It's been a while since we've been in the playoffs. We're making strides and we have some things to look forward to but like most people, I want something now -- so I started making a list of the positives.
1) We didn't sign Jay Bouwmeester - I hope I'm not the only one that will have to shamefully admit that I was hoping against hope that the Leafs would land the smooth-skating defenseman. 3 goals, 26 assist and a -4. $6.68 Million just doesn't get you what it used to. The poor, poor Flames.
2) Kadri looks good. REAL good - Having seen him play in both Kitchener and London prior to last year's draft, I didn't love this guy. He was small enough to play on the Habs first line and he was a bit of a puck hog. The guy I really wanted was the guy the Oilers got in MPS. I actually broke my cell phone over this pick as I hurled it across my buddy's living room. Well, I'm an idiot and have a broken phone and I'm not ashamed to admit it.
3) We have assets - Heading into last offseason the only players we had that had any meaningful value were Kaberle and Schenn. While Schenn's perceived value around the league might have dropped, the other pieces we've added look a lot more appealing. As much as I do like Hagman and White, adding Phaneuf for what amounts to spare parts has to be considered a net gain in the asset department. Komisarek should bounce back nicely next season and be a legitimate top pairing defenseman. Kessel is probably the best goal-scorer we've had since Mogilny. Kadri has some legitimate value. Where Mr. Burke gets an A+ in my opinion is not necessarily the product we saw on the ice, but in the fact that he's been able to increase the team's asset base exponentially in one year.
4) The salary cap - Sure, we're paying our defense a lot of money. Sure, we're still paying Darcy Tucker. Sure, Giggy has us on the hook for a good chunk of change next season. But guess what? We don't have any real albatross contracts. I spoke earlier about the anchor that is Jay Bouwmeester -- well the Flames aren't alone in this. Horcoff, Drury, Briere, Gomez, Redden and the list goes on. There are a lot of teams that have a lot of money tied up in some very mediocre players. We've divested ourselves of Blake's final year at the expense of adding a more expensive year of Giguere (but hey, it's a thin free agent crop anyway). Our cap situation is pretty delicious if you ask me and provided we don't get Nash'd, we could be looking at a nice pickup or two in the 2011 free agency period.
5) We aren't Habs fans - Thank God for that!
6) Young free-agents want to play here - Bozak was heavily recruited. Gustavsson was heavily recruited. Rynnas was heavily recruited. They're all Leafs now. While it is unlikely that all of Burke's many college and overseas coups will pay dividends, we don't need them to. As our fearless GM has often noted, these are free assets, money for nothing, chicks for free. If any of them work out (and some of them seem like they already are) then we've just acquired a good young player and didn't even have to use so much as a late draft pick to acquire them. Toronto is a beautiful city and a hockey Mecca and people know it.
7) Kerry Fraser will never officiate another Leaf game again - I cannot overstate this fact. When we make the playoffs, I'll feel infinitely better knowing that someone who hasn't given themselves hairspray-induced-brain-damage will be responsible for deciding our fate. Let's just hope we don't piss off Stephane Auger...
So after a season of hockey that nobody could call anything better than an abject failure, where we don't have a first round draft pick and where the free agent crop leaves a great deal to be desired, there is still a lot to be thankful for and to look forward to. The Leafs are pointed in the right direction and we have the right man at the helm.