There’s a 9.5% chance our lives could change tomorrow. No, not our personal lives, but our “sports lives” as Leafs fans could take a massive swing.
The league is entering what looks to be a franchise-altering draft this summer, and while we know Toronto will at least walk out of it with essentially a “can’t-miss” prospect regardless of how the lottery balls tumble, tomorrow they’ll know if they’ll end up leaving with a Crosby-like talent: Connor McDavid. Generational.
In the past we’ve written about how moving up would shift the Leafs’ rebuild plans and perhaps present management with some tough decisions on a number of current players, so this week we asked our own writers how they believe the organization’s approach will deviate with a lottery win. Do the plans for the Leafs’ “core” change? And how would it influence the search for a new coach?
Even if the Toronto Maple Leafs win the NHL Draft Lottery, it’s still pretty important that the organization sticks to the rebuild. I have no doubt in my mind that Connor McDavid would step in and immediately improve this hockey team. Hell, he could very well turn the Leafs into a playoff team overnight, but would that kind of success really be sustainable?
See, Toronto’s core is like a decade older than McDavid.
Phil Kessel is great, but he’s also in his late twenties. James van Riemsdyk is about to turn 26 and Jake Gardiner is somehow about to turn 25? Young Bozak is 29. Both Joffrey Lupul and Dion Phaneuf are in their 30’s. If you’re going to build your team around McDavid, you need to surround him with players he can grow with – not a bunch of guys that will start fading fast just as McDavid starts hitting his prime.
That’s not to say all of the players mentioned above need to be shipped off, but the majority of them probably should be. McDavid or not, Phaneuf can’t anchor this defensive group all by himself. Now’s the time to trade him. Lupul and Bozak are quickly diminishing assets and need to be moved. You can make an argument that one or both of Kessel and van Riemsdyk would be nice to keep around to take some of the offensive responsibility (and defensive pressure) off of McDavid. Not sure if you need both of them though, and either one of them would bring the Leafs back some very significant assets, so that’s a tough call.
As for how McDavid affects the coaching search, he’ll change things big time. It doesn’t matter who you are (or how comfortable you are living in an affluent Michigan suburb), it will be tough to say no to coaching McDavid, turning around the Leafs franchise, and getting paid a literal metric tonne to do it. The Leafs will have no shortage of experienced coaches and executives lining up for an interview if they win the draft lottery.
I think if the Leafs win the draft lottery and bring in McDavid it’ll go along way to helping the rebuild, but I agree with Justin, the rebuild is definitely important and shouldn’t be abandoned for the possibility of one superstar. We’ve been here before, hanging all our hopes on one incredibly well paid would-be saviour. And we were all happy to see him go to Columbus this year. The Leafs need to stop thinking about the one linchpin that will win them the cup and face the truth. We are not a single player away from the playoffs; we are short a whole playoff worthy team.
My wish list looks something like this:
In short, the Leafs need to hang a big help wanted sign out front. “Now hiring: one hockey team.”
A lot has already been said about the current players but, to Justin’s point, the coaching search could be impacted quite drastically if the Leafs come away with the McDavid pick tomorrow.
Yesterday Thom wrote about the oddsmakers slotting Babcock in as the favourite to be the Leafs’ future coach AND general manager, which seems unbelievable. But when you think about it, the talk around the team has often focused on GM options that need to fit in well with current management like Hunter and Dubas, not someone who’s established enough to look for full autonomy. To bring Babcock aboard as the general manager in name and paycheck (on top of being the coach, of course), and allow him to have input with this front office team Shanahan is establishing doesn’t really sound that ridiculous. A long shot? Surely. Nonsensical? I don’t think so.
The chance to step into a club and coach and/or build around McDavid should be the most sought-after gig league-wide. That’s why no matter how much you hype this pick it never seems like enough. McDavid alone is a franchise-changer, but the spin-off from acquiring him is probably overlooked.