The Leafs selected Frederik Gauthier 21st overall in the draft this summer. But, basically the draft marked the starting point of a lineup shake-up, and the 2013 draft will essentially be remembered as the Dave Bolland acquisition day, that kicked off the Leafs personnel tweaking this off-season.
Here's what I think the Leafs could have done differently:
First off, I am no scout, but, while Gauthier may be an intriguing player, let's face the truth, he'll probably never be anything better than a 3rd liner in the NHL, if he makes it all. He seems to be another one of those guys who was drafted because of his 'size.' Which, unfortunately isn't always a translation into legitimate NHL player.
So, what could the Leafs had done differently?
First off, if the Leafs were settling on low picks in the 1st round(instead of trading up) who are probably going to be bottom 6 players, the two guys they should have looked more strongly at were USNTDP products. Ryan Hartman and JT Compher. I'd argue given their projections, will most likely become more effective players than Gauthier.
Hartman seems to be that agitating pain-in-the-ass player you hate to play against. Kind of like Brad Marchand or Patrick Kaleta. Coincidentally, he's also the last player the in the 1st round the Stanley Cup winning Chicago Blackhawks chose with their selection, as their eventual Dave Bolland replacement. Given the Hawks brain-trust in ability to find good talent, I find it hard to argue with their selection. They were probably elated to see him fall right into their lap.
As for Compher, most reports had him being a potential first round pick. He is also a yapper, and didn't shy from physical play. But, also had good offensive speed and skill to match his mouth, and more than anything else was frequently described as clutch.
The Leafs for years have been tormented by the likes of various Philadelphia Flyers players, Boston Bruins players, and other occasional bewbs like Brad Marchand, and Patrick Kaleta, or some s--- disturber from another franchises(the Sens come to mind). Upon Darcy Tucker's buy-out, the Leafs lacked that element of agitating, get under your skin/distractional/why-I-oughta kind of players.
Rather than get guys who can both play and agitate, Carlyle seems plenty happy with guys like Colton Orr and Fraser McClaren eating up redundant roster spots on the same line, playing the same role. While, taking away roster depth. It's a Carlyle way that continually has Leafs fans scratching their heads about.
By retaining McClaren and not bringing back Komarov, the Leafs lost their only agitator. Also lost the guy who led the team in hits, and could do other stuff (shh don't tell Randy he block shots too).
Wouldn't the Leafs have been better off trading down with Chicago or some other franchise to secure Hartman? Then with the additional picks secured, they should have moved up in the 2nd round to select Compher. This would have expanded the Leafs prospect pool depth at forward somewhat. If Gauthier becomes a flop prospect, who might be a third liner the Leafs would have essentially divested the club's future services with two eggs, instead just on one. Who knows how the rest of the 2013 Leafs draft will become, but until I'm proven wrong, I'm not seeing guys who are future NHLers who were latter Leafs draft choices.
As far as trading for Dave Bolland, that remains somewhat of a mystery move. He's an effective agitator, but is somewhat of a risk move. He's also been injury-prone, and, you'd think the Leafs would have known better than to accept more expensive contracts with guys who are 'tough' but are injury-prone(Colby Armstrong comes to mind). Making matters worse, he's also a UFA next season, and the Leafs have too many UFA's to re-sign that summer. Figuring out who's going to be traded, brought-back or walks, is impossible at this point, but seeing them all retained doesn't seem likely.
I propose to you, let's say the Leafs still traded for Bernier. Essentially it added $2.9 mil to the cap, which of course complicates the roster signings of Franson and Kadri.
The Bolland hit also added an additional $3.3 hit.
If the Grabovski buy-out was inevitable, then fine. Let's say the Clarkson signing was also going to happen.
Let's say the Leafs didn't add Bolland, and had drafted Compher and Hartman. MacArthur still walked.
The Fraser, Colborne, Bozak, and Ranger signings were the same. The Komisarek buy-out remained.
Let's say you can get both players for $3.5/each, Franson probably on a 1 year deal, and Kadri on a two-year deal. That leaves the Leafs with $1 million to spend on anyone else they wanted.
Komarov got limited action last season kind of being lost in the depth charts. Wouldn't have been smarter to simply bring him back? Give him guaranteed 3rd line minutes? What could it hurt? He probably still could have been had for under $1 mil.
If Komarov to the KHL was inevitable, why didn't the Leafs just promote Jay McClement to the 3rd line? McClement still scored 17 points in 48 games last season spending a good chunk of it on the 4th line, with occasional 3rd line time. Which, all things considered is pretty good, when he spent the majority of his time Colton Orr and Fraser McClaren.
If Komarov didn't return the Leafs could have done a couple of things:
1) Give Joe Colborne time. Granted, he'll probably never find much stability with Orr and McClaren, but ice time is ice time.
2) Target Jeff Halpern as the 4th line center. Halpern put up decent enough quality minutes in Montreal. He'd probably sign for around $1 million
Boucher report has good tracking numbers on them, check him out: http://www.boucherscouting.com/2013/06/2012-13-jeff-halpern-scouting-report.html
So essentially we'd see a picture like this:
I think I could live with that roster.
Compher, Hartman added in the system, instead of just Gauthier. No Dave Bolland risk factor(contract add/injury bug worries).
Of course, given the club's recent direction, they've been adding mostly Canadian players rather than American-born ones. Although, Compher, Hartman, and Halpern happen to be Stars and Stripes guys. You can thank the removal of Brian Burke and Don Cherry criticism for that.
Instead the Leafs will probably in the future have to play against Compher and, Kaleta.