I apologize for the finance term, but it must be asked. Everyone I have talked to, and especially the media have always believed in rebuilding through the draft. I respect that. It is a great method. Look at Pittsburgh, Washington, Detroit and Chicago. The problem I have is that it is not the only method. It is the safest because if your team does not make good picks you get better draft positions. However, there are other methods. For instance Brian Burke's been trying to build by adding good players whenever the opportunity presents itself.
Phil Kessel for two first round picks and a second rounder for instance. That one is debated as the worst move Burke made. I originally wondered why we did not have a first rounder top three protected so that we would give up later first rounders. However Kessel is a legitimate franchise stud so it seemed okay at the time. However the fact that a first rounder turned out to be Tyler Seguin is a bit worrying. Who won that trade? Probably Boston. Now leave it alone.
Now adding players here and there will not always work out great. But look at the Versteeg trade: a solid prospect in DiDomenico, an okay player in Stalberg and a throw away player in Philippe Paradis. That's what we gave up for Versteeg. That's it! It has worked out badly so far because Versteeg has struggled but Burke has added a solid roster player for potential. And Versteeg won't struggle forever.
Now for the elephant in the room. The Dion Phaneuf trade. My god what a trade. It was at that moment I stopped believing that Burke could possibly fail. My leg was broken at the time so I was firmly planted in front of the computer. I waited what felt like an eternity for the link to work. Then I went to TSN and it said due to technical difficulties the announcement will not be made for another hour. However, the Leafs have acquired Dion Phaneuf. My first reaction was not another defenceman! My second reaction was "WAIT A MINUTE! DION PHANEUF?! THE NORRIS TROPHY CANDIDATE?" I was elated.
Sorry I had to do that background story to explain this. Now the trade was Matt Stajan, Jamal Mayers, Ian White, and Niklas Hagman for DION PHANEUF!, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie. A steal. One of the best defenceman in the NHL for spare parts. There is nobody who can say the Leafs did not win this trade. Phaneuf was huge for Toronto, as was Sjostrom, Hagman became a shell of his former self, and only White really performed for Calgary. Now there is no way this deal gets done if Burke is too busy building through the draft. He actually told Sutter before the season that he wanted Phaneuf. They spent an entire week negotiating this deal.
The second trade was JS Giguere for Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala. That's like trading in your old wife and mother-in-law for a Playboy Cover Girl. Forget the first round pick that was not discussed. Although at that time Philadelphia's pick was so high they would only have dealt their own. And their own pick would have gotten us Cam Fowler! Regardless we got rid of the garbage. Blake has been terrible and Toskala was tossed out. But Giguere was one hell of an acquisition. Overpriced yes but a solid goaltender to help mentor the Monster.
He added Mike Komisarek who has been playing solid shut down minutes. Sure he may not be doing amazing but he is not too overpaid. He would probably fetch at least $4 million in the open market. As for Beauchemin he was a short term deal and was a solid acquisition that is playing the most minutes on the entire team. Not bad for a $3.8 million defenceman.
Now for the Colton Orr signing, I loved it. Paid to be a goonda (Bengali for thug). Only $1 million, a true bottom six forward. Then we acquired Mike Brown to complement him, and let's face it, there is nothing better we could possibly get for a fifth rounder. As for Colby Armstrong, remember Versteeg was paid over $3 million to be on the Blackhawks' third line, so no reason Colby can't be the same.
The best part of Burke were the college free agents he signed. Jussi Rynas, Tyler Bozak, Christian Hanson. Just to name a few. It has made our prospects one of the deepest in the league. And of course Gustavsson was a huge injection of talent to our prospect list.
So by ignoring the draft (gotta love Fletcher's "Draft Schmaft" comment) and focusing more on these areas the Leafs are trying to rebuild faster. Whether or not it works I think it is a legitimate tactic and the media has to stop being so scared that this technique will not work.
To be fair I don't think the media is really scared. Its just fear sells better than anything else. Psychologically we are twice as affected by negative things as positive things. That's why the front page of newspapers always have bad news, and the front page of newspapers will always have the Toronto Maple Leafs on it.