Normally when the Toronto Star publishes something about the Maple Leafs that is completely terrible (every couple days or so), I just ignore it. There's not enough time in the world to deal with what they pass off as hockey insight, and Dave Feschuk is particularly clueless.
But this article was simply too stupid to let slide, and it leads to a very serious point about the logic of team-building; a point that should be stapled to every Toronto journalist's forehead, so that when they glad-hand each other for writing the latest piece of shit about the Toronto Maple Leafs, they get reminded that what they want to write is a blatantly stupid idea.
Here is a to the piece, but for you own safety I'm going to recommend that you save yourself the time and just pour thumbtacks into your eyeballs.
making big changes to the Toronto roster, with the NHL salary cap shrinking from around $70 million (all figures U.S.) to about $64 million, will require bold vision and savvy manoeuvring that many fans might consider sacrilege
Feschuk's point is well taken. The Leafs are a team that has holes and needs improvement to move up a level in the league's pecking order, and with a shrinking cap that's going to be harder. In fact, except for a really bad Phil Kessel joke, we're seven paragraphs in and I don't hate myself for reading this.
Example: There’d be no better time to trade Kessel
Why would Kessel be a smart chip to cash in? He’s a perimeter-hugging winger in a net-front league
Goaltenders and defences are getting better at stopping shots and forcing shots to come from less dangerous areas of the offensive zone. The Leafs have a winger with a lethal wrist shot who can create scoring chances from those areas. Feschuk wants to trade Kessel so we can have a bunch of guys that can stand around the front of the net, waiting for shots that will never come because we traded the guy that could get the shots off from anywhere.
playing for a team that will need to give up something of value to land its long-sought No. 1 centre
Not only is Mikhail Grabovski perfectly capable of playing against other teams top lines, he can score against them when he doesn't have Colton Orr on his wing. We also have Nazem Kadri, who isn't ready for that role, but a Grabovski/Kadri duo is a better option than anything involving Tyler Bozak and/or sending assets like Kessel out the door to get a brand-name #1 centre.
Also, apparently Dave Feschuk missed the entire Mats Sundin era when the number one need was a scoring winger to play with him. Trading Kessel for a centre goes right back to that.
Given the local wont to buy high and bail low, it’d be a welcome change for a Toronto GM to recoup a decent haul on an investment as costly as Kessel.
This is why we wanted to trade pending UFA Tyler Bozak, not Phil Kessel.
The Leafs are also certain to be among the suitors of David Clarkson, the impending unrestricted free agent with the New Jersey Devils. That Clarkson is Toronto-born and media-savvy doesn’t matter as much that he plays the wing with a Bruins-worthy heaviness
Phil Kessel had 4 goals and 6 points in the playoffs agasinst Boston. The most points Clarkson has ever scored in a single playoff round was 5 against a dog-shit Florida team.
Once, in 2011-12. He was on pace for 25 goals this year, and is 28 years old. The odds of him doing it again aren't great. Kessel already has 4 30-goal seasons and was on pace for 24 this season (which would have been his 5th). He's 25 so probably has, at worst, 2 more 30-goal seasons in him. I can't imagine how furious I'd be if the Leafs traded Phil Kessel so they could sign David "I'm basically Nik Kulemin but from Toronto" Clarkson.
Toronto, with a defensive corps that also needs help, needs more high-end talent at low prices, which is why moving up in a deep draft on June 30 would make sense
Moving up costs more draft picks, or Jake Gardiner according to the other half of the Toronto Star's Dynamic Duo of Derp. Giving up assets means that the high-end talent actually has a higher end price. Also; what's an 18-year old going to do for the Leafs next season, other than ensure that they have column fodder a year or so down the line, when they can talk about how the Leafs predictably ruined another prospect.
This is a good point, and one of the things I hope Nonis does do this offseason. He doesn't need to trade Phil Kessel to do it.
Change, for the Leafs, needs to be in the offing. Falling in love with a team that was a first-round out would be a mistake.
Note that nowhere in this piece did Feschuk do any of the following;
- Outline what the Leafs should be seeking in return for their elite sniper, to make the team better
- Provide any sort of example of another team doing this and having sucess as a result of it
- Explain how he intended to make the team better after he traded away its leading scorer
Getting an appropriate return for Phil Kessel is nigh impossible. Not because of trying to recover fair value after what the Leafs paid to get him but because teams don't trade 25 year old scorers coming off consecutive point-per-game seasons. Every other team tries to build around these types of players because they are so rare. Toronto's media wants them to trade them.
The reason Feschuk couldn't point to a historical example of his plan being a good idea is becaue there is no historical precedent of trading an elite skilled player being anything but a horrible idea.
Just in recent years, Dallas traded James Neal, Columbus traded Jeff Carter, Philadelphia traded Mike Richards AND Jeff Carter, Atlanta traded Marian Hossa, Florida traded Nathan Horton, and the list goes on. All of the trades above, involved some sort of combination of future promise or inferior players. Philadelphia came to the closest to recovering value from its trades, but Brayden Schenn and Sean Couturier were the focal points of those deals and it's too soon to say what they'll be. Everyone else got demonstrably worse after trading away a skilled scorer.
In the Leafs own history, they've acquired two of their modern era's best players this way, first trading a bunch of bodies for Doug Gilmour, and then getting Quebec to take a declining Wendel Clark in exchange for Mats Sundin.
In fact, the only time this sort of thing ever works is when teams trade a skilled player in exchange for another skilled player. Hossa for Dany Heatley, for example. In this case, it doesn't really address the need Feschuk talks about. Trading Kessel for another superstar is ideal, but extremely hard and still leaves a hole in the lineup.
Most importantly, consider the four teams still playing. Include San Jose and Detroit, two long-successful franchises that came up just short in the second round. Do any of these teams trade away their elite skilled players? Ever? Of course not. You'd never see Chicago trade Patrick Kane or Patrick Sharp, or Pittsburgh trade Evgeni Malkin, or LA trade Dustin Brown or Anze Kopitar, or Boston trade David Krejci.
Chicago is probably the only one you could argue traded skill players, but that was due to their cap situation. The players they ended up trading - Versteeg, Ladd, Byfuglien - were secondary players, playing on their third line when the Hawks won the Cup. They were replacable, and as Chicago's proven, they did in fact replace them.
These teams are good and stay good because they understand the cardinal rule of building a good team; get good players, and keep good players
Skill comes in many forms, but if you have somebody that is capable of providing offence at a high level in the NHL, you keep them no matter the cost. Everyone else is replacable.
Phil Kessel plays a perimeter game because his skillset (his shot, his skating, his acceleratoin, and yes, his passing) makes him a dangerous threat from there. You don't trade that because he doesn't fit some ideal version of a hockey player; you complement that with other skilled players.
How do these guys plan for the Maple Leafs to get better when the media frequently and obsessively tries to run their best players out of town?
List of players the Toronto Star thinks the Leafs should trade: Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner.— birky (@b1rky) June 7, 2013
List of players the Star thinks the Leafs should acquire: S Monahan, D Clarkson, one of M Smith, Luongo, or Tim Thomas— birky (@b1rky) June 7, 2013
Consider the proverbial bar raised along with the expectations of Leafs Nation.
I wish this applied to Toronto's hockey media as well.