Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Leafs take aim a Stanley Cup, and a hit off the crack pipe

The Edmonton Oilers and Toronto Maple Leafs are two teams going in different directions, but which direction is the question.

Edmonton today traded the face of their franchise, Ryan Smyth for two former first round picks and a first round pick in next years draft. Coupled with the trade earlier this month of defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron to the Islanders it seems clear that the Edmonton Oilers are waiving the white flag on this years season.

Toronto today announced signing Darcy Tucker, arguably the face of the franchise and undoubtedly one of the Leaf's most popular players, to a 4 year, $12 million contract. Oh, and they inked a trade to bring back center Yanic Perreault for his third stint as a Maple Leaf. The message in Toronto is clear, they are gearing up for a run at the Stanley Cup this year.

So, if we assume that an NHL team can only go in two directions, up or down, which team is going in which direction?

As far as I am concerned the Toronto Maple Leafs have just taken a huge step backwards in improving their team. Sure, Tucker has had a great season and Perreault is a valuable role player with offensive upside and a dominating presence in the face off circle. But, do they help us build a team for the future? And more importantly, is there enough crack cocaine in the world to make anyone believe that the Leafs can make a serious bid for the Stanley Cup this year? The Toronto Maple Leafs now have committed about $28 million of their available cap space to 6 players, there is not much room to add significant players to the team there and even a combination of crack and heroin isn't enough to make anyone believe that this Leafs team will be better 2-3 years from now with this same roster.

On the other hand, the Edmonton Oilers may have traded the face of the franchise and their highest scoring defenseman but they definitely improved their team for the future. With these two moves the Oilers have picked up 4 first round picks that include a highly prized defensive prospect (Denis Grebeskhov) and a top 6 forward prospect (Robert Nilsson). Oh, and did I forget to mention that the Oilers retain the possibility of resigning Smyth during the offseason? This is a team that has grasped the present and used it to ensure a prosperous future.

Being a Toronto Maple Leafs fan I spent the last few weeks leading up to the trade deadline praying to Crosby that MLSE would have the wisdom and vision to make some trades for the future. Instead they once again threw good money after bad to make yet another vain attempt at a Stanley Cup win.

This leaves me with one more question... how many more years does Toronto need to go without ownership of the Stanley Cup before it learns the lesson that the Oilers seem to have grasped. You can't rebuild an organization without making some sacrifices.

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