Imagine this scenario if you will. You just graduated from college and have student loan payments starting in a couple of months. You currently drive a 2010 Ford Focus which carries a reasonable payment and are living perfectly within a budget. You want to impress a young female at your new place of employment and decide to do so by upgrading your automobile. You decide to trade the relatively new Focus for a 2002 BMW 3 series with 140k miles. The car is rear wheel drive and has trouble in the northeast weather. The original owner said it had trouble some winters in Chicago, and you suspect the Boston climate may not be much better. The payment is nearly four times as much as that of the Focus, and the car is getting to the point where it may need signifigant work. In reality it may have a couple good years in it. You may get a few dates with the young lady that you’re trying to impress, but it doesn’t look like a long term proposition.
When written in this manner it sounds foolish, yet when talking about Roberto Luongo people don’t seem to equate.
The Maple Leafs are more than likely a playoff team. Are they better than Pittsburgh, Boston, Anaheim, or Chicago? That should be answered with definitive no. Pittsburgh and Boston already provide direct evidence with 1-3 and 1-2 records respectively. If the Leafs were to make any moves today, they should be made with the idea that the above stated situation is improved. Roberto Luongo in east coast Blue and White does little if anything at all to do that. It would at best be a lateral move, and when looked at through the scope of the contract, it would actually be a step backwards. This is the type of move that got Pat Quinn in trouble and ultimately also cost John Ferguson Jr. his job. Eric Lindros, Jason Allison, Michael Peca, and Jeff O’Neil, were all examples of players past their prime that were going to get Toronto over the top. Except they didn’t. People have been waxing poetic about the Leaf tenure of Ed Belfour, but have quickly forgotten that it ended with the Leafs paying him for two seasons to play for the Florida Panthers after it was determined he could no longer perform at the NHL level. He never got Florida into the playoffs either.
Imagine if the New York Rangers had stuck with Kevin Weekes when returning from an injury in 2005-06 instead of going with rookie Henrik Lundqvist. He got shelled in his first rodeo, but the Rangers have played 55 playoff games since and just last year were within one game of the Stanley Cup final. There are times that require action and times that require patience, and for the current version of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the time is to be patient.
The ceiling for James Reimer and Ben Scrivens is unknown, but that of Luongo has likely already been reached. He may have one or two more seasons at his current level. Reimer and Scrivens may explode and get terrible, but so far both have shown steady progress and improvement with each pro season. Reimer won an ECHL championship with the Reading Royals while Scrivens was the best American Hockey League goaltender leading the Toronto Marlies to a Calder Cup final last spring. The above stated facts don’t even begin to address that the two young netminders have been far better while the team in front of them has posted a much worse Corsi percentage than that of the Canucks. The only true question at this point is whether or not it is sustainable. Trade for Luongo, maybe another team finds out for you.
Scroll through years of Maple Leafs history and you will find encyclopedias filled with player bios that were moved far too soon for established veterans. For years the New York Rangers did the same until finally conceding to the fact that good teams are the product of good development. It is an ugly business when another team’s player is valued higher than your own. Today was a day to prove that the Leafs of old were no more, that standing pat with a good group of young players was far superior to deficit spending for a few playoff games. This really marks the arrival of the new philosophy, and that should be reason for huge cheers.