach tore it all down again.
In the 1980s, there was an attempt to draft high, keep the
kids and let them develop, but the organization and owner Harold Ballard were too unstable and it didn't work.
Now they say they're doing it again. But how much patience is there to do it right?
Clearly, Luke Schenn is a young blueline gem, perhaps the most impressive Leaf top draft pick to come along and show this well in his first Leaf camp since Wendel Clark in '85.
And he should still go back to junior if the Leafs want to do this right. But you can sense a little wavering on the part of the Leafs, a little wondering about, well, what if we keep the kid for just a while? You know, five or six games? What's the potential damage from that?
Anybody who believes that should go back and review the Luke Richardson saga. Similar stories, not the outcome the Leafs wanted.
Then comes a published report this morning that suggests the Leafs were willing to trade their 2009 first rounder on a conditional basis and a couple of prospects to Anaheim for Mathieu Schneider and youngster Bobby Ryan.
It's an interesting tidbit since Anaheim GM Brian Burke did say last week that he had such an offer, but didn't identify the team. He also acknowledged, however, that because of all the rumours swirling about his possible future in Toronto, the Leafs were a team with which he likely would not deal this season.
Given the nature of the deal, a salary cap swap involving huge futures, it would have been complicated and controversial if such a transaction had gone down between the Leafs and Ducks.
Gary Bettman would not be pleased.
But if the deal was out there, what does that say about Cliff Fletcher and his group? That they can't sit back and let the draft-and-develop process move along, but are already trying to accelerate it by moving first-round picks for players, although the '09 first rounder would certainly have been protected if it turned out to be a top five pick.
I've often suggested the Leafs need to declare a five-year moratorium on trading first-round picks just to let the situation stabilize. But they traded away their '07 pick, and this story suggests they're already looking to move the '09 pick.
It fits with the public pronouncements of chairman Larry Tanenbaum that being competitive every year, not just winning a Stanley Cup, is the goal.
Yes, it's always fascinating to watch the Leafs build.(Ed. Note: Perhaps I didn't explain myself well enough, although by the comments today, its worth saying it is always amazing to see how willing many Leaf fans are to drink the koolaid and believe that this time the Leafs will build properly, even when its the same people who screwed it up before. To clarify, I have no problem with Bobby Ryan as a solid young prospect. Indeed, in this blog, you'll see above no criticism of Ryan whatsoever. But people will twist things how they want. When I questioned the wisdom of trading draft picks to move up and take Luke Schenn in June, some took that to mean I was ripping Schenn. People will take things the way they want to take things, and I accept. When it comes to this rumoured trade, here's the point, and why, if the Leafs were to try and make this kind of transaction, it amounts to trying to aggressively accelerate the rebuilding process rather than let the process proceed more gradually over time. Ryan, according to the current CBA, will now be a restricted free agent in 2010 - and possibly set for a significant salary hike - and an unrestricted free agent in 2014, just six years from now. Drafting high next June, meanwhile, means that the player the Leafs get wouldn't be restricted until 2012 at the earliest, and if the CBA remains unchanged, wouldn't be unrestricted until 2018, a full decade from now. If you make that move, you're trying to get better faster and get back to the playoffs faster. Waiting to draft next year, and the year after that, without trading them away in other deals, requires the kind of patience the Leafs seem never to have. That's the point. Hope you got it this time.)