Depending on the path Brian Burke and the Maple Leafs follow this season there are several different scenarios set to unfold. Exactly what happens will be determined by the performance of the team this fall.
No one would argue that the Leafs need a serious upgrade in goal; something as simple as a goalie cutout would provide some mild improvement. It might even be the more humane route given the dedication from the players in the defensive zone. Right now the thought is that Burke is in search of a solid, veteran goaltender (flashback to Giguere) but will that really solve the problem? Or will it simply create more?
Let’s not forget how poorly Giggy played in Toronto, but how amazing he performed in Colorado. The problem may go beyond the crease. What happens if the Leafs bring in a slightly overpriced but proven winner who continues to excel? That pushes James Reimer to the backup role and Ben Scrivens doesn’t get his very well deserved shot with the big club. The fallout continues, impacting intriguing prospects Jussi Rynnas and Mark Owuya, at least one bound for ECHL, a far cry from the starter roles they would surely get in the Swedish Elite League. Aside from Optimus Reim taking a temporary back seat, it’s hard to argue against any of the tenders taking at least a small step forward. With any luck they will all accept their role for next season; the last thing this organization needs is disgruntled goaltending prospects taking off to the SEL or KHL never to return.
If the rest of the lineup remains the same I don’t think goals will be a problem after a top 10 finish this year. Even with a more defensive approach the Leafs have at least 4 potential 30 goal scorers (Kessel, Lupul, Grabovski, Kulemin) so shoring up the net should go a long way to sending this team into the post season.
So what happens if the Leafs succeed this coming season? This is what concerns me the most; it seems very clear right now that a successful team under Randy Carlyle will simply spell the end of Dallas Eakins within the organization. This could stand to be the biggest loss for the team since mindlessly dismissing Pat Burns after the talent around him was distributed across the league. Dallas Eakins isn’t destined to leave Toronto although his ascension to the NHL would likely mean the end of playoff hopes for another season and draw to a close the disappointment of the Burke era.
What is better for the long run? Risk losing very promising goalie prospects and a man who is arguably the best coach outside the NHL? Stay the current course; find out how good you are within the organization at risk of losing the entire front office right in the middle of an extended rebuild?
I want nothing more than to be standing where Kings fans are right now. They stood behind their leader, Dean Lombardi, as his teams missed the playoffs year after year but with patience and sticking to his long term plan the Kings are now in the Stanley Cup finals. Would it be right to give Burke the boot and have another executive start another rebuild? No. Even if you bring in someone new who follows the course already laid out it’s hard to argue they can execute it with the same attitude and moxie as Burke. Who else could have gotten Dion Phaneuf for spare parts or mined the ranks of the Swedish netminders union for these rough cut diamonds we have now?
How will this play out and what course is best for the present and the future? I have no goddamn clue, just a nagging feeling that losing Eakins will be a mistake and, no matter the outcome, in 1 year this organization will be very different.