The Leafs are now one of the youngest clubs in the league. Their payroll has been shrunk by nearly $11 million dollars. Management said after the trade deadline that it was a new season for the Leafs, and in this new season the club is 1 - 3 - 1.
After losing to the Blackhawks just prior to the trade dealine, Coach Murphy said that the Leafs were going to clean house over the summer, get rid of guys who don't compete. Against Phoenix on Thursday night there were nine rookies in the Leafs line up and the Leafs, after a shaky start did just that - compete. Personally, besides the solid play of the young Leaf defencement, the best sign of all was Mike Craig in the press box.
If the Leafs are to have a promising future with this group of players, management is going to have to hold on to their draft picks, and just as importantly - encourage the development of their young players, even if that means guys like McCauley, Tremblay, Posmyk, and D.J. Smith have to spend a season or so in St.John's.
The acquisition of a few key free agents over the summer could go a long way to improving this club, but it is the future that the Leafs have to plan for now. Management needs to develop a solid five year plan that they won't divert from. The club has to groom and develop their young players, not rush them along like they have in the past. If they can do this, life after Gilmour might be pretty sweet.
On February 25 the Leafs traded Doug Gilmour, Dave Ellet, and sent the Devils' 3rd round 1998 pick back to New Jersey for Alyn McCauley, Jason Smith and Steve Sullivan.
I hate to see Gilmour go, but he is 34 years old, was seeking a contract extension, and seemed to be one of the few players that Mr. Fletcher could move to improve the future of the club. It was imperative that the Leafs get maximum return on Gilmour for their long-term benefit and it seems that was accomplished with this trade. Anyone who thinks the Leafs didn't get enough for Gilmour and Ellet need only look at what Boston got for Oates, Tocchet and Ranford.
It doesn't take a genius to realize that in the short term New Jersey wins this trade hands down. The addition of Gilmour, and to a lesser extent Ellet, strengthens them in a very tough division as they drive towards the Stanley Cup. Ellet does not have to log the heavy defensive minutes that he had in Toronto and as a result he is able to make addtional contributions to the club.
With the age of the principles coming to Toronto, it will take several years to gauge the full impact of this deal. However, in the month they've been with the Leafs, both Smith and Sullivan have made solid contributions. The play of Alyn McCauley will make or break this deal over the long run.
Brian Kilrea, coach of McCauley's Ottawa 67s compares McCauley to Hartford's Andrew Cassels - good speed, good shot, a two way player. McCauley is solid at both ends of the ice (as his 101 points and +45 is a testament to) and apparently plays larger than his 5'11" 185 lbs would indicate.
McCauley, more accurately his development and handling by the Leafs, is the cornerstone of this deal. It will be by McCauley's contribution to the Leafs that this deal will ultimately be measured.
Larry Murphy to Detroit was a mercy deal. Murphy is at best a fifth defenceman who can quarterback the power play. He couldn't log the defensive minutes the Leafs expected of him. Combine his age, lack of speed, defensive responsibilities (or lack thereof) with his huge salary and he quickly became the scape goat for all that was wrong with the Leafs.
Muller to Florida for Podollan is a bit of a mystery to me. I'd rather the Leafs hung on to Muller and deal Clark, but that may be a personal bias. However, given what the Leafs gave up to get Muller, this isn't that bad of a deal. Podollan hasn't done much since coming over from the Panthers besides sustain a shoulder injury against Philadelphia. But he's young and cheap and therefore fits in nicely with the new look Leafs.
Is it just me or was anyone else left scratching their heads when the Leafs didn't deal Wendel Clark to the Penguins for a first round pick? Sure the Leafs have to have someone to put the puck in the net, a go-to guy if you will, but surely they could acquire this through free agency (although given Mr. Fletcher's past activity in free agency markets, I wouldn't hold my breath on this one).
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