Draft Day! Maple Leafs’ gameplan

It’s Draft Day in a cloudy Pittsburgh, PA. The Toronto Maple Leafs, holders of the No. 5 overall pick, their highest since 2008, don’t only have a chance to re-stock the cupboard with two virtual first round picks and a plethora of players available for trade.

Last season, the big moves were made around Draft Day. Philadelphia got rid of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter, San Jose dealt Devin Setoguchi for Brent Burns, and Troy Brouwer was sent to Washington.

David Shoalts in today’s Globe expresses the importance of this upcoming season for Brian Burke:

Despite a lot of creative moves since he took the job in November, 2008, that improved the team’s pool of young talent, they have not brought much of a change in the NHL standing. The Leafs still haven’t made the playoffs during Burke’s tenure, running their streak of postseason futility to eight years.

The 2012-13 season will be Burke’s fourth full campaign in charge of the Maple Leafs. He has to show marked improvement this fall and winter, presuming the labour situation allows for at least part of a season, or Burke will have to do some fast talking to the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board of directors.

Meanwhile, Michael Traikos brings up an interesting tidbit of which I was not aware:

[Unlike] the Edmonton Oilers who have reaped the rewards that come with a rotten record, the Leafs have traded away their first-round draft pick in five of the last seven years, including what could have been the No. 2 selection in 2010 as part of the Phil Kessel trade.

Sure, the team has accumulated prospects along the way and managed to acquire the 22nd and 25th picks in last year’s draft. But for those who make their living on the road travelling from rink to rink, there has been little payoff for the amount of bad coffee they have had to drink.

Well, technically they’ve traded away three of their picks, they happened to trade away the fourth before he ever played an NHL game, but Jiri Tlusty got 74 games as a Toronto Maple Leaf before they gave up on him.

Suffice to say, a trade probably isn’t the best strategy. Even if the four “top” forwards—Nail Yakupov, Alex Galchenyuk, Filip Forsberg and Mikhail Grigorenko—are gone, the last draft that was stocked with defencemen, 2008, produced several young rearguards who have become key pieces of their teams right now.

From a historical perspective, we know that there will be a guy picked fifth through tenth who will be a key player in the NHL in two seasons.

Which makes Burke’s game plan interesting. After four years, the pressure is on Burke to compete now. The best solution for the team in the long run, for two or three years down the line, is to keep the pick and correctly develop him, so he can contribute in the future.

Whether that’s a defenceman, obviously either Griffin Reinhart, Mathew Dumba, or even Cody Ceci or Morgan Rielly will still be available, or a forward like Radek Faksa who I consider to be a pretty low-risk pick considering his talents as a two-way forward.

As for the players available, I like b1rky’s take over at Pension Plan Puppets on “unlikely Leafs” in Rick Nash, Jordan Staal and Bobby Ryan:

In a vacuum, there isn’t a team that wouldn’t love to have one of these three guys, Toronto included. For most, it doesn’t financially make sense. For others, the need doesn’t exist (or there’s a greater need at a different position). The Leafs don’t fall into these categories. They have both the financial ability to take on a large contract as well as the need for more skill in a lineup that finished 26th in the league. But if you take a closer look at the Leafs current situation, taking on any of these three guys doesn’t pass a logic test.

You can probably go ahead and include Roberto Luongo in that group.

The Leafs Nation will be live at the draft, with instant analysis for any moves or picks the Leafs make this weekend. Stay tuned…

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  • Just pick the best player available at 5 and don’t make any silly trades. The Leafs have no choice to but to be patient and let the kids develop. Trades seem to be way to steep so I expect very little action tonight.

    It will be interesting to see who the Leafs think is the best player available come pick number 5.