Like most off-seasons, the Leafs have made a bunch of moves; but this is the first year in a very long time where I feel that the team is worse off than when it started – by a fair margin. The recent memory for a Leafs fan is mostly optimistic, starting from the time that Brian Burke took over, he began a “rebuild” and we seemed to be moving in the correct direction (although with a bunch of a setbacks). With his firing, it seemed liked we were still on a good path because is softer-spoken right-hand-man, Dave Nonis was now running the show.
But Nonis’ recent moves have made me think about just taking a break from the Leafs for a couple of seasons.
The most knuckled headed move was to use our second amnesty buyout on Mikhail Grabovski (whom I like to call Crosbovski for his awesome shootout moves). Being a big budget team, we had the luxury of using our amnesty buyouts to take an expensive problem from a small market team, for a non-monetary fee (such as a prospect). Instead, we used it to buy out our most experienced and arguably best all-around centre. Grabovski can score (even though he didn’t this year, because he was utilized incorrectly), drive possession, and play the tough minutes against top opponent lines. He was being paid $5.5 million a year (which might be a slight overpayment).
I can only guess, but it seems the reason that he was bought out was because he didn’t get along (communicate) with our coach, Randy Carlye, well. During the lockout, he played in the KHL and was one of the top players in the league. Why we would buy-out our best centreman (and possibly a #1 centre) when we have said repeatedly that we are still looking for a #1 centre is beyond me! I think this has really set back our team.
One of the reasons cited for getting rid of Grabovski is so we have more money – and we ended up spending that money by resigning Tyler Bozak for 5 years at $21 million. Even though he plays on the first line, Bozak is not nearly as good as Grabovski. He just isn’t the all-around centre we need (another reason why the Leafs management has stated they’re still in the market for a #1 centre). We shouldn’t have resigned him!
The other reason we needed money is because we just traded for David Bolland who is making $3-odd million this year. In a vacuum, this is a good pickup because we traded him for 3 draft picks who will probably amount to nothing either. I don’t think he is substantially better or worse than Bozak, although he has gotten a lot of press by being on 2 cup-winning Blackhawks teams. But, by getting him, we had $13 million committed to 3 “2nd line” centremen. That is a dumb situation, so we had to get rid of one, which became Grabovski; but why did we have to have this problem in the first place? We could have just not resigned Bozak or not traded for Bolland!
My feeling is that Nonis is making these moves so he can construct a Caryle team with Caryle-like players. The problem with that is I don’t have confidence in Caryle as a coach! I fear that we will look back on these moves the same way we look back on the dumb moves that JFJ made. And worse, these are only SOME of the problems that I have with the Leafs’ off-season moves!