Not this year Leafs fans

Another season has come and gone in Leafs Nation and unfortunately it marks the fifth straight season the team hasn’t qualified for the playoffs (though it’s been six if you count the lockout year).

As a fan it’s been disappointing to not see post season play in Toronto for so long. There are, however, a couple bright sides to our near-basement dwelling results (thanks Edmonton!). Many in Toronto have been all about the spend to win philosophy throughout the years, which clearly hasn’t paid off. Since the lock out Toronto has finally begun the rebuilding plan that so many others wished they had instituted years ago. I’m happy to see MLSE finally gets that it takes a few years of watching young kids get their legs before you can see success. Great teams like Detroit, New Jersey or Pittsburgh have all had their bottom dwelling days. Now thanks to great drafting and building from within, those franchises are perennial playoff success stories.

So Leaf Nation, while it sucks to be at the bottom, it takes a little time to become a winning team. I know we’ve been waiting since 1967 for that Cup, so I’m sure we can wait just a bit longer. I just hope ownership doesn’t get too impatient and start its free spending up again (as much as can be done in this cap world). I’d prefer quality Stanley Cup runs over showing up in the playoffs each year only to bow out early.

Leafs blueline gets physical, offence anemic.

I’m sure everyone knows by now that the Leafs and Calgary Flames made a deal on Sunday that sent 24-year-old star defenceman Dion Phaneuf (and his girflriend Elisha Cuthbert) to the centre of the hockey universe.

This deal is great for the Leafs. With Phaneuf, they get a solid blue liner to build their defence on for years to come. Sure a lot of people say this hasn’t been a great year for him, and it hasn’t, but it’s not like he’s been SO bad; he’s just not been Phaneuf great. It’ll be good for him to leave Calgary where he’ll now get opportunities to start fresh and hopefully help out young Luke Schenn on the way too. That being said, what else can Phaneuf do on a team that basically gutted its frontline to get him? Well he adds scoring from the line and physical play, that’s for sure, but we’re losing some key forwards in this deal.

Heading Calgary’s way are Ian White, Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers. As a fan you grow used to seeing guys in the lineup and it’s sad to see them go.

Out of these four, I’m going to miss Ian White’s game the most. That guy brings his game every night. It seems each year he’s the odd man out of the lineup at training camp, but proves himself to not just make the team, but get great minutes. When it comes to Matt Stajan I know he hasn’t quite lived up to expectations, but he’s a great professional, did his job and still managed to be one of the top scorers on the team. I need a new jersey now that he’s outta here too. Bah.

I’m hoping, no praying, that more deals are in the works to bring offense to this club. I don’t want any player above 25, and I’m sure Burke is thinking along those lines. Given salary cap situations I’m sure Burke will have to get creative, as long as he makes a deal that looks out for the team’s future.

In the Phaneuf deal Calgary also sent along defenceman Keith Aulie and winger Fredrik Sjostrom. The Leafs also made another trade, acquiring goalie J.S. Giguere for Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala. This was a great deal because Giggy can now give some tutelage to Jonas Gustavsson; something I don’t think Toskala could provide.

What are your thoughts on the wheelings and dealings of GM Brian Burke and what else do you see down the pipeline? Because the trade deadline is still like a month away. Let’s begin the speculation now!

Kaberle the Kapitan?

Can you picture Leafs PA announcer Andy Frost saying, “Captain of your Toronto Maple Leafs, TOMAS KABERLE!”

Sounds a little weird to me, how about you? I guess I’m still in Sundin mode.

As weird as it sounds, Kaberle is the best choice on the team for Captain. I wouldn’t have even hinted at the thought last year, or any year prior to this. I was one of the many rooting for him to be traded, but for whatever reason he seems to have grown into a more mature player, which isn’t hard to do on a team so young.

At 31, Kaberle is still in his prime and his stats show it. He’s the team leader with with 30 points (2G, 28A) which is setting up to be a career year for him if he manages to stay healthy. There’s also just something intangible about what he’s bringing to his game that’s actually making me like him as a player again.

The only other option I could see as a choice would be Nik Hagman, 30, who is a hardworking beast and 2nd on the team in scoring (30 points). I really wished to see Matt Stajan, almost 26, grow into the role, and down the road he still may, but right now I don’t see that happening. (Coincidentally all three players are top 3 in Leafs scoring, but don’t think that’s the reason I’m mentioning them.)

The question I ask is why SHOULDN’T Kaberle be the new Leafs captain? And if you don’t think he’s a good choice, who should the Leafs name? Or should they keep things the way they are and have a bunch of Alternates?

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