No, I don’t mean actual physical looks. Though, the answer to that question is certainly "yes" because David Clarkson is quite handsome.
I’m wondering if this team looks better on paper than the one that finished up this past season.
Over the course of this summer I’ve had an opinion on every move Dave Nonis has made to reshape the Leafs. A lot of the time that opinion has probably been negative, with the exceptions being the Ranger and Gunnarsson contracts. Even the Bernier trade didn’t really get on my nerves too much.
While all of this was going on, I guess my main concern was that the Leafs were focusing all their efforts to upgrade in the wrong areas. While they were quite weak on the blueline, they instead focused on upgrading their group of forwards and goaltenders, and burned up a lot of cap space in the process.
If the defence wasn’t looked after, and all of the energy this off-season was put toward creating the strongest group of forwards possible, then that’s what we should have, right? Now that I look at the potential lineup laid out in full, I’m not sure this is the case at all. If anything, it looks like the Leafs have actually downgraded at forward and spent a boat load of cash to do it.
Without writing more angry words about the Grabovski buyout, if we look at the Leafs down the middle, the top three centers ranked by actual talent went from Kadri-Grabovski-Bozak to Kadri-Bolland-Bozak. And to be fair to Jay McClement and Joe Colborne, they’re probably as good as Bozak. You’re probably as good as Bozak.
Grabovski turned in to Bolland, who doesn’t look to be on the same level in terms of skill. Even if you’re from another planet and argue that Bolland is as good, there’s no upgrade here. The obvious move would have been to add Bolland and keep Grabovski, letting Bozak go. But here we are. No upgrade, no improvement, and 22 million dollars in a replacement-level center’s pocket.
Of course with the big splash the Leafs made in July, the winger situation, which was already pretty strong, was bolstered even further with the addition of Clarkson. Wrong. By allowing MacArthur to walk down the road to Ottawa, Nonis replaced him with a player that’s older and questionably as talented, plus an extra 2 million dollars on the cap. Again, even if you try to make the case that Clarkson is as good as MacArthur, the team didn’t upgrade.
We’ve all looked at the cap troubles and argued over the statistics for a while. But even if we ignore that and just look at a snapshot of this roster, there’s still a lot to discuss.
If there aren’t any other big moves coming, it looks we’re getting a lineup that looks something like this;
With the Leafs losing Komarov to the KHL and Frattin in trade, this new lineup looks decent at best and it’s tough to say who can fill in if they run in to injury troubles. This is all especially frustrating considering we know Carlyle will continue to ice a throwaway fourth line with two enforcers.
With the defence basically unchanged (unless things fall through with Franson, in which case it could get a lot worse), and assuming the goaltending is slightly improved or "solidified", I’m still not sure if this team, as a whole, has made any real steps in improving overall.
I like the addition of Paul Ranger to the big club, but he’s been away from the league for a while so it’s still very much "wait and see" with him. Could he be the upgrade the team needs on the blueline? Maybe. That’s asking a lot.
A lot of fans and writers have been upset with those who have been critical of Leafs management this summer, and have turned it in to a debate over relying on statistics. But you don’t need to be well-versed in hockey statistics to see that Nonis threw a lot of money at upgrading the wrong areas, and looks to have failed to even upgrade them at all. This is all quite easy to see.