Toronto Maple Leafs: Time to Feast on the Boston Bruins


Toronto Maple Leafs: Time to Feast on the Boston Bruins

[Update: the Boston Bruins have since traded Jones to the San Jose Sharks for a first-round pick in next year’s draft and prospect Sean Kuraly.]

Despite the arrival of Mike Babcock as head coach and a renewed commitment to excellence from management, I don’t have high expectations for the Toronto Maple Leafs heading into next season.

Dec 16, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) talks to right wing Phil Kessel (81) during a break in the action against the Anaheim Ducks at Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Ducks 6-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

For one, it’s not clear who’ll be adorning the Blue and White by the time October finally hits. Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel could very easily still find themselves members of the Leafs or they could just as easily be playing somewhere else – the simple truth is that no one really knows what’ll happen to these two players. Beyond that (but related to it), the Leafs have done little to fix a broken “core” that saw them finish among the basement dwellers of the NHL for the past two seasons. (It’s never good to sit just ahead of the Buffalo Sabres in the standings.)

It’s not all bad news, however. What I do expect for next season is a real opportunity to rub salt into the self-inflicted wounds of the Boston Bruins – the same team that has constantly tormented and embarrassed the Leafs in the post-lockout, “new” NHL era.

Now it’s time to turn the tables.

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What precipitated this bizarre change of events? For reasons I don’t even pretend to understand, the Bruins off-loaded a maximum of talent (and size) on draft day, garnering minimum return in the process.

Gone is Dougie Hamilton, traded to the Calgary Flames for the 15th, 45th and 52nd overall picks in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft.

Gone is Milan Lucic, traded to the Los Angeles Kings for goaltender Martin Jones, defenceman Colin Miller and the 13th overall pick in last Friday’s draft.

Gone is Carl Soderberg, traded to the Colorado Avalanche for a six-round pick in the 2016 draft.

(Gone are the Bruins?)

March 7, 2013; Boston, MA USA; Toronto Maple Leafs right wing Phil Kessel (81) looks to make a pass while being pressured by Boston Bruins center Tyler Seguin (19) during the first period at TD Garden. Mandatory Credit: Bob DeChiara-USA TODAY Sports

You can add Andrew Ference, Johnny Boychuk and Tyler Seguin – all members of the 2011 Bruins squad that won the Stanley Cup – to this list of names. These players left at earlier times, but their departures speak to the gradual erosion of Boston’s once formidable roster.

The decision to trade Hamilton is especially odd since he’s the type of young defenceman who can anchor the blue line for years to come. Zdeno Chara, in contrast, ‎is entering the twilight of his career and clearly isn’t the solution moving forward. Age and ungodly size may be finally catching up to Chara as quicker and more skilled forwards slip by him with increasing ease.

(May be the Bruins should-be kept Peter Chiarelli as general manager?)

Of course, Tuukka Rask remains an absolute beast in net notwithstanding last season’s disappointing numbers while the addition of Jones as a dependable backup option will further solidify the crease in Boston. Nonetheless, this is only one facet of the team. If it falters, the Bruins falter. Thus, this’ll be the area to watch (and attack) as the Bruins hit the ice next season.

Apr 3, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins goaltender Chad Johnson (30) stops a shot by Toronto Maple Leafs forward Phil Kessel (81) as Boston Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara (33) defends during the first period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Should we expect more from the Leafs? Is it enough to take solace in the failures and stumbles of one of our greatest rivals? Given the current state of the Leafs – a team that seems stuck in perpetual limbo – this might be the lone bright spot that awaits us.

There’s no doubt that the Leafs are a bad team, but the Bruins may have just made themselves worse as a team, if not an organization, than the Leafs for no apparent reason. Let’s celebrate this strange and unexpected but certainly welcome change of events.

After all, it gives us something to cheer.

Follow me on Twitter for regular posts about sports (especially the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Toronto Blue Jays), politics and other news topics: @williamefwilson