Hello All! First, what this post is not. It is not about firing RW and it is not about Burke dismantling the team(just yet.)
This is about the Burkian philosophy of NHL teams. 6 forwards with the talent, 6 plumbers, 4 defencemen bearing most of the work load, 2 guys who will do the dirty work. Obviously, it is not as cut and dried as that as you need to have some guys who can step up to that top 6 role on occasion, but lets be honest:
The Leafs don't have that. The Leafs are a team full of third liners and borderline 2nd liners(Kessel excluded.) We have some major issues and our current roster and future prospects don't lend themselves to Brian Burke's model.
I have always been a cautiously optimistic, but realistic Leaf fan. The hiring of Brian Burke went a long way in making me feel better about the direction in which this team is going. Unfortunately it looks like he will have to spend the better part of 2-3 seasons reworking what he had in order to build something close to a contender.
Most of us expected this year to be a transition year. Burke obviously wants to see how his team shakes out. The 09-10 season is an experiment to determine a few things.
1. Who is earning a spot on this team? This includes FA's at the end of this year and players still under contract.
2. Players defining their roles: What is their potential? Scorers, play-makers, shutdown players, etc...
3. Development: Which players have the potential to have their roles increased/decreased.
I am not going to rehash our organizational depth (mostly because I spent an hour doing just that on this post until the site blew up in my face and the so-called autosave function failed miserably) so you will have to look it up yourself. Most of you know full well what it is like anyway.
How many players do we have that are legitimate first liners, second liners? Which of our prospects/young players have the ability to develop to that level? How long will that take?
Let's face the facts here. With what we have right now and going forward, how long is it going to be until we can ice a Stanley Cup competitor?
To fulfill Burke's vision he will need to be aggressive in the FA market - but that depends on if there will be enough quality players making it to market this year and next year.
Also, we are going to have to start dealing some players that don't fit into the future of the club.
If we don't re-sign any FA's and re-sign our RFA's, this is what our lineup will look like without any new FA's for next year:
Blake Kadri Kessel
Hagman Grabovski Kulemin
Stålberg/Tlusty Bozak Hanson
Rosehill Mitchell Orr
In a year's time, will this team be that much better/worse than what we have now? Sure there is a ton of potential, but minimal experience. If we re-sign some guys, how much better would our team be(if at all)? Also, if we go with these young guys then we essentially wasted this year with the guys we decided not to bring back.
We can't predict how these players will develop and how long it will take them to get there.
Yes we still have the better part of this year to see how our current roster does, but that does not bode well for our ability to compete for a playoff spot next year.
Simply put, Who will be our go-to forwards? How many Ponikarovskys, Kulemins, Blakes, Stajans, Stempniaks do you need on your team? One or two of these guys on your second line might be acceptable, but to have the better part of your top two lines be these guys is ridiculous. The potential of these guys have either been reached or nearly reached and that's just not good enough.
Sure, guys like Grabovski, Tlusty, Kadri and the College kids still have room to grow but expecting these guys to step in next year and take the reins as a big part of the top two lines is a serious mistake.
What the hell is our top two lines going to look like next year, and how can we expect to compete with what we have?
I am not too worried about our Defence. The jury is still out on Gustavsson, but I have high hopes. Some of our forwards have potential to be great, but potential really means nothing until it is realized. I look at this team and I can't see them being good enough 3 years from now because they won't all blossom into really good NHL players.
Do I have a right to be worried? Comments are very much appreciated, maybe you guys can assure me with logic and words of insight and wisdom