It’s been a long time since we’ve seen Leafs hockey, but tomorrow night we get a glimpse into the current Leafs, and get to check out a future Leaf as well. Besides a lot of things, having only played one game last week really puts a damper on the power rankings, as it’s essentially regurgitating Cat’s post game summary from Tuesday.
I can give you two thousand words on how Garret Sparks makes me believe in god again, but Roman Polak reminds me that he’s a spiteful god, OR we can take a different approach, and do something different this week with Power Rankings.
I chose the latter, and for that reason we’ll be ranking future Leafs this week.
1. Steven Stamkos
You had to see where this was going right?
Since absolutely every writer at The Leafs Nation has weighed in on Stamkos at some point besides me, and Steven (or Stammer as unoriginal hockey folk call him) is playing in Toronto tomorrow night, I’ve decided what better time to chime in with my $.02 on the inevitable acquisition of a player who has the potential to be the most elite forward to have ever played his prime in Toronto.
The numbers on Stamkos speak for themselves, whenever he doesn’t have a coach trying to use him on the wing, he’s good for at least 40 goal/ 90 point pace. He’s a bona fide top line center which the Leafs have lacked since Sundin.
Of course, you can draw the similarities to the fact that with Kessel being gone, Stamkos would also be without a winger for his line, but you’d be an idiot. For one van Riemsdyk is at least on par with late years Mogilny, and two, the Leafs likely wouldn’t have the coin for Stamkos is Kessel was still being paid in full.
I can sit here and shout number one center and goals at you all day, and that should be enough, but unfortunately for many people it isn’t.
If you’ve seen Stamkos, you’ve undoubtedly noticed the “C” on the front of his jersey. That C means leadership, and it’s something that people have wrongly/rightly been complaining about for the Leafs for years. No longer would the only leader in the locker room be a dude who turns up music, wears Red Bull hats, and prioritizes a game the next day instead of joining the organization in navel gazing at a former player, the Leafs would be adding a player who led a rag tag band of late round picks to the cup final.
The other thing to remember is that we won’t have to suffer through any articles about his work ethic and how Stamkos spends his off season. Steven works out every summer with Gary Roberts, which according to pretty much everything, is the most important thing you can do to prove you are in “the best shape of your life”. Stamkos was one of the originators of this practice, so he gets bonus points for being super fit. It also means we can expect a Steve Simmons article on Stamkos’ favourite quinoa stand.
Maybe you don’t like scoring, first line centers, leadership, or work ethic. Maybe grit is your thing. Well, did you know that Steve Stamkos once had his nose sliced up by his visor, went to the locker room to have a cage put on his helmet, and returned to the game?
When LeBron James sprained his…. (*Jon throws self into traffic to avoid finishing this thought*)
That brings us to the criticism that Stamkos is too old to be worth signing.
Despite the fact that he’s an elite talent and would get half a season in for the Leafs before he’s even 27, this is apparently a thing that needs to be discussed.
You see, some players (all) begin to decline as they age. Despite science’s amazing developments, they still haven’t been able to create a hockey player that ages like fine wine. The good news is that a player that you sign when their 26, and give a seven year contract to, is probably still going to have a some of their abilities when they are 33.
Mike Richards and Vinny Lecavalier do an excellent job of scaring people away from any long term contract, and generally, I’d agree that they aren’t worth the risk. It’s also very likely that we’ll have the Dave Nonis mentality and have to accept that years 5, 6, and 7 of the deal, you aren’t paying for a top line center, you are now overpaying for a guy who is probably a second line winger.
The interesting thing about years 5,6, and 7 are that they would come after a new CBA, and potentially a new round of compliance buyouts or equally pleasant loopholes. If the deal has gone bad, it wouldn’t be too hard to pull the emergency chute and land safely in a pleasant cap situation.
There is also the issue of potentially a $10M-$15M cap hit, which isn’t something that’s easy to ignore. It magically becomes more bearable when you realize that Polak, Grabner, Matthias, and Spaling departing essentially pays for Stamkos. All of these players can be replaced by Marlies or cheap replacement level players at a fraction of the cost, and you also add an elite forward. Neat.
I guess what I’m saying is that Steven Stamkos is pretty good no matter how you look at him, and there isn’t really a horrible risk in signing him. Now it’s just a matter of all the rumours being true.