July 01, 2008

Drunk On Hope

You know, I've been thinking. If Mats Sundin returns, and the Maple Leafs dip into the free agent market and get him some help, perhaps the Leafs can contend in the Eastern Conference as early as next season.

I'm thinking playoffs. Yes, I'm serious. No, really. Hear me out. But remember, it all depends on what Sundin decides to do. If he doesn't return, all bets are off.

I love July 1st. Not only is it a holiday thanks to Canada Day, it's also the day the NHL's free agency period opens up. July 1st is capitalism at its finest, man. Supply is always low, and demand is always high.

The big day is finally upon us, and here's my wish list:

1) Mats Sundin

You all know where I stand on the big Swede. I won't be mad if he leaves, but first and foremost I want him to stay a Maple Leaf.

2) Curtis Joseph

Cujo has been rumoured for the vacant backup goalie job, and I'm all over that. By helping Canada win the Spengler Cup and playing some solid hockey for the Calgary Flames in the playoffs, Cujo proved he's still got some hockey left in his 42-year-old body. While I was pissed that he bolted for Detroit a few years ago, I'd love nothing more than for him to come and finish his career in Toronto.

An actual NHL-calibre backup goalie - none of this Andrew Raycroft garbage of the last two years - will do wonders for the Maple Leafs. Think about it: the Leafs totalled 83 points last season and Raycroft won only two of the 16 games he started in goal. If Raycroft won six more games and finished with eight wins, the Leafs would have finished tied with the Philadelphia Flyers with 95 points. I know, Raycroft sucks. That's why he's gone. I have no doubt Curtis Joseph can eclipse Raycroft's stellar .125 winning percentage.

3) Sean Avery

With Darcy Tucker no longer part of the team, I think it makes all the more sense to try and land the 28-year-old Sean Avery. He's proved his worth as a hockey player, and a douchebag, over the last two years with the New York Rangers, and would go a long way in making the Maple Leafs a tougher team to play against. I don't care if you don't like him. I was never a big fan of Darcy Tucker. Until he became a Maple Leaf.

Make it happen, Uncle Cliff. Show Avery the money. I have no problem paying Avery $4 or $4.5 million a season. That seems to be the going rate for a guy who can score 20 goals and put up 45 to 50 points.

4) Kristian Huselius

Huselius really came into his own over the last two seasons in Calgary. He put up 77 points in 2006/2007 and put up 66 points last season while finding himself constantly in Mike Keenan's doghouse. He's moving on from the Flames and why not Toronto? The Swede will be 30 in November and I'm picturing him playing on the top line with Sundin and Nik Antropov.

I suspect he'll command over $5 million. I think he'd be overpaid at that salary, but such is the reality of free agency (hello, Jason Blake). You've got to overpay to get what you want. At the end of the day Huselius has decent finish and decent playmaking abilities, and could be a solid addition to a Leafs team in need of scoring help.

5) Brad Stuart

While it would be pretty sweet to add a defender like Brian Campbell, I think the Leafs need to be thinking more along the lines of the unassuming Brad Stuart, who will turn 29 in early November.

I've heard he wants to head back to California but I'm hoping Fletcher gives his people a call. Stuart was a rock for the Detroit Red Wings after they picked him up at the trade deadline, and finished the playoffs with a +15 rating.

I'm not sure what the hell is going to happen with Bryan McCabe, but a Leafs defence core with both McCabe and Stuart could look something like this:

Pavel Kubina & Tomas Kaberle
Bryan McCabe & Carlo Colaiacovo
Brad Stuart & Anton Stralman

Ian White would be the odd man out, but you've got to admit the above defence core looks good. Bringing in Stuart would also mean that the recently drafted Luke Schenn isn't rushed in his development.

I think Stuart will command $3 to $3.5 million on the market, and is well worth that type of dough.

Remember, the Leafs put up 83 points last season with: a beer league backup goalie, an injured and therefore mostly ineffective Darcy Tucker, Jason Blake scoring only 15 goals on a .045 shooting percentage, a useless Kyle Wellwood, a useless Bryan McCabe, a Jekyll and Hyde Pavel Kubina, and a number one goalie in Vesa Toskala who didn't get truly comfortable until December.

If the Leafs are active on the market today and can add a few of the names I've mentioned above - most importantly Mats Sundin - I think the roster will be in decent shape. With a new coach in Ron Wilson who is more focused on defence and penalty killing, you're damn right I'm thinking playoffs. Anything else would be uncivilized.

Now general manager extraordinaire Cliff Fletcher has just got to make it all happen.

I love July 1st.

Go Leafs Go.


Down Goes Brown said...

Brad Stuart would be an ironic pickup: a trade deadline rental who won the Stanley Cup.

I wonder if Sundin would be on hand to inform him that his Cup doesn't count?

eyebleaf said...

aww, Sean, still bitter over not getting your way in regards to Sundin, eh? Still? Get over it, man.

Dan, Jr. said...

I was so glad to see Cujo going back to Toronto. I haven't gotten a chance to see him play in DC against the Capitals since he was a Red Wing. He used to be my daughter's favorite goalie. Not sure who is now.

Like I said before, Mats wants to stay and I think he will.

bkblades said...

In regards to the Tucker and Avery comparisons, Tucker is always a player the other team hates, but always admired as a teammate.

Avery is also a player the other team hates. It's too bad that even his own teammates hate him. Last time Avery was part of a young team, the Kings made every attempt to unload this guy. I don't want this guy anywhere near a rebuilding team, especially one devoid of strong veteran leadership.