It has turned into another spring of disappointment for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The season of optimism has morphed into a nightmare and fan anger is at an all-time high. The centre of the hockey universe will be the last team in the post-lockout era to make the playoffs - when it eventually happens. The question is when?
Brian Burke's hybrid rebuild has not gone according to plan. Rather than start from ground up building through the draft, Burke has tried making moves on the fly through trades and free agency. Ultimately after three and a half years in Toronto, the foundation seems to be built on a fault. Here are the five most notable failings that has hampered the franchise since the NHL's most truculent GM came to Toronto.
5) BIG TICKET, LITTLE RETURN - Mike Komisarek was supposed to bring defensive stability and leadership, but its awfully hard leading from the press box. He is a likeable teammate and certainly competes on the ice, but he has two goals and is a combined minus-28 in his first three seasons in Toronto. At five years and at $4.5 million per season, you just simply can't have a fifth or sixth d-man earning that much playing under today's cap system.
4) FALSE HOPE - Where is this top line centre, or additional top six forward? What truculence? Promising fans one thing and delivering another has driven fans bananas. It built a false sense of hope and it created unrealistic expectations. People feel misled, after hearing promises of one thing and are handed over another.
3) SUMMER OF 2011 - Brad Richards went to New York, and Plan B created a mish-mash of flops. At $4.75 million, Tim Connolly, who was supposed to be the answer at centre, missed the first month and has accounted for 11 goals in 61 games. Landing Matthew Lombardi and Cody Franson out of Nashville was deemed a heist... doesn't feel like it anymore. Lombardi has scored eight goals in 54 games and has posted a minus-15. Cody Franson has been every coach's whipping boy and has spent almost as much time in the press box as he has on the ice. Total it up, and its over $9 million spent, with not much to show for. Oh, and Lombardi and Connolly are back for next season for a total of $8.25 million.
2) GOALTENDING - It was a mistake last summer not adding a veteran goaltender to go along with a relatively unproven James Reimer, and it clearly set this team back this year by not properly addressing the goaltending position. The Leafs have had some of the worst ranked goaltending in the league; the third worst this year to be exact. Blame special teams if you want, but a good goalie steals a game every once in awhile, and we haven't seen enough of it here. When Toronto went to the playoffs for six straight years between 1999 and 2004, who was in goal? A good goalie! Ed Belfour and Curtis Joseph; or in other words, kick-ass goalies!
1) GIVING UP ON MATS - He was the captain of the ship who loved Toronto and this city loved him. He refused to waive his no trade clause because he considered himself a Toronto Maple Leaf. He could've retired as a Leaf. He waited to make a decision to sign elsewhere, which was ultimately Vancouver. It didn't end right for Sundin. In December 2008, Burke said, 'I don't think it was the right fit or right direction for us right now." Think about Mats centering a line with Phil Kessel right now. How good would that be? Look at what 39 year old Daniel Alfredsson is doing in Ottawa. Nik Lidstrom is 41. You don't think that if Mats didn't have his heart ripped out of him like that scene in Dumb and Dumber he still couldn't be a top six or top nine player on the Leafs at 41? Imagine him leading by example for the kids. Think about it.