By HOWARD BERGER
TORONTO (June 8) — This is uncertain territory, Leafs Nation.
Though it required minimal effort, your favorite hockey club went through a tanking exercise last season to obtain prime real estate in a bountiful draft — one that promises franchise–caliber ability among the top half–dozen prospects. The club landed at No. 4, which guarantees selection among a group that could include Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse and Mitch Marner — any of whom, scouts advise, a team can build around. Now, after one of the most shameful, demoralizing seasons in franchise history, the Leafs might unload that coveted pick?
So said assistant general manager Kyle Dubas in a newsworthy and underplayed submission on the weekend by Toronto Star hockey writer Kevin McGran. Dispatched to cover the National Hockey League scouting combine in Buffalo, McGran procured an intriguing confession.
“It’s something we would definitely look at,” said Dubas about moving the No. 4 selection. “If [another team] was adamant about a player, we’re pretty comfortable with the players in that cluster. We need to be acquiring as many draft pick assets as we can; as many prospects as we can. If there was something [a trade] that made sense, we’d be open to listening and having some thorough discussions on the fourth pick.”
LEAFS ASSISTANT GM KYLE DUBAS: COMPELLING REMARKS ON THE WEEKEND.
When Dubas said “another team,” the presumption had to be one of two trade partners: Carolina and New Jersey — slotted fifth and sixth in the draft. Any notion of the Maple Leafs moving out of the top half–dozen is preposterous. Connor McDavid will go to first to Edmonton; Jack Eichel second to Buffalo. It is widely assumed Arizona wants Strome at No. 3. That would leave Toronto an attractive choice between Hanifin, Crouse and Marner among the top–six–rated prospects. Given his remarks to McGran, Dubas implied the Leafs have no particular favorite in that group. So, trading No. 4 for No. 5 or No. 6 — plus, let’s say, a second–round pick (which Toronto doesn’t have) — is considered a “safe” move.
More comfortable, I might suggest, would be the Maple Leafs forming a consensus among Hanifin, Crouse and Marner — which is still possible before the June 26–27 lottery in Sunrise, Fla. You would think Mark Hunter and his eagle–eyed posse of amateur scouts could agree on a clear 1–2–3 appraisal of the aforementioned, thereby minimizing the appetite to deal the No. 4 slot. In regard to wayward speculation that the Leafs would include their pick as part of an elaborate transaction involving roster players, let us advocate for the club to remain efficiently conservative in its early building process. There is no requirement to reconstruct the Maple Leafs for the 2015–16 season. Mike Babcock, you’ll likely recall, has come aboard for eight years, not eight months.
The Leafs would be much–better served to offer up a current asset in a simple, one–for–one deal to fill their second–round vacancy; perhaps center–man Tyler Bozak, who’d be well worthy of such an exchange from a team further along in development. It would also allow the Maple Leafs to eliminate what is — for their purposes — a bloated contract.
Bottom line is, Brendan Shanahan’s crew has to stay smart and keep its eye on the ball. It has long required much ineptitude to land a No. 4 pick and the Maple Leafs were full value for their crumminess throughout the 2014–15 season. Many scouts will tell you the fourth selection in this year’s draft is equal to a No. 1 pick in most others. If I’m Kyle Dubas, I would be content — and very careful — with it.
NHL MEDIA GUIDES — PART 2
In my continuing series on 50 years of NHL media guides, I look back today in my collection at the Montreal Canadiens and San Jose Sharks.
MY EARLIEST CANADIENS GUIDES DATING TO JUST AFTER THE CLUB’S RECORD FIVE CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUPS (1956 — 1960). THESE ARE FROM 1960–61 AND 1961–62.
MONTREAL’S LEGENDARY CAPTAIN, JEAN BELIVEAU, WAS FEATURED ON THE 1963–64 AND 1965–66 MEDIA GUIDES. BELIVEAU DIED AT 83 ON DEC. 2, 2014.
MONTREAL WAS ACHING TO WIN THE STANLEY CUP IN 1966–67 — THE FINAL SEASON OF THE SIX–TEAM NHL AND BEFORE HOSTING EXPO ’67. BUT, AN OVER–THE–HILL GANG OF TORONTO MAPLE LEAFS, LED BY GOALIES JOHNNY BOWER AND TERRY SAWCHUK, SPOLIED THE PLAN.
THE CANADIENS BEGAN A STRING OF FOUR CONSECUTIVE STANLEY CUP TITLES IN 1975–76, WITH HALL–OF–FAMERS MAURICE RICHARD (LEFT) AND BERNIE GEOFFRION FLANKING STAR WINGER GUY LAFLEUR ON THE COVER OF THAT SEASON’S MEDIA GUIDE.
MEDIA GUIDES DEPICTING SOME OF THE GREATEST TEAMS IN NHL HISTORY — THE MONTREAL CANADIENS OF LAFLEUR, SCOTTY BOWMAN, KEN DRYDEN, LARRY ROBINSON, SERGE SAVARD, STEVE SHUTT AND CO. THAT WON STANLEY CUPS IN 1976–77–78–79.
THE TWO MOST RECENT STANLEY CUP WINS BY THE CANADIENS — IN 1986 AND 1993 — WERE UNEXPECTED UNTIL VIEWED IN HINDSIGHT, WITH HALL–OF–FAMER PATRICK ROY IN GOAL.
MEDIA GUIDE FROM THE FINAL SEASON OF THE MONTREAL FORUM: 1995–96.
MY TWO MOST RECENT MONTREAL GUIDES, LEADING TOWARD THE 100th ANNIVERSARY OF THE FRANCHISE IN THE 2008–09 SEASON.
SAN JOSE SHARKS
THE SHARKS INTRODUCED TEAL TO THE NHL IN THEIR EXPANSION SEASON ? OF 1991–92.
THE SECOND SAN JOSE MEDIA GUIDE — IN 1992–93 — FEATURED A FOLD–OUT COVER THAT REVEALED THE CLUB’S VERY POPULAR LOGO.
THE SHARKS FIFTH AND TENTH–ANNIVERSARY MEDIA GUIDES.
SAN JOSE SHARKS AT THE TURN OF THE CENTURY.
MY TWO MOST RECENT SAN JOSE BOOKS (2005–06 / 2006–07) HIGHLIGHTED SUCH LONG–TIME FRANCHISE STARS AS JOE THORNTON AND PATRICK MARLEAU.
FACEBOOK: HOWARD BERGER [HUMBER COLLEGE]
LINKEDIN: HOWARD BERGER [BROADCAST MEDIA]