Well, another week has come and gone and there hasn’t been a whole hell of a lot gone on in the hockey world. A few minor signings here and there, but not much else. That could all change in the next week or so, as the NHL’s schedule of arbitration hearings is set to begin later this week. While it’s not a high probability that any of the premier options (Brandon Dubinsky, etc.) will be finding new homes as a result of arbitration, it still raises a few interesting scenarios.
Of course, there’s also the still-unresolved restricted free agent signings that need to be taken care of around the league, with names like Zach Parise, Steven Stamkos, Zach Bogosian, Drew Doughty and our own Luke Schenn still without contracts. Should be intriguing to see how all these situations play out, although most Leaf fans are primarily concerned with just two names on that list – Schenn and Stamkos. I still say it’s highly unlikely that the Leafs will get a shot at Stamkos, but if they get the opportunity to do so, I don’t see how Burks could pass on it. Make the jump for this week’s Q & A.
1. We’ll get this out of the way first. Do the Leafs have a realistic shot at landing Stamkos?
– Honestly, every day that goes by and he’s not signed in Tampa makes me wonder just a little bit more what exactly is going on down there in Florida. All the rumormongers are absolutely eating it up, but they have every right to, with one of the premier players in the game today still waiting to find out where he’ll be playing next season, and for how much. Like most somewhat realistic Leaf fans, I tend to be mostly pessimistic about the chances of Stamkos joining the Leafs, but the possibility is just too exciting to ignore. Read more here from Vintage Leaf Memories.
2. What’s up with Luke?
– There’s zero doubt in my mind that Brian Burke has every intention of signing Schenn – it’s just a matter of time and market conditions. With so many other big name defensemen entering the offseason in similar situations as the Leafs’ blueliner, the two sides are most likely waiting to see what the general market price ends up being. Just a quick rundown of other young defensemen awaiting decisions and new contracts – Andrej Sekera, Marc-Andre Gragnani, Chris Campoli, Kyle Cumiskey, Drew Doughty, Josh Gorges, Shea Weber and Zach Bogosian are all awaiting new contracts, along with a host of other less-notable defensemen. Once a few of these dominoes fall, I’d expect the Schenn situation to be resolved rapidly. However, as some have mentioned before, the Stamkos saga also casts its shadow over Luke’s negotiations, since if there was to be a trade for the stud center, Schenn would almost certainly have to be sacrificed, a move that I think most Leaf fans would have to agree with. While I don’t entirely agree that Luke Schenn is trade bait, as indicated in this article, if he were to be moved, I think we’d all be happy with the return. For those saying that Schenn doesn’t want to re-sign, I’d take the fact that he was with Brian Burke during the infamous trip to Afghanistan on July 1 as pretty good evidence that there’s no bad blood between the two – it’s only a matter of time.
3. Will the Leafs make the playoffs next season?
– Who the hell knows?? If one thing’s for sure in the NHL, it’s that nothing is a sure thing. The Leafs have so many intangibles coming into the season – it’s damn near impossible to predict how the 2011-12 season will pan out. Will James Reimer be able to repeat his success from last year? Will Clarke MacArthur earn all that money from his new contract – or will Tim Connolly for that matter? How will the new blueline perform with the additions of Cody Franson and John-Michael Liles; and will Keith Aulie and Carl Gunnarsson continue their development?
Forget all those questions just for a minute and think about how different the Eastern Conference will be this season. The Penguins will get back Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, the Caps have to be the favorite with an All-Star goalie between the pipes and all kinds of grit added to their soft European lineup, while the Flyers are a virtual unknown after blowing up a team that was two wins from the Cup in 2010. Florida won’t be a pushover anymore, and the Buffalo Sabres have been spending money like lottery-winning rednecks at a fireworks clearance sale. Ultimately, the Leafs can only worry about their own performance, but if you’re interested to see how their offseason stacks up against the rest of the bubble teams in the East, check this out – and be sure to read the comments for some always entertaining Leaf-bashing.
4. What’s the deal with Nazem Kadri – is he finally cracking the lineup this year or what?
Surprisingly enough, I think the Leafs have actually done a very good job at developing Kadri slowly since drafting him in ’09. With a couple of rough seasons underway, the temptation would have been to fire him right into the lineup and expect him to turn the franchise around. Instead, Burke and Wilson have done a great job of forcing Kadri to take a slower, more correct path through his development, and I think this season is where we will start to see the fruits of his labor. If my word’s not good enough for you, why don’t you read some of what Nazem himself had to say on the subject?
5. How would you grade the Leafs’ offseason so far?
– Whether you think the additions of Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly were foolish or not, there’s no denying that Burke has, at least in theory, made a point of addressing just about every glaring need that the Leafs’ roster presented at the end of last season. Barring a game-changing acquisition like a Stamkos, Richards or Stastny, the Leafs’ best option right now is to let the deep pool of young talent that they’ve stockpiled recently develop properly. For a team that’s waited 44 years since its last Cup, patience should be a well-practiced virtue. However, if you take the time to look at where the Leafs have come as an organization just in the short time that Burke has been at the helm, it’s difficult not to start getting excited about the next few seasons.
That’s all for now – as always, you can follow me at twitter.com/editorinleaf. Thanks for reading, and if you have any questions you’d like answered for next week, feel free to drop them in the comments, DM me on Twitter or email me at [email protected] Go Leafs!