Brett Lockwood

In The Crease

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Leafs: The Fantasy Killers

Monday, January 03, 2011



The Toronto Maple Leafs will forever be known as the fantasy killer in my household. The annual bottom-dwellers of the National Hockey League are a bit of an enigma. It seems as though fans are blinded by the team's allure, unable to appreciate the Leafs for what they are, a money-maker for the owners. Year in and year out, the public is drawn into some misconception that Toronto will actually be a contender (the pessimists believe an eighth seed is attainable before bowing out in the first round). In the fantasy hockey world the same situation occurs. The public is drawn into owning Leafs with the hope that they can go on some magical run and produce fantasy value. Now is the time to open your eyes and realize there is no team as dreadful as the Leafs. A quick glance at the roster indicates that NONE of their players has the capability of a respectful season. Off the ice, team's GM Brian Burke has been trying to wheel and deal in order to turn this team around. So far, the results look gloomy. The team ranks 28th (out of 30 NHL teams) in goals, 27th in assists, 27th in shots, and 26th in PIMs. The horizon is dark.

The offensive woes of the franchise have been around for quite some time. The Leafs traded the world for "future super star" Phil Kessel (in actuality the Boston Bruins received the Toronto Maple Leafs' first and a second round pick in 2010, and a first round pick in 2011). Armed with the second overall and 32nd overall picks in the 2010 draft, the Boston Bruins selected Tyler Seguin and Jared Knight, respectively. Thus far, Seguin has five goals, six assists, and a plus-one rating while being relegated to third or fourth line duties. In comparison, Kessel has 14 goals and eight assists with a minus-15 rating. The only way to possibly compare the two players is to look at total time on ice. Kessel comes in at 707 minutes on ice thus far. Meanwhile over in Boston, Seguin is getting 59% of Kessel's ice time as he clocks in at 415 minutes this season. The point of this charade is to show how ineffective Kessel truly has been thus far. Rotoworld predicts he will finish the season with 25 goals and 55-60 points. Add a minus-20 rating to that and ask yourself if he is really worth a fifth round pick in drafts.

Another common misconception for be-Leaf-ers is that their defensive corps is topnotch. From both a fantasy perspective as well as a real world one, this notion couldn't be further from the truth. The Leafs are 20th in the league in goals allowed. They are 28th in the league in penalty killing at a dismal 76%. Their best defenseman, Dion Phaneuf, who also happens to be their captain, has eight points and a minus-five rating. Tomas Kaberle is 16th in defensemen with 22 points, however he ranks second last overall with just one goal. Combined, all Leafs defensemen are an abysmal minus-24 on the season. There is simply nothing for you here if you are in need of a defenseman for your fantasy squad. Your best bet is to pick up Kaberle and pray to the heavens that he is shipped to a contender. Even then I doubt he will shoot the puck.

If your fantasy season rides on either Jonas Gustavsson or J.S. Giguere, I definitely feel for you. Both 'tenders will never be able to produce decent, never mind elite, levels because of the scrubs that play in front of them. Once tabbed "The Monster", Gustavsson is slowly turning into the freak show. He is a horrid 5-11-2 this season with a 3.04 GAA and .896 save percentage. While Leafs enthusiasts have tabbed him the goalie of the future, he is guaranteed to fall short of any expectations that are placed on him. Before long he will be shipped away to another team where he is sure to flourish (think Tukka Rask here). Jiggy hasn't performed much better with an 8-7-2 record. While being nagged by his sore groin, he has posted horrific numbers as well. His 2.80 GAA is good for 27th in the league while his scary .894 save percentage is good for 38th in the NHL. I do not need to pound home this fact; it is clear the Leaf crease is to be steered away from.

With floundering teams there always seems to be hope for a few souls. Even the struggling New Jersey Devils have some fantasy assets. The New York Islanders have rosterable players such as John Tavares and Josh Bailey and even the Edmonton Oilers have a few young studs. The Leafs' situation is much bleaker. Is anybody going to own Nazem Kadri? First he plays 17 games without scoring a goal. Then he is a healthy scratch because he can't perform. Then, he is sent back to the AHL's Toronto Marlies. Talk about a confidence booster. Those in keeper leagues must be committing Hara-kiri right about now. The farm system appears depleted, with very few big names coming through the pipes. Times could not be darker in Leaf Nation.

This begs the question, is there any hope for ever owning a reliable, solid fantasy player on the Leafs? The answer is maybe. It can even happen as early as this season. There are rumors flying around that Brian Burke is looking to land a top-line center to bolster the squad. It is no secret that Phil Kessel needs a playmaker (Marc Savard ala 2008-09) to get him the puck. Any upgrade over the nothing (Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Tim Brent, Mike Brown, etc.) Toronto has now will help. Another interesting idea is to go into full-blown rebuilding mode. No, I am not talking about the "Leafs rebuilding plan" where you turn assets (first round picks) into non-playmaking wingers. The current architectural plans are failing miserably. It is as though the Leafs cannot decide whether to compete now or rebuild for the future. Is there any doubt that Kaberle, Komisarek, etc. should be shipped out of town for prospects? Any prospects would do. Give this team, along with its fans, some hope. Maybe then we, as fantasy owners, can own Leafs of our own. Until then, there is no value to owning any Toronto Maple Leaf.

***Did you know?***
Maple Leafs forward Jim Dorey has the record for penalties in a game. On October 16, 1968 Dorey received nine (9) individual penalties.





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