The Toronto Maple Leafs came out of the 2010-2011 NHL trade deadline as winners by doing one thing: standing pat.
Going into Monday’s deadline, the Toronto Maple Leafs sat 10th in the Eastern Conference, just four points out of a playoff spot with 19 games remaining. That alone would make you want to change your deadline stance─into a buyer─almost immediately.
To add even more temptation, the Buffalo Sabres added former Maple Leaf and prominent goal scoring forward Brad Boyes to their lineup on Sunday night. The Sabres play in the same division as the Maple Leafs, are currently two points ahead of the Leafs in the standings and have had the Toronto’s number all season long.
It was widely speculated that the Leafs had serious interest in Colorado Avalanche defenceman John-Michael Liles. Liles, a puck-moving defenceman, would have been exactly what the Leafs were looking for and would have helped them to compete against the Sabres. However, once the asking price was set way too high (thought to be a prospect and second round pick or just a first round pick), Maple Leafs president and general manager Brian Burke wisely backed off.
Florida Panthers forward Stephen Weiss, who has 16 goals and 24 assists in 61 games this season, was also being looked at by the Leafs, but Burke decided that he would only be a slight upgrade over current Leafs centre Tyler Bozak. Once again, Burke wisely backed away and stuck with his plan.
Instead of going after Liles and Weiss, he stood his ground with the exception of one minor league trade that saw John Mitchell go to the New York Rangers in exchange for a seventh round draft pick. This meant keeping all of his draft picks, prospects, and the team’s leading point scorer, Clarke MacArthur.
The above mentioned plan is simple; stockpile draft picks and prospects and draft wisely. It is the exact same plan that Panthers GM Dale Tallon used during his time with the Blackhawks (see: 2010 Stanley Cup Champions) and is currently using with the Panthers.
Had Burke chosen to go against his plan, he could have easily moved 25-year-old, potential 60-point getter Clarke MacArthur and developing young players such as Nazem Kadri, Joe Colborne, Luke Schenn and Nikolai Kulemin. Moving any of those players could have resulted in a big return, potentially pushing the Maple Leafs into the top eight into the Eastern Conference. Had that have happened the Maple Leafs would likely wind up finishing seventh or eighth, they could easily get knocked out of the playoffs in the first round, something Burke does not want to happen.
Not moving any of those players now gives the Leafs a better chance at becoming a consistent contender─something they have not been for quite some time─down the road.
To all of those Maple Leafs fans who hated on Burke and his staff, don’t hate on them any longer. If the Maple Leafs win the Stanley Cup three or four years from now and turn out to be a consistent Cup contender, look back at the 2011 NHL trade deadline, when Brian Burke and his staff did next to nothing.
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