The Toronto Maple Leafs are going old school with their jerseys. But it’s going to take more than a new look to make them good again.
Not that the Bruins are complaining.
If it weren't for the Maple Leafs’ struggles, the Bruins wouldn't have the No. 2 pick in next week’s NHL draft. Now Boston is on the cusp of adding either Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin to their roster. Both are big-time talents, and whichever player the Bruins get should fill the scoring void left by Phil Kessel.
When the Bruins traded the sniper to Toronto last September for two first-round picks (2010 and 2011) and a second-round pick (2010), some questioned the move and wondered how the Bruins would replace Kessel’s scoring. It’s no secret Boston lacked some offensive punch last season — the Bruins ranked last in the NHL in goals (196) and averaged fewer goals per game (2.39) than any team in the league. But they still made the Eastern Conference semifinals and were a goal away from getting to the Eastern Conference finals.
Looking at a stat sheet, one might argue the Black and Gold could have used Kessel. He scored 30 goals for Toronto — eight more than Marco Sturm, who led Boston — and had 25 assists. But no one missed Kessel’s attitude and motivation issues. Was he a team player? Would he mature? Would he buy into the system?
Those are questions for the Maple Leafs — GM Brian Burke, coach Ron Wilson, new captain Dion Phaneuf and every other player — to answer now.
The Bruins are focused on building a Stanley Cup winner, and in the long run, Hall or Seguin will do more to help that cause than Kessel would have.
Peter Chiarelli made a bold move by pulling the trigger on the Kessel deal. Any trade is a risk, and letting Kessel go wasn’t guaranteed to reap a reward for the Bruins. But the deal could turn out to be the move that leads the Bruins to their first Cup since 1972. With two first-round picks this year and two more in 2011, Chiarelli is bringing a lot of chips to the table.
That beats the position Toronto is in as the reigning worst team in the East. The franchise with 13 NHL championships (second only to the Canadiens’ 23 for most titles of any team) hasn’t won a Cup since 1967, and the team hasn't been to the playoffs since 2004.
Things have gotten so rough for the Maple Leafs that even releasing a new jersey draws criticism these days. Some fans think the team introduced the new sweater (three years removed from introducing their last new jersey) just to make a few extra bucks.
"If what the cynics say was true, we’d change the sweaters every year, and we’d go to a different third jersey every year," Burke said at the unveiling, according to the Toronto Star. "And we could do a Valentine’s Day practice sweater with a heart on it, and we could do a St. Patrick’s Day sweater. If someone thinks it’s a cash grab, we could do a lot of different things than what we’re doing."
What the Maple Leafs are doing is searching for ways to win. They have started by turning back the clock with their uniform in the hopes that looking like a champion from the past will help them play like one in the present.
The Bruins don't mind if it takes the Leafs take until after 2011 to find the secret to success. Next year, the Black and Gold own Toronto's first-round draft pick again, and getting the No. 1 overall pick in the draft would be a nice prize.
A bad Maple Leafs team is good for the Bruins.
The worse Toronto is, the better Boston's chances of hitting the jackpot.
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