I bet you didn’t know Brian Burke was a basketball man. In roundball there’s an old axiom that 'you can’t teach tall', and Burkie seems to believe it. Looking at the players the Leafs are acquiring, one buzz phrase which springs to mind is “projectionable frame”. It is clear the braintrust is picking up players with at least at least one big league asset to their credit. For many of those players, it’s simply genetics – what are they going to look like at 25? If you got length, you can build strength. A quick survey says that the Leafs have over 20 players in the system listed at 6’2 or better, and 18 of those are 6’3 or better. Now that’s trending upward.
Speaking of trending upward, everybody who has played this game has gone into a match awed by some opponent or other, only to discover the hype is over rated – that the big guy was clumsy, or the longhaired dangler was just a lazy cherry picker, or that the other team’s great go to guy was somehow humanly flawed despite genetics and a burgeoning reputation. So does all this size matter? What shape is the farm system in?
Without going into analysis I think the roster has 17 players in the system who should have a very good chance at developing into good NHLers, and a half dozen of those are players who could or should develop into impact players (top six, top four, or a starting goalie). Will all of those players make it? No. What it does mean, however, is that when Colby Armstrong goes down, Darryl Boyce slides over and Nazem Kadri comes up. A strong system will be able to do that every year. In March of 2012, if Kessel goes down, Kadri moves up and Colbourne gets promoted - or Brayden Irwin, or Luca Caputi. Maybe we lose a little, but the team has the depth to continue to compete.
Another way organizational depth helps is that if you have a good system, and you really truly want Matt Stajan, you have the latitude to throw a Keith Aulie into the trade mix, just to make sure you get the deal done. So maybe in June, if somebody on Big Blue is trying to pry loose a Statsny, then maybe a Simon Gysbers or a Gregg McKegg is enough of a carrot to tilt the deal. You never know – Wilf Paiement, anyone?