It was expected to be a tough year for the entire Maple Leafs organization. The franchise was going into its first full rebuild in a very long time. The emphasis was on stockpiling draft picks and young players while simultaneously seeing which current players were worth keeping around for the Leafs competitive years in the future.
New general manager, Lou Lamoriello, has a tall task in front of him. He’s in charge of making the trades that will ship older players out and bring in the future assists for the team. He also needs to focus on the draft and acquiring as many picks as he possibly can.
The Trade of Players
The Maple Leafs are in the early stages of a rebuild. They are currently examining the players they have on the roster to determine who will stay and who will go in order to fetch them useable assets. Typically in a rebuild, the team in question aims to get much younger players while also keeping some useful veterans for mentoring.
It now begs the question, which of the current Maple Leafs on the team will be moved out at the trade deadline or sooner? Joffrey Lupul, the often injured but talented forward, is one such name being tossed around. Versatile centre, Tyler Bozak, may be shipped out for picks. Leo Komarov may fill the need of an agitator with offensive upside for a playoff bound team.
Some of the new players may be gone sooner rather than later, as well. Shawn Matthias, P.A. Parenteau, and Brad Boyes may all be moved if their value is high enough and the price coming back fits the needs of the Leafs. It may be tough for some fans to see their team part with players like Lupul and Bozak, as they have been with the Buds for years, however, hockey is a business and the Maple Leafs are building this team to be in the business of winning for the future.
Stockpile Picks and Prospects
If you want to be a contender in today’s NHL, it is imperative that you draftily smartly and develop the prospects you select. The Maple Leafs number one priority this season is to secure as many draft picks as they possible can, both for the 2016 draft and beyond.
Smart drafting became the focus last year and under Mark Hunter, the Maple Leafs made nine total picks over the seven total rounds. Almost all of those players are having incredible seasons with each of their respective teams. It’s a fresh approach, seeing the Leafs draft wisely. In 2014, they only selected six players. 2013 saw a minute five players drafted to the Blue and White. Six again came from the 2012 selections.
That was simply not good enough. Not every pick is going to be a proven roster player. The Maple Leafs know that to be an indisputable fact. But better scouting, combined with a higher number of picks, gives them the best possible outcome for these young prospects.
Give The Kids a Chance to Learn
Another huge part of the rebuild is to see how the young players already in the system are functioning. They need to be taught properly how to play and win at the minor level before making their debut in the big leagues. What the Maple Leafs have down in this regard is smart.
They brought in the highly respected Sheldon Keefe to coach the Marlies and prepare them for Mike Babcock when they make the big club in the future. They have also selected some Marlies to make their Leaf debuts.
Byron Froese has played 17 games with the Leafs and has three assists to show for it. While he is still searching for his first goal, he has become a competent centre and has earned Babcock’s trust. That doesn’t mean that the Buds should bring up every single Marlie over the course of the season.
It’s better to keep the core of the team together in the minors to work hard, learn the system, and hopefully win. There will be chances for them in the future to lead this team back into the light. It’s not worth rushing them into action in a losing year which could potentially stunt their growth and limit their impact later on.
The Maple Leafs continue their early rebuild. All signs point to the reconstruction being done correctly this time around and, if everything continues to go as planned, the coming years will be a very exciting time for the organization and its hordes of fans.