Mike Ulmer, writing on the Leafs website does a nice job predicting what the Buds may look like at the start of the 2011 season. Here are a couple of highlights:
“Going into tonight’s contest against the Montreal Canadiens, the Maple Leafs are 16-18-6, 10 points out of the basement, 25 points away from first.”
Always good to have some perspective don’t you think?
“The Leafs desperately need to get younger. To that end, I have limited the top two lines and top two defensive pairings to players 25 years or younger on opening night. Keep in mind, there will always be room for productive older players. Nik Hagman will be nearly 32, but it’s hard to think his game would not be welcome somewhere on the roster. ”
God I hope he is right about the age thing….
“On defence: Luke Schenn. He’s a sure bet. A little below Schenn, put Jeff Finger in the depth chart. Anton Stralman has the talent to be a top four defenceman but it’s impossible to accurately predict whether he will make the jump. I like Jonas Frogren’s mean for the third pairing and based on his ever improving play, Ian White might be considered in the mix. ”
So we are 1/4 right now. I love that Finger is still here if to only shut up a lot pundits.
“At forward: Well, Mikhail Grabovsky is the one sure bet. Nikolai Kulemin is in the minors right now, but he remains a good prospect for second or third-line status. Veteran Nik Antropov would be welcome, but he was a free agent back in 2009 and who knows where he is in 2010.
Ummm I think he is putting that at 1/4 (maybe 2 if you count Nikolai), which is 1 more then anyone would have said at the beginning of the season. No one expected to Grabovsky to be as good or at least to look like he has the upside that he has shown thus far.
In net, Ulmer correctly has a question mark.
“Realistically, the Leafs need nine players who can play on the top two lines and three more defencemen who can man the first two pairings.”
That is going to be a tall order. These players, according to Ulmer have to be under 25. Finding that many players under 25 isn’t going to be easy. I hope the pundits remember this as they grade Mr. Burke. Think about it. You don’t draft players in their young 20’s. Schenn is the exception, not the rule. I am sure the good folks over at PPP can tell us the percentage of players drafted in the first or second round play meaningful games in there first 2 years. I am willing to be it isn’t that high.
“That means the Leafs must depend on a steady flow of players from the development end, the Marlies. They must gamble draft choices for ready for prime time players (hard to find someone who begrudges the second-rounder Cliff Fletcher gave up to land Grabovsky) or trade.”
All this means that Mr. Burke is going to be very busy between now and the start of next season.
You can read Ulmer here