An argument against the Maple Leafs being trade deadline buyers

Photo credit:Steven Ellis/Daily Faceoff
Jon Steitzer
6 months ago
You know recency bias can be one hell of a drug and recently the Maple Leafs haven’t been doing so good. A lot of that you can hang on Ilya Samsonov and sending him on a walkabout only accomplishes so much and that will become evident the more Martin Jones. The Leafs have defensive challenges that go beyond injuries and John Klingberg, and when it comes to their forwards, I guess you can’t complain about the scoring from the core four but just about everything else warrants some scrutiny too. I guess when it seems like everything is going wrong and your should be competitive team has only won 17 out of their 34 games, some of that blame is going to be pointed at the coach and general manager as well.
You could say that there is a lot to fix on the Leafs and a short time to do it in. Also consider the fact that the Leafs have a limited amount of resources to pull off the drastic turnaround that people are calling for and I’ll ask, why try? This does not seem like a team destined to go on a run (but you could have said that about the Panthers and Golden Knights last year too). They haven’t offered much to encourage Brad Treliving to invest in this group and anything he does at this point seems like it more of an attempt to undo his mistakes from the summer rather than put the Leafs back into contention. Paying to save face doesn’t seem like it’s entirely worthwhile and maybe the Leafs will show something between now and early March that makes them like a team worth investing in but making a panic move to bring in a stop gap goaltender doesn’t seem smart. Nor does burning through futures to get a month of a second pairing defenceman.
It’s at this point I should note that I’m not (yet) making a case for the Maple Leafs to be sellers. Brad Treliving had an initial vision that Tyler Bertuzzi, Max Domi, and Ryan Reaves would have something to add to the Leafs come playoff time and we’ll still get to see that vision playout. As much as the Leafs may struggle the 3rd spot in the Atlantic seems harder to lose than it will be to keep, not that I don’t doubt the Leafs will make it closer than it should be. Toronto still has a bit of flexibility from John Klingberg going on LTIR and perhaps a cheap salary dump type option coming into Toronto hoping that a change of scenery will work is the best way maximizing that space, but any move where the Leafs are paying to improve will likely not be enough to get it done.
The next four games will be pretty impactful on what comes next for the Maple Leafs and it is very likely that we’ll see Brad Treliving’s direction a lot more clearly at this time next week. The California road trip gets the Leafs away from Toronto which seems like a positive for them, and you’d hope that games against Anaheim and San Jose would put turn things around, especially when they face San Jose for a second time next week. This looks like an opportunity to pick up three wins in four games and shut people like me up.
However, if they don’t come out ahead, some serious questions need to be asked. Do the Leafs want to potentially deal a first round pick that could very well be in the mid-teens? Do the Leafs have the assets to potentially bring in a goaltender, two defencemen, and possibly another forward? How much can this team do under a new coach and would the Leafs want that to be an interim or someone permanent, knowing that the offseason coaching market could be very interesting with Rod Brind’Amour still unsigned and Jon Cooper potentially missing the playoffs.
There aren’t easy answers with this team and while patience has long run out with expecting results with this franchise, the Leafs would be wise to not look for quick fixes this year.

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