Unfortunately, Leafs management showed no patience with the draft picks, trading away players such as Brad Boyes, Carlo Colaiacovo, Anton Stralman and Tuukka Rask.
But things are looking better now. Nazeem Kadri looks to be a great draft pick, Luke Schenn is a solid, if unspectacular, defenceman, Carl Gunnarsson could be a half-decent player and Nikolai Kulemin is a big third-liner.
Now, if they could only hold on to their first rounders, they would have a shot at some really good prospects.
Best offseason move: Trading for Kris Versteeg. The Leafs didn’t give up a lot in return for Versteeg, since Chicago needed a major firesale to get under the cap. Versteeg is young (only 24), and has already scored 20+ goals in each of his first two full seasons. As a rookie, he was the runnerup for the Calder trophy (losing to Steve Mason). Versteeg will probably play on the top line, and should be ready for a monster breakout season.
Worst offseason move: Not trading Tomas Kaberle. The Leafs had a small window to trade Kaberle, but they didn’t capitalize on it. GM Brian Burke asked for too much in return, which is foolish since he wasn’t dealing from a position of strength. He needed a high draft pick, didn’t get it. He needed a good player in return, didn’t get it. So when Kaberle signs with another team next summer as a free agent, and the Leafs get nothing in return, Burke will deserve everything he’s gotten.
Dark horse trophy candidate: Nazem Kadri for the Calder. (Yes, I’m aware he was sent down, but I think he’ll be called back up soon.)
Pool pick: Tyler Bozak. The rookie had 27 points in 37 games last season. He’ll probably start the season the season centring the top line with Phil Kessel and Versteeg. If he plays the full season, he’ll probably finish with 65 points. Who to stay away from: Dion Phaneuf. He’ll be the top powerplay guy, but I expect Kaberle to be in on most of the scoring, since he’s the setup guy. Phaneuf will probably finish around 40 points.
Best hall of fame choice: Jean-Sebastien Giguere. No one else on the team has the numbers. Giguere isn’t the greatest choice, but he has a Stanley Cup ring, a Conn Smythe trophy, another finals appearance, and a few seasons with pretty good numbers (including a season where he had 36 wins, 10 losses and eight overtime losses).
Blog to follow: Down Goes Brown
My Prediction: Fifth in the Northeast, 14th in the East
Famous celebrity from that city: Gail Kim