Why Trades Will Not Completely Fix The Leafs
What needs to be clarified is that I am not opposing trades as a way to try and improve the Leafs. They have tried to fix this team with trades and it has not quite worked out, but it has not been a complete desire. It all started with the trade for Phil Kessel. No one will disagree with the fact the Leafs got a great talent when they landed Kessel from the Bruins, but the price they paid to get him was not the right decision at that moment in time for the franchise.
May 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs forward Nazem Kadri (43) congratulates right wing Phil Kessel (81) after his goal in the third period against the Boston Bruins in game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at the Air Canada Centre. Toronto defeated Boston 2-1. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
Most people probably don’t remember, but there were rumours suggesting the Leafs were offered a trade from the Bruins at the 2009 NHL draft that would have sent Kessel to Toronto for Tomáš Kaberle and the Leafs first round pick (the seventh overall pick, which was used to select Nazem Kadri). The Leafs did not want to trade away a top pick and Kaberle at the time without getting a pick back from the Bruins. As most of you would remember, Kaberle was traded to the Bruins for Joe Colborne and a first round pick.
Jan 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) celebrates his goal in the first period with right wing Phil Kessel (81) against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
So imagine a Leafs team that would have had Kessel, no Kadri, and both first round picks in 2010 and 2011. An article that announced the Kessel trade actually talked about how Kessel was the big offensive player the Leafs needed (which is true). It was written that they already had promising rookies in Tyler Bozak, Viktor Stalberg, Kadri and Christian Hanson that would make the Leafs a better team moving forward. The impatient approach eventually backfired on the Leafs and cost them a chance to add legitimate building blocks. They thought a couple of players (minus Kadri) that had success at the college level would make this team more of a contender, but at least they still have Kessel with them.
Jan 9, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) shoots the puck against the Columbus Blue Jackets at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Then there is the Dion Phaneuf trade, which I believe was not a bad move when it happened. It addressed a need for the Leafs on defence, providing a tough veteran presence. What the Leafs failed to realize was that Phaneuf was not enough to get the Leafs defence to where it needed to be. To make matters worse, they decided to make him captain after only a short stint with the Leafs. Then they gave him a seven year extension which I think was premature, because the Leafs were afraid of losing Phaneuf for no return even though they got him for nothing.
Now most people are wondering how the Leafs can get rid of Phaneuf and his contract? I wonder if Calgary felt the same way when they traded him to the Leafs? You have to wonder why it was so easy for the Leafs to get Phaneuf for practically nothing, but all they can do right now is try to make it work until they can decide what course of action will be taken with Phaneuf. Like Kessel, Phaneuf has not been given much to work with, but if I am a player that is being paid seven million dollars and is the captain of the Leafs I would be trying to play at my highest level to motivate my teammates to play better.
Jan 7, 2015; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs assistant coach Steve Spott talks to defenseman Cody Franson (4) as defenseman Jake Gardiner (51) looks on during a change against the Washington Capitals at the Air Canada Centre. Washington defeated Toronto 6-2. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports
The trades that have worked out well for the Leafs were the ones that got rid of bad contracts and players that the previous GMs should not have acquired. Brian Burke was able to get rid of Vesa Toskala, Jason Blake, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan, Ian White, Lee Stempniak, and Brett Lebda just to name a few. The trades for Cody Franson, Jake Gardiner, Joffrey Lupul and James van Riemsdyk were all good trades for the Leafs and yet this team is still not a contender.