Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hate to Admit It

It is well documented that I hate the Toronto Maple Leafs. If you have ever talked to me you know how much I love watching them lose and how happy it makes me to watch them come in 9th every year and miss the playoffs by 1 point. One of the greatest sports moments of my life was watching Wade Dubielewicz throw down the poke check against the New Jersey Devils in the shoot out to stop the Leafs from making the playoffs in 2007.

Having said all that I am forced today to write that the Toronto Maple Leafs have had one of the best off seasons for any sports team in recent memory.

The Leafs have gone from a joke franchise with a roster that couldn't challenge for an AHL championship to a legit team with some serious weapons and a great front office.

The key to the Leafs success has been the addition of Brian Burke. Burke is a man who knows how to win and knows how to build a team. With his arrival he brought not only experience but also a culture of accountability which is something the Leafs lacked. He is an open and honest man and he doesn't sugarcoat anything. He told the media that the team wouldn't turn around and challenge for a Stanley Cup overnight but that it would be a process.

So far that process has started off very well. He started off by getting rid of a bunch of dusty players who were taking up cap space and were a waste of lockers. Darcy Tucker = gone. Andrew Raycroft...beat it. Nik Antropov = piss off to New York you slow ass scrub. He also traded perennial stiff Pavel Kubina to Atlanta and massive bust Justin Pogge to the Ducks.

After dumping some of the no talent stiffs on the team Burke set about rebuilding the Leafs from the blue line. His goal was to add some toughness to a team that sorely needed it as only rookie Luke Schenn would step in and defend his teammates.

In order to accomplish this Burke trade for Garnett Exelby and signed Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin as free agents. This means that the Leafs now have one of the best defensive units in the NHL and will be a much more physical team to play against. Unfortunately though you can't win games with penalty minutes so Burke needed to do something about the offensive problem.

Well today that problem was solved. The Leafs traded their 2010 and 2011 1st round draft picks plus a 2010 2nd round pick for Phil Kessel. Kessel is a true sniper who can put the puck in the net from anywhere. Last year he led the Bruins in scoring with 36 goals in only 70 games. It also doesn't hurt that he is only 21.

Burke also fixed the offense problem through the draft as the Leafs picked Nazem Kadri who can step in and produce right away. He also signed a couple of former college players in Christian Hanson from Notre Dame and Tyler Bozak from the University of Denver. These two may not work out in the end but they were cheap and have huge upside.

Lastly there was the problem with goaltending. Ever since the salary cap was introduced the Leafs have had shitty goaltending. I don't care what anyone says Vesa Toskala sucks. In an attempt to fix this issue Burke went out and signed highly-touted Swedish goalie Jonas Gustavsson aka The Monster. Gustavsson could be the long term solution to the Leafs goalie woes and could provide much needed stability at the position.

All of these moves make this offseason one of the most impressive in recent memory. The Toronto Maple Leafs as an organization have solved so many problems and now can move forward. They have a great GM who has built a pretty solid team with little resources and will continue to build going forward. So as much as I hate to admit it the Leafs have done well and are no longer a joke.

After writing this I now need to go take a shower because I feel so dirty.

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