By Jack Patel
As of February 3, 2015, the Toronto Maple Leafs sit at 24th in the NHL with 48 points. With quality players such as Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk it’s hard to believe such a talented team could be on a 9 game losing streak. The Leafs aren’t the only ones who are upset about it, as the fans have begun to retaliate as well.
This was only the most recent incident to occur. The Leafs face a tough choice: buy or sell. They have the talent to compete for a playoff spot and it is not just the coaching at fault. Toronto has slid even further since the firing of former head coach Randy Carlyle in favor of having two assistant coaches lead the team.
It’s time the Maple Leafs begin dismantling what was once a very promising team. Toronto doesn’t have the goaltending to compete, with both Jonathan Bernier and James Reimer collecting a goals against average of over 2.70, nor does Toronto have the depth. Not only that, they are currently missing the leadership and physicality of captain Dion Phaneuf who is said to be week-to-week with a hand injury.
With such a tightly contested playoff race, many teams will be shopping for a key scorer to add to their mix. Cody Franson is becoming an unrestricted free agent this summer and the Leafs surely do not want to receive nothing for his services. The Leafs have enough talent to let at least one player move along at the trade deadline on March 2.Embed from Getty Images
Now we aren’t saying the Leafs should tank, but it would be a smart idea to at least sell one of their key players off to bolster their draft picks. Look at their Atlantic foes the red hot Detroit Red Wings. Detroit always manages to stay in the playoff hunt every year, and they continue to draft so well. It seems as though one guy goes down in Hockeytown and another young guy is there ready to step up. And they still have plenty of talent to look forward to, with Dylan Larkin on the way.
And with such a talent group of young guys coming into the NHL, why not look to the draft to rebuild? Both Connor McDavid and Jack Eichel have the skills and promise to become franchise players to build around. Both of them were excellent in the World Junior Championship in early January. The NHL Draft lottery is twice as exciting this year with two players who could potentially become NHL superstars.
The best option seems to be selling a key aging player like Kessel, hope it’s your lucky day in the lottery and make moves to mix in the right amount of experience. Too many teams make the mistake of failing to choose a path. If the Maple Leafs are smart, they’ll choose to sell and rebuild.