Time for Turnover in T.O.

It may be the middle of winter, but in Toronto the Leafs continue to fall.  Dropping six straight and coming out of the All-Star break ten points out of a playoff spot has many wondering what to do with the Buds before the impeding trade deadline.  Now that interim coach Peter Horachek has gone 1-7, the worst start for a Leaf coach since Tom Watt in 1990, it’s clear that the onus must be put on the players.

Many of these Leafs are now on their third coach and the results are still the same.  The only chance Toronto has to get the franchise back on track is to start unloading some of their core players, namely those with the longest term contracts.  This won’t be easy but it needs to be done.  Phil Kessel is tied up for eight more years at $8 million per.  As the highest paid player on the team he should be the most valuable, but few would argue that he is, especially after his scoreless drought in the Leafs’ new defensive minded system.  With the cap failing to move up like most of the hockey world expected (mostly due to the slumping Canadian dollar), Kessel’s contract has become an anchor — an anchor that no organization can have linked to such a one-dimensional player.

Now it may seem difficult to see a situation in which another team would want Kessel.  But all it takes is one team.  An injury to a top scorer may force the hand of another General Manager poised to make a run at the cup.  Plus the ability to take back some of the contract, under the new CBA, may make a player like Kessel easier to move than in previous years.

The Maple Leafs second biggest contract lies with Captain Dion Phaneuf at $49 million for the next seven years.  Phaneuf has been a heart and soul, grinding hockey player in his time with Toronto, eating up more than twenty minutes of ice-time a game.  But unless he can combine that with the goals he put up in his first two NHL seasons, he’s way overpaid and needs to go.

Again, it’s no easy task.  A desperate trading partner is the only way to move such an albatross in the next five weeks.  If a move can’t be made before then, it must be made in the off-season.  One may wonder, “What can the Buds get back?”  Probably nothing.  But for a team that’s bombing out of the playoffs and still right against the cap limit, the best trade may simply be cap relief.

David Clarkson is another player who was simply overvalued.  He’s locked in till 2020 at $5.25 million a season.  He was brought in to be a scrapper and a scorer.  Although he’s done his best to spark his team, fighting several times over this 6-game skid, his 15 goals in 100 games as a Leaf simply do not justify the deal.  Perhaps a team that needs to reach the cap floor could use such a contract.  Someone get Florida’s Dale Tallon on the phone.

Unloading these players may not give the Leafs much value in return.  I’m well aware of that.  But I’d rather see them get less value and end up right at the bottom of the standings.  This will give them a much better chance to start a rebuild than this cap-squeezed squad.  A franchise that perennially finishes just outside the playoffs, unable to improve through the draft and unable to fit better free agents in under the cap.  Until they bottom out, the Leafs will forever be trapped in hockey purgatory.


Rodney Hiemstra


2 comments on “Time for Turnover in T.O.
  1. James says:

    Dave Nonis needs to go before any of this is done.

  2. Profile photo of Rodney Hiemstra Rodney Hiemstra says:

    I agree. That’s why he’s in the pic too. He’s Shanahan’s last bullet. New Assistant GMs and now all the coaches have been turned over as well. Nonis is the next to go.

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