The 2015-16 Maple Leafs are having a poor season, this is to be expected considering they are rebuilding. With the Trade Deadline rapidly approaching, and 53 games already completed, its a good time to reflect on this teams performance.
Toronto fans have high expectations of their franchise, they want a Stanley Cup like most franchises. But unlike most franchises, they are second all time in Stanley Cups won. The Leafs have 13 championship wins, but there is a little drought since the last time they hoisted the trophy. The year was 1967 to be exact, a total of 48 seasons have passed. The Maple Leafs were a dynasty in the 60’s, winning the cup 4 times in 6 years, but that 4th time was the last. Toronto is one of the more historic franchises in the NHL, there is a lot to cover, so we’ll just stay on this season and the rebuild.
The Maple Leafs shocked the league when they became last minute favorites to win the coveted head coach in Mike Babcock, and ended up signing him, over Buffalo. The Leafs brought in Brendan Shanahan in April of 2014 to be Leafs President to help steer the sinking ship, and hopefully make this franchise a winner again.
On July 1st, Toronto also made a huge move, when they traded away Phil Kessel to the Pittsburgh Penguins. The package acquire Kessel wasn’t as big as what some fans hoped, causing some concern for what the Leafs plan was going forward. Kessel was thought to be a coach killer, but a definite top tier sniper, so fans obviously wanted A LOT in return. A lot of Penguins fans felt they fleeced the Leafs in the deal, and frankly I do too. Toronto acquired Scott Harrington a 2011 2nd round pick, Kasperi Kapanen a 2014 1st round pick, Nick Spaling a 2007 1st round pick, and 1st and 3rd round selections in the 2016 NHL Entry Draft. Time will tell how this deal works out, as Kapanen could turn out to be a decent winger, as he’s known to be a small shifty player but needs to develop. He won’t see the NHL for 2-3 years, and the same should be applied to whoever the Leafs draft in 2016, as the Penguins should make the playoffs, making the selection anywhere from 15-30 but most likely in the 20’s.
The Leafs are currently in 29th place based off of our Tank Tracker, even though they have the lowest amount of points with only 47. They are 6 games under 500, and have lost 3 games in a row. Things are tough, with top goal scorer James van Riemsdyk still on IR (placed on IR on 1/25/16). The team has had a poor tendy combination between Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer, as neither seems interested in winning the starting job. The Leafs just dealt Dion Phaneuf to the Senators in a 9 player deal on Tuesday 2/9/16, meaning they are declaring themselves sellers early on in the Trade Deadline process.
The Maple Leafs are certainly out of the playoff race, and would be wise to try to move players that don’t fit what Lou Lamoriello is trying to build as a team. They sit currently sit 16 points back with 29 games remaining, so you can call this season a disappointment. Stocking up on young forwards, and draft picks would be wise, following the blue print Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray has laid out. The Leafs however, don’t need to go drastic with their rebuild.
Toronto can rebuild quickly, as they have a solid head coach and an already talented core. They just need a few of their young prospects to develop into top 6 forwards, have decent goal-tending, and this team could easily revisit the post-season tourney.
Could they be a landing spot for Steven Stamkos? Honestly, this is where I feel he ends up. He was born 30 minutes outside of Toronto (Markham Ontario), he grew up a Leafs fan, and would be what Lebron is to Cleveland. He would thrive in Toronto and this is his best landing spot, and most likely especially since the likelihood of him staying in Tampa Bay becomes less likely as the season progresses. Add him to the rebuild, and this team IMMEDIATELY, becomes a playoff team. Have Mitch Marner contribute, along with William Nylander, and this team just might be close to becoming a cup contender.
Hang in there Leafs fans. As a Sabres fan, I want the Leafs to be good again. Having this rivalry back in full force would be awesome. I’m rooting for both our rebuilds to go successfully and for both to be speedy.