So we all thought the Toronto Maple Leafs organization decided to rebuild the team from the bottom by dumping heavy contracts and basically throwing the season to have the chance of picking Jonathan Tavares. Bryan McCabe, Mats Sundin, Kyle Wellwood, Darcy Tucker-the old guard of the Leafs has been replaced by Hagman, Grabovski, Finger, Van Ryn, Moore, and Schenn. The new look, younger Leafs are not supposed to be this good.
The problem now is, although still early in the season, but what if the Leafs continue to play like this throughout. Lets say they finish 9th, 10th, or maybe 8th and make the playoffs - is this really a success? The point of rebuilding is to throw your team in the gutters for a few season so you can mimic the Penguins and draft players like Crosby, Malkin, and Fleury. Finishing in the middle of the pack with a 10th or 15th pick is in essence slowing down the team and their rebuilding process. Do you really think Antropov, Grabovski, Van Ryn, and the current Leafs team have the players to build a franchise around? Next season they will continue with the mediocrity hence the cycle they have been trying to pull away from with the Sundin and McCabe era.
What can be Done:
Is there really a way to solve this problem? Ron Wilson has done a great job coaching and getting the most from the players and transforming them into a hardworking, in-your-face type of team. Its not like he can start telling the players to throw in the towel. Lets face it, this current team is not going to be on top of the Eastern Conference anytime soon, sooo... what now Toronto. Hard work can always win you some games, but maybe a little more than they wish and a little less than being an elite team. They are in a tough spot. This is neither rebuilding nor an attempt at a Stanley Cup, so being in the middle of the pack is the worst scenario for this organization.
I think there is two things the team can do.
1. Think this is a start of something good and start trading for players that will help the team. Players with potential that can also be built around with. Instead of taking the draft pick route, pickup good young players and sign franchise players in the off-season and speed up the rebuilding process. The team has an identity now, so build around the identity instead of players.
2. Continue with the original plan of draft picks and start dumping players whos stock has risen from the beginning of the season. Antropov, Ponikarovsky, Kubina, and get some draft picks. Literally throw the season away and load up on draft picks.
The mediocrity of the Leafs Oranization has been a constant for too long. We are seeing the old leafs in the team this year just with new players, new coach, and a new playing style. The expectation has been lowered so it seems all good and rosy now, but if looking into the future, this is the worst case scenario for the organization. Something has to be done soon, or the Stanley Cup drought will continue in Toronto for another 40 years.