Clark's new article about the Orr re-signing got me thinking. I honestly believe that the Leafs have yet to move on from the culture of hockey pre-2005. There have been a lot of moves that Toronto has made that seem to stem from a very o...
Clark's new article about the Orr re-signing got me thinking. I honestly believe that the Leafs have yet to move on from the culture of hockey pre-2005. There have been a lot of moves that Toronto has made that seem to stem from a very outdated mindset. I get that some people believe that building a team like the 2004 squad is a good idea. They were the last Leaf playoff team after all. However, that was almost a decade ago. We've had two new CBA's since then, and the league has been cracking down on penalties. Players can no longer hook and hold when a faster player skates around them. In every season since the 2005 lockout, the Leafs appear to be making the necessary changes to adapt to the new playing style, only to make moves which reverse that trend. Having both Orr and McLaren playing at the same time is the most recent example of this. In this three-part series of posts, I will go through each season after the 2005 lockout, detailing the moves that Toronto has made in an effort to show that the Leafs have yet to truly move on from 2004.
General Manager: John Ferguson Jr.
Head Coach: Pat Quinn
Key Additions: Eric Lindros (Centre), Jason Allison (Centre), Alex Khavanov (Defence), Mariusz Czerkawski (Winger), Jeff O'Neill (Winger), Luke Richardson (Defence), Jean-Sebastian Aubin (Goalie)
Key Departures: Gary Roberts (Winger), Joe Nieuwendyk (Centre), Brian Leetch (Defence), Owen Nolan (Winger), Alexander Mogilny (Winger), Ron Francis (Centre), Mikael Renberg (Winger), Robert Reichel (Centre)
The Toronto Maple Leafs were seemingly the first victim of the new CBA. The Maple Leafs could no longer afford to keep all their high-priced, veteran talent. So in an effort to maximize his cap flexibility, John Ferguson didn't bring back Gary Roberts, Joe Nieuwendyk and Alex Mogilny. Brian Leetch didn't want to come back, and signed with the Bruins for what would be his last season. Owen Nolan was embroiled in a legal dispute with the team, and would not play another game for the Maple Leafs. Ron Francis retired, while the ridiculously disappointing duo of Robert Reichel and Mikael Renberg were simply let go. That left a lot of holes that needed to be fixed. Luckily, the Leafs had a few young players who could have taken their spots. Alex Steen, Matt Stajan, Kyle Wellwood, Nikolai Antropov and Alexei Ponikarovsky were ready to take on more minutes and more responsibility. What's important here is that these group of players were ready. GM Ferguson had a different plan. You see, instead of making this season a rebuilding one (Which was sorely needed), he opted to make a run for the playoffs. The timing was atrocious for such a run, seeing as how their window was completely closed following the 2003-04 playoffs. Aging goaltender Ed Belfour also opted to sit out the entire lockout, which would be disastrous for the Leafs.
Fear not however, Ferguson had a plan. You see, there's been one franchise player who has always wanted to don the Blue and White. His name was Eric Lindros, and Toronto finally acquired him. Lindros was considered the most talented hockey player since Gretzky. That was in 1995 however. Lindros ceased being a #1 player after the 2001-2002 season. He wasn't really that old when he signed with the Leafs. At the age of 32 he could have bounced back. But with a history of head injuries, his on-ice age was realistically about 38 or 39. Nevertheless, Leaf Nation was excited to see Lindros in a Leafs jersey. Ferguson backed up Lindros by signing centreman Jason Allison to play on a third scoring line. Jeff O'neill was also brought in to play with Mats Sundin, but his days as a legitimate sniper were long gone. Mariusz Czerkawski was signed to give the Leafs some depth, speed and a little scoring. The forward lineup was set, and on paper it didn't look too bad.
Toronto's main problem in years past however was their defence. The Leafs seemed to rotate through "impact" defencemen