Last week I wrote about my break up with my hockey team, the Toronto Maple Leafs. As when any relationship comes to an end, our thoughts turn to what could have been or how maybe this could have been so different – maybe I made a mistake and acted too hastily.
Could the Toronto Maple Leafs and I Ever Get Back Together?
So I started to think about how I would want my team to change for me so that I could love them again. Now please consider that I am pretending that the world is perfect and all my wishes would be granted and eternal happiness would ensue. Eternal happiness involving Lord Stanley and a ticker tape parade.
For me to be happy I need to feel my house is protected no matter the ferocity of the attack it faces. Looking at the available unrestricted free agents I think Braden Holtby should be signed and become the unequivocal starting goalie. Holtby had a .923 SV% this season with a 2.22 GAA over 73 games. Although he has said he would like to stay in Washington, he also would like to secure a long-term deal at the age of 25 – something the Leafs should give him. Jonathan Bernier with a .912 SV% and a 2.87 GAA over 58 games can assume the backup role. No in-house fighting over who is the number one goalie
The situation on defense also needs to be addressed. The first thing that would make me happy would be to trade away captain Dion Phaneuf. The team needs a captain who can lead in the room and on the ice. It has been said that Phaneuf is a hard worker and a leader off the ice but I have yet to see him really step it up on the ice at those crucial tide-turning moments. It is very difficult to demote a captain so I think a trade is the best possible solution. To fortify the blue line I would acquire two seasoned defensemen who could mentor Jake Gardiner and Morgan Reilly. Possible unrestricted free agents that could take on that role include Jeff Petry, who at 27 is experienced but not yet over the hill, and perhaps Mike Green, who is also 27.
Up front is another challenge. Phil Kessel is great with the puck, especially once he is in the offensive zone, but getting into that zone is often a problem. Nazem Kadri is also great with the puck, but against big defensemen he too has trouble crossing the blue line. To borrow a basketball term, what is needed is a power forward. In my mind there are only two players who fit the bill and I would be happy with either one.
My first choice would be #27 Darryl Sittler. I realize he is not as young as he used to be but I have seen him recently and I think he could get himself in game shape in time for preseason game. My other choice would be #13 Mats Sundin. Sundin might need some convincing to lace up the skates again but money talks. Both of these players could easily take on the role of captain, as they have both shown they are leaders in the locker room and can be game changers on the ice.
So there you have it, I guess I will just have to wait and see what the brains at the Air Canada Centre decide to do, before I open my heart to the Maple Leafs again.