Leafs Problem: Tanenbaum, Maurice

A couple days ago I wrote an article about the Leafs problems and mentioned that it is probably time for John Ferguson Jr. to be let go whether he deserves it or not. But after listening and reading media reports over the past coupld days I think firing John Ferguson Jr. would be a mistake, at least at this time. I have come to the conclusion that there are two problems with the Leafs.

1. Larry Tanenbaum

From all reports it is Larry Tanenbaum who most wants John Ferguson Jr. relieved of his duties as General Manager and it was Tanenbaum who pushed for the search for someone to ‘help’ JFJ last summer which Bowman, Muckler and possible others turned down because they thought it would be an unworkable relationship. And media reports now say that it is Tanenbaum that is approaching former NHLers like Glen Healey, Mark Messier and others about being a part of a GM by committee setup. These moves have undermined the authority of Richard Peddie, JFJ and in turn Paul Maurice. I know the saying ‘the players are professionals and should play hard and determined regardless’ but when you bosses today may not be your bosses tomorrow it is natural for humans to lose some moral and lose some sense of a ‘team’ atmosphere and in a highly competitive league even a small amount of moral drop can have an impact on the ice. It also should be stated that it was probably Larry Tanenbaum who pushed for the resigning of his close friend Tie Domi (which was a failure) and it was Tie Domi, possibly in conjunction with Tanenbaum, that pushed for the signing of Eric Lindros. Because of these situations I believe that Larry Tanenbaum is bad for the Leafs organization. Crazy as it sounds but we should all be pulling for Richard Peddie and the Teachers Pension Plan in this power struggle and the reason is, the Teachers Pension Plan is not going to meddle in hockey decisions like Tanenbaum apparently has and still is.

BTW, yesterday’s hiring JFJ was a mistake quote by Peddie, which was taken in the completely wrong way by the media (as usual), was really a shot at Tanenbaum and his plan to bring in a group of mostly inexperienced ex players by saying that Toronto is no place for rookie GMs.

2. Paul Maurice

Paul Maurice must go and last nights game is a perfect reason why. The Leafs lost 4-3 in the shootout while the powerplay went 0 for 4 and the penalty kill allowed 2 Montreal powerplay goals. There is no reason why the Leafs should be 29th in the NHL on the powerplay or 20th in the NHL on the penalty kill. I feel special teams are two aspects of the game that can be greatly impacted by good coaching and the Montreal Canadiens are a perfect example. Based on talent and 5 on 5 play there is no reason to expect the Canadiens would be the best power play team in the league but they play a smart system that exposes opposing teams weakness of being a man down. The same can be said for the penalty kill but what really really irks me about Maurice is the Leafs failures in the shootout. The Leafs have a dreadful shootout record having gone 4-10 under Maurice. It would be fine if the Leafs just weren’t good in the shootout but if you are not good and you don’t practice it, that is unforgiveable. After a recent shootout loss Mats Sundin had the following to say:

“We finished one point out of the playoffs last year so each one of these is so important. What do you say? Maybe we have to work on it more in practice.”

to which Paul Maurice commented:

Hey, if the players want it, then we’ll do it on a daily basis

Last time I checked Paul Maurice is the coach and Paul Maurice should be the once deciding what is important to practice and what should not be. His ‘Ah, whatever they want’ attitude is not good enough and in my mind is enough to get him fired.

Now I really don’t know what Maurice does in practice but if one half of every practice is not devoted to improving special teams and shootouts then he isn’t doing enough. The NHL is in many ways special teams league now and good special teams is often the difference between winning and losing. Just look at last night. Maurice should be fired for not taking special teams and shootouts seriously enough.

A Small Ray of Hope

In order to not be completely negative I thought I would toss in a small ray of hope for Leaf fans. Yesterday I wrote about the importance of goaltending and the good news is that Toskala is showing some positive signs with respect to being at least an average starter in the NHL and average goaltending would be a huge improvement over what Raycroft brings. Over Toskala’s last 6 outings (5 starts and one relief of Raycroft early in the Phoenix game) Toskala has a .918 save percentage and a 2.16 goals against average which is more than respectable.

This article has 14 Comments

  1. Wow. You’re out to lunch on this one David.

    Tannenbaum is not the problem. Firstly, he is right in agitating for JFJ’s removal as GM. The Leafs record over his tenure bears that out. Secondly, if he is pushing for a senior guy to overlook the hockey operation he is only doing so because it’s the same kind of move that worked for the Raptors.

    Peddie was removed from overseeing that operation, a smart basketball guy was installed as President and GM and the team turned from losing record to division champion in one season. Yes, the move was made because the Raptors were losing money but the principal still applies. Removing Peddie and his hand picked GM from the basketball side resulted in a dramatic single season turnaround. Looking at those results its easy to see why Tannenbaum want’s Peddie and Ferguson removed from the Leafs day to day operations.

    And the Domi signing? Yeah, that really didn’t make or break the Leafs, they sucked with him and we’re seeing that they suck without him.

    Secondly, regarding Maurice. No matter who the coach of this team is the fact stands that is not good enough to win. That was proven two seasons ago, last season and is being proven as we speak. This team is not going to drastically improve in the shootout or on special teams because it can’t. You can teach fundamentals, you can’t teach natural skill. Aside from Sundin there is no top tier talent on this team, and none of their current roster players possess that potential. Since the lockout ended only Sundin has scored more then 30 goals in a season, no player has recorded an 80 point season, the team has a losing record when overtime/shootout losses are added into regulation losses as they should be and they have a losing record in the shootout.

    Even if this Leafs team gets it going and qualifies for the playoffs they aren’t going to get in above 8th place, and an 8th place team has never won the cup. Edmonton got the closest, and we can all agree they were the exception, not the rule.

    And your point about the Leafs goaltending? In their last twelve games the Leafs have lost eight, and in their last six have lost five. That save percentage isn’t exactly translating into wins. Nor is it going to. This team isn’t good enough, and that brings us back to JFJ.

    The fact that this team can’t compete is the fault of the General Manager (JFJ) and his boss (Peddie). As much as Tannenbaum has agitated for change and concessions the point is this; Peddie is the Teachers man on the board which means he calls the shots, not anyone else. He is responsible for hiring JFJ, and JFJ has proven for five years and four seasons that he can’t get it done, regardless of what conditions he’s had placed on him by “The Board”. JFJ has made bad signings, bad trades and bad drafts. The team has not improved during his tenure, and it isn’t going to.

    The changes need to start with Peddie being removed from the day to day operation of the club and trickle down from there. A culture of winning, not of profiteering, needs to be fostered for the Leafs to be a respectable club again.

  2. Regardless of whether the right move is firing JFJ or not (that is a different debate), the wrong move is always having an intrusive owner who imposes moves on his GM who leaks information to the media and who underminds the authority of the President, GM and coach. In my mind Tanenbaum is seemingly that way and thus is not good for the Leafs.

    Secondly, regarding Maurice. No matter who the coach of this team is the fact stands that is not good enough to win.

    What is your definition of winning? If it is winning the Stanley Cup, you are probably right. If it is make the playoffs while playing a smart team game with good special teams, I’ll beg to disagree. Early in the season people were saying the exact same thing about the Atlanta Thrashers when they were 6-0. Please, could you tell us all what the Thrashers have done since?

    This team is not going to drastically improve in the shootout or on special teams because it can’t. You can teach fundamentals, you can’t teach natural skill.

    Hogwash. Fundamentals is exactly what you can teach and that is the problem with the Leafs. The Leafs generally dominated last nights game but the fundamentals (like driving to the net to produce opportunities – like the Sundin goal – or a power play system or a penalty kill system or simply practicing the shootout) were lacking. The shootout is not just about skill. If it were Erik Christensen wouldn’t have gone 8 for 14 last year while Crosby went 5 for 15. The shootout is something you can practice and improve on.

    A culture of winning, not of profiteering, needs to be fostered for the Leafs to be a respectable club again.

    The whole idea that the Leafs are more interested in profits than winning is more pure crap spewed by the media. Do yourself a favour and stop believing everything you read in the newspaper. If profits is the ownerships goal then winning is the best way to achieve that as every playoff game probably generates $2 million dollars in pure profit.

  3. As much as I agree with David that Tanenbaum and Maurice are problems, I think Peddie is also part and parcel of the whole issue. Peddie HAS mismanaged the Leafs. He admitted it, whether or not it was a barb targeted at Tanenbaum. The board has zero direction and the politics of this situation are frankly ridiculous.

    I don’t honestly think JFJ is as bad as people paint him. His drafting record over the past 4 seasons is not particularly worse than any other team with similar draft picks. His main problem appears to be trading away picks and younger talent for quick fixes and duct tape solutions.

    His signings are also questionable when it comes to Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, and Vesa Toskala. McCabe and Tucker are hugely overpaid and have proven so this season. Raycroft and Toskala were given security prematurely.

    I have zero issue with his signings of Antropov, Sundin, Ponikarovsky, Gill, Kubina, Kaberle, Blake, Devereaux, or Kilger. I also think he’s drafted well in picking up Pogge, Rask, Tlusty, Kulemin, and Mitchell. His college player connections to the CCHA also bear fruit in the form of players like Robbie Earl. The man makes mistakes in the draft, but so does every GM. We just never hear about them because they fail to make the NHL, and Leafs fans don’t tend to pore over the draft busts of other teams… they’re too interested in navel gazing to bother.

    I haven’t exactly examined it, but I’d be curious to find out who he scouted for the Sens when he was in their scouting department, and who he pushed for on the Blues when he ran their hockey operations. It might make for an interesting list if Leafs fans are so bent on discussing the guy’s draft record.

  4. We’ll agree to disagree on Tannenbaum, but I’ll make a few points first. How can an minority owner with a 16% stake in MLSE impose anything on a GM supposedly backed by Peddie and the Teachers? He can agitate until the other side relents or appeases, but he cannot impose his will on anything if Peddie really gets his back up. If he could then JFJ would be gone and someone else would be GM, which would probably be for the best. Yes, he might be talking to the media and leading the drive to hire “senior” advisors to JFJ, but really, can you blame him?

    My definition of winning is pretty simple. Win the Stanley Cup, and then win it again. Be serious contenders year after year. It’s been 40 years, anything less should be unacceptable to a franchise like the Leafs or to Leafs fans. Toronto should be looking at teams like New Jersey, Detroit, San Jose, Anaheim etc for cues.

    Yes, Atlanta fired their coach and immediately improved. Dallas fired their GM and did the same. One could argue that both teams are superior to the Leafs. In fact, I will. Dallas has scored one less goal then the Leafs, allowed twenty-nine less goals, won five more games, and played one fewer game then the Leafs and sit first in their division and second in their conference. Atlanta has scored twelve fewer goals then the Leafs, allowed twelve fewer goals then the Leafs, won three more and played two fewer games then the Leafs while sitting three spots ahead of the Leafs in the conference. Of Atlanta and Dallas, which one has the better record and better stats? The team that fired their GM, or the team that fired their coach?

    Fundamentals vs. skills is an interesting debate. Do you really think the Leafs have and abundance of either?

    All I was really trying to say is this, you can teach and preach fundamentals but if you don’t have players skilled enough to execute then where does that leave you?

    I believe Paul Maurice is a pretty good coach, as evidenced by the fact that the Leafs even got a sniff of the playoffs last year, and I’ll even concede that he probably could spend more time training his players to execute in the shootout. But really, who does he have that’s skilled enough to execute in that shootout consistently even if they spend half of their practices… practicing it?

    When it comes to the Crosby/Christensen thing I just have two things to say. One, Crosby has six games winners in the shootout, how many does Christensen have? Two, who do you think goalies take more seriously and want to make the big save against, Sidney Crosby or Eric Christensen? Which one of those two skates to centre-ice and has a goalie thinking “easy save”?

    I’m going to bring up the Raptors again. They were losing, they weren’t drawing crowds, ass’s weren’t in seats. What did MLSE do to turn that around? They hired Colangelo to fix the problem, and he did. The Raptors haven’t drawn under 17,000 at home this season. The Leafs, on the other hand, have never had the problem of selling out games or not selling merchandise. They don’t have to work overly hard to draw the flies to the honey. They don’t even need the honey to be overly sweet i.e. they don’t need a successful team in the ice (by which I mean winning a cup) to draw an audience because MLSE (and MLGL before it) have learned to sell hope and nostalgia in place of results. They’ve learned to sell “This year could be the year”.

    So Leafs have never had the problem of being unprofitable. The fact that the Raptors were a financial sinkhole is what motivated change on that side of the business. The fact that MLSE can, at a bare minimum, count on 41 sold-out home games a year at a very high price point is a tremendous buffer against any urgency for change.

    Now, you were correct about the playoff revenues, and here is why I think that will ultimately be what ushers JFJ and Peddie out the door. I think JFJ and Peddie sold the board on the teams ability to make it into the playoff’s, guarantying at least two home dates, which by your estimation would generate four million dollars of profit. I also think they were expecting more, at least four to six games, which is between 8 to 12 million shekels in their coffers. Take those revenue’s away and there is an accounting that must take place. The majority owners of MLSE are an investment group, and when an investment starts returning less then expected results one of two things happen. The group divests itself of its interests, or it fixes the problem. I hold out hope that the group listens to Tannenbaum and removes from Peddie any responsibility relating to the day to day of the club, hires EXPERIENCED (i.e. Been a GM somewhere else) hockey managers, and starts building an honest to god contender.

    I’m not meaning any of this to sound contentious or that I disrespect your site. I actually usually agree with most of what you have to say, or at least it makes me think about things differently. But I’ve been a Leafs fan for a long time and I’ve drank the Kool-Aid year after year. This year it left a sour taste in my mouth, and I’ve come to the opinion that this team isn’t good enough to win it all, in fact, I doubt it will make the playoffs. Defending anything they do as positive is, to me, ridiculous when they’ve lost twice as much as they’ve won. Blaming the fact that the team is a clearly inferior squad when set beside any real contender on a minority stakeholder just doesn’t sit right with me. You have to blame the people who actually make the decisions. If they aren’t strong enough to deal with a guy like Tannenbaum they aren’t strong enough to compete with 29 other teams.

  5. I believe Paul Maurice is a pretty good coach, as evidenced by the fact that the Leafs even got a sniff of the playoffs last year

    Getting a team who was close to the playoffs in 2005-06 and who added Pavel Kubina, Hal Gill, and Mike Peca in the summer of 2006 close to the playoffs in 2006-07 does not make you a good coach. Nor does taking that team that was close to the playoffs in 2006-07 and adding Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to 14th in the eastern conference after 25 games make you a good coach. One could easily argue accomplishing those sorts of things makes you a bad coach.

    Fundamentals vs. skills is an interesting debate. Do you really think the Leafs have and abundance of either?

    Fundamentals? Not in a team sense. Skill? Certainly as much or more than several teams currently in a playoff position including Montreal, NY Islanders, Boston, Columbus, etc.

    Now, you were correct about the playoff revenues, and here is why I think that will ultimately be what ushers JFJ and Peddie out the door.

    Again, the point of this article was not to argue for or against the merits of JFJ or Peddie (I have done that elsewhere including my article Monday when I said it was probably time for JFJ to go even if just for his failure to secure a true top level goalie). The point of this article was to point out the failures of Tanenbaum and how he has hurt the team. Arguing that JFJ and Peddie should be fired so that makes what Tanenbaum is doing OK is the wrong way to look at it. Tanenbaum should not interfere in any way with the general manager or coach and certainly should not undercut their authority. If Tananbaum gets control of the Leafs, do you think this kind of behaviour will suddenly dissapear and he will fade away into the background? Highly unlikely.

    Steve: JFJ was a scout for the Senators from 1993 to 1996.

    1994: Radek Bonk(3), Stan Neckar(29), Daniel Alfredsson(133)
    1995: Bryan Berard(1), Marc Moro(27), Brad Larsen(53)
    1996: Chris Phillips(1), Andreas Dackell(136), Sami Salo(239)

    I would say that is an OK track record but nothing special. Obviously Alfredsson was a key pickup for them. Bonk had some success but the guys after him (Bonsignore, O’Neill, Smyth, Storr, Weimer, B. Lindros, Baumgartner, Friesen, Belak) weren’t a whole lot better aside from Smyth so that pick wasn’t a flop. Berard was a legit star before he injured his eye and Phillips worked out much better than their other options (Zyuzin, Dumont, Volchkov, Jackman, Devereaux, Rasmussen, Aitken, Salei and Lance Ward were the rest of the top 10). Neckar, Moro, Dackell and Larsen are or have been 4th line type players while Sami Salo turned out to be a pretty solid defenseman.

  6. I guess I’m going back to the Raptors well one more time.

    You never hear, through media or otherwise, about any interference from the board at MLSE when it comes to the Raptors. Why? Because Peddie’s hand picked GM was fired and replaced with an autonomous President and GM.

    Let’s not forget that Tannenbaum is a basketball guy first, and that’s the baby he really wants to see win.

    So, I think the type of change enacted on the basketball side is what Tannenbaum wants for the hockey side.

    He “interferes” because he is the Chairman of the Board at MLSE, and he is trying to do that job. But he can’t because he only owns 16% of the company, the Teachers have 58% and the Teachers back Peddie. Meanwhile Peddie, not wanting to lose his power or his second hand picked GM, is fighting him all the way and not allowing Tannenbaum to do to the Leafs what was done to the Raptors, make them good.

    I guess I just don’t get how you can blame Tannenbaum when Peddie and Co. have failed in so many different ways. I guess we’re just seeing different sides of the same coin. I blame JFJ and Peddie, you blame Tannenbaum and Maurice.

    C’est la vie.

  7. Let’s not forget that Tannenbaum is a basketball guy first, and that’s the baby he really wants to see win.

    Can you please explain what the basis for this statement is?? The guy didn’t go out and get an NBA franchise for Toronto. That was John Bitove. Steve Stavro owned MLSE after 1991 when he bought out Ballard. He made Tanenbaum a partner with a 25% stake in 1996. After they bought the ACC and the Raptors in 1998 Stavro sold his share to CTVglobemedia in 2003, and the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan assumed controlling interest, Tanenbaum was given the nod as the NON-executive chairman at that point.

    Tanenbaum owns 13% of the organization through Kilmer Sports. The Pension Plan owns 58% and CTV and TD bank own the remaining 29%.

    Peddie has a seat on the board as CEO and President, then James Leech and Rob Bentram have two more seats with all 3 basically on the side of the Teachers. Dean Metcalf represents the Teacher’s Merchants Bank, and then you’ve got 1 rep from CTV, 1 rep from TD, and 1 rep from the legal firm Goodmans.

    On a side note, I wonder how many of you are aware that the OTPP CEO is currently Claude Lamoureux who will retire in exactly 2 days. Taking over from him is the aforementioned James Leech, who also happens to be the Senior VP of the Teacher’s Merchant’s Bank.

    Basically even if Tanenbaum doesn’t like Peddie, the Teachers have 4 seats in their hands on an 8 man board. Nothing changes without their agreement, whether or not Tanenbaum is the chairman of the board.

    As long as Peddie has the ear of Leech, or as long as Leech decides to stay in the background, the less likely any serious shifts in management are. I almost wonder if Tanenbaum is likely to be bought out anytime soon?

  8. And essentially what Tanenbaum is doing is having a hissy fit trying to stir things up by pusing for hiring ‘advisors’ in the summer and now approaching former players about possible roles in the organization. This is not how a board member should operate. If you want Peddie and JFJ replace then there are proper channels Tanenbaum has to go through to get that done. If the rest of the board disagrees he should not have a hissy fit and try to undermine the whole situation.

    If Tanenbaum had the money I am sure he would love to buy 51% of the team to gain controlling ownership. Problem is, he doesn’t have that kind of money so he would have to get a parter with deep pockets to join him to make that happen. Now, I can see a scenario where the rest of the owners aren’t liking Tanebaum acting as a lone renegade and either trying to force him off the board or buying him out.

    It is a classic power struggle where one guy without controlling power is trying to undermine the current president and GM in order to try to wrestle power away from them and convince the rest of the board and owners that he is the right guy to essentially run the team (or get ‘his’ guys to run the team).

  9. Great teams are built from the top down.

    The modern example is the Red Wings. Mike Illitch bought the team and spared no expense to hire excellent executives, managers, and coaches. The result? Multiple Stanley Cups.

    Think of other dynasties — the Islanders, the Oilers, the Canadiens — all were successful from the top down. Once the right attitude and strategy are implemented and modelled by the guys at the top, the whole organization coalesces around them, and _wins_.

    Even look at this year’s Grey Cup winners (that’s Canadian football for U.S. readers), the Saskatchewan Roughriders. The GM and coach are humble, classy, talented, and team-focused. No wonder they won, even when other teams were more spectacular or had better players.

    Organizations are built over the long term. If the Leafs want to get there, they have to get away from all this political infighting and the playing of mind games.

    Simply put, get rid of all the guys at the top. Hire a great team President. Pay him top dollar. Give him carte blanche to hire the best managers and coaches, and then _get out of their way_.

    And then, in 10 or 15 years, Toronto will build itself into a real contender.

    Teams like my Sens spent over a decade building an organization until they clawed their way into the Cup finals. The Leafs shouldn’t expect otherwise.

  10. I basically meant that I’ve heard Tannenbaum is more of a basketball fan then a hockey fan. Thus, the success of the Raptors is probably more important to him then the Leafs on a personal level. I believe that came up in a conversation on Prime Time Sports between Bob McCowan, Stephen Brunt and Doug Smith, two respected reporters and a very well know radio personality.

    David, we’ll just have to wait and see how the other board members react to Tannenbaum and the Leafs current woes. If the Teachers start to see expected earnings go bye-bye then maybe they’ll finally see that Tannenbaum has a point.

    Also, as noted, even if only the Teachers disagree with Tannenbaum they can halt any action he might have already tried to take simply by using their four votes against the rest of the board. It might be that half the organization wants change and the other half doesn’t. Of course, I can’t verify that, but there is no reason to think he’s a lone wolf, he might be “the face” for a faction of the board.

    Also, I doubt we’ll see Tannenbaum sell out anytime soon. I believe he has the right of first refusal when it comes to any available shares in MLSE. That means if someone else wants to sell he has the option to buy before anyone else. At worst he has right of first refusal on the Teachers shares only.

  11. If the Teachers start to see expected earnings go bye-bye then maybe they’ll finally see that Tannenbaum has a point.

    Or else they will see that Tanenbaum had undermined the organizational structure which has hindered Peddie, JFJ and Maurice from running the team with maximum ability.

    Also, as noted, even if only the Teachers disagree with Tannenbaum they can halt any action he might have already tried to take simply by using their four votes against the rest of the board. It might be that half the organization wants change and the other half doesn’t. Of course, I can’t verify that, but there is no reason to think he’s a lone wolf, he might be “the face” for a faction of the board.

    Could be, but Tanenbaum is the only non-corporation of the group so while the rest of the group is primarily concerned about profits, Tanenbaum is the only one on the board who owns the team out of personal interest (which usually means personal ego). Being a lone wolf in that setup is probably not a stretch to imagine.

  12. The problem is one the ice. Leaf management has never given Sundin a good team around him, not too mention a legitimate start forward. The leafs’ management has never thought about the future, they just tried to tape and bandage things up, to not make it completely fall. Get these overpaid and old players off the team and go with your young guns (Wellwood, Stajan, Steen). The problem is, and it was mentioned on the spin the other night, the leafs have not finished low enough to get a great pick, so not only do they now have good team now, they don’t have the young prospects to build a Stanley cup contender for the next 4-5 years. If I was GM, I’d trade Kubina, Sundin, and try to trade McCabe). Maybe get lucky and sign Sundin in the off-season after getting some prospects for him. If not, with the $ 5.5 M, plus another 1.5M, you can sign a STAR player. It’s a big mess in toronto that jfj left, and its going to take a lot to clean it up. But it’s not impossible. I would not fire Maurice, he’s a good coach.

  13. Last I checked, Mogilny was a legit “star” forward. The guy outscored Sundin one season he was on the team, and if you think he lacked talent you shouldn’t be posting on here.

  14. I’m curious if anyone read the article in Saturday’s Globe and Mail by Alex Shprinsten. The Leafs apparently have the lowest point output for first round draftpicks in the NHL over the past 20 years. Scott Thornton is the career high with 278 points.

    I think the article is decently researched, but poorly put forth. First, the current scouting staff has nothing to do with the scouting staff that was in place in 1987, or much with what was in place in 1997.

    Secondly, if you compare Leafs draft picks over the past 10 years to the picks of other teams over the past 10 years, the disparity dries up a tad.

    In reference to the list of 19 1st rounders, the fact that Richardson is 3rd amongst current NHL players in games played isn’t mentioned. Grant Marshall has won the cup twice: once with Dallas, once with New Jersey. He might not score a lot of points, but he’s a key contributor on winning teams. Kenny Jonsson was one of the most underrated defenders in the NHL for years, mainly played with the Islanders, but after leaving the NHL to return to Sweden he was named top defender at the Olympic Games in 2006, ahead of a crop of mainly NHL stars.

    Nik Antropov, as has been stated on this site many times, is amazingly underrated, and is having a bit of a breakout year thus far… (hopefully I didn’t just jinx him).

    Brad Boyes is currently the 2nd leading scorer on the Blues behind Paul Kariya. He’s on pace for a 51 goal (I doubt he’ll get 50 goals), 70 point, +20 season.

    Carlo Colaiacovo has tonnes of talent but is very injury prone. Alex Steen also has a lot of talent, but hasn’t blossomed yet… though neither have most of his draft classmates. Tuuka Rask has played 1 game in the NHL but is still considered a blue-chip goaltending prospect.

    Lastly, Jiri Tlusty was considered the top Czech in his draft year, and he’s played well thus far with the Leafs.

    Looking at any hockey franchise over the “long term” does nobody any favours. What the article neglects to mention is that the Nordiques/Avs were bottom feeders for years before Sakic, Sundin, Nolan, Tanguay, Drury, Thibault, etc were drafted. The same could be said of the Red Wings prior to getting Steve Yzerman. The Leafs have never missed the playoffs for more than 2 seasons in a row, that has a lot to do with a lack of top end picks.

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