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Toronto: The Rebuild Edmonton Should Have Had

January 30, 2019, 1:46 PM ET [114 Comments]
Sean Maloughney
Edmonton Oilers Blogger • RSSArchiveCONTACT
Every summer it's the same story. The off-season is plagued by articles about the Toronto Maple Leafs. "Which Elite Player is Coming to Toronto?" "Will Matthews Score 60 or 70 Goals?" "10 Reasons Why The League Should Bow Down to Toronto.... #7 Will Shock You!"

This has been the case for years with Toronto, regardless of how good or poor the team has been. Toronto is Hockey Mecca and that comes with it's fair share of ego.

It's for those reasons why I hate to be sitting here and talking how Edmonton needs to learn a thing or two from the Leafs.

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For years the Oilers and the Leafs were run very similarly; hockey men who knew how to make hockey decisions. Throughout the early 2010's, both teams had young players with elite potential, but failed to make waves across the league because of the surrounding roster.

Both players were gifted superstar players with the ability to carry the team forward for years to come. It is at this point we saw a dramatic shift between the directions that both teams went.

Edmonton knew a thing or two about winning. They brought in Todd McLellan, an old school coach who had a system he was going to enforce, regardless of the lineup he was given. At the time this was a team desperate for some sort of structure and that did not feel like a detractor at the time. The Oilers also brought in Peter Chiarelli.... and we know how that worked out.

Meanwhile the Leafs brought in Babcock, a strict no nonsense coach in his own right as well, but has been more willing to work with rookies and young players and bring out the best aspects in their game, while ensuring that other parts of their game do not falter. The Leafs also brought up two younger and more modern men in Mark Hunter and Kyle Dubas. Hunter and the Leafs would part ways but Dubas would end up taking over as General Manager for the Leafs.

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I'm bringing this up because of some of the responses I have heard in regards to the Jake Muzzin trade. I have heard many Oilers fans laugh and scoff, stating that they believe Toronto overpaid for Muzzin. The Leafs traded Sean Durzi, Carl Grundstrom, and a first for the top pairing defenseman. The best comparable I could find for an Edmonton version of that trade would be Cameron Hebig, Dmitri Samorukov and a 1st in exchange for Muzzin. If the Oilers were in a position to be Cup Contenders I would do that trade in a heart-beat.

Unlike Edmonton, right after the 2016/2017 season, the Leafs understand that their window to win is right now. They don't have time or the need to wait on prospects to potentially turn into third and fourth line players. Maybe four years from now, Grundstrom will be a 60 point player for the Kings. That player is four years away...he doesn't help Toronto win now.

Another frequent talking point about the "issues" Toronto has is in regards to their cap. First off, Matthews isn't going to take a 6 year 7 million dollar deal to help the team out, so brace yourselves Toronto. Having said that, the Leafs cap position is not going to be an issue, and in fact, Dubas is in a position most GM's wish they could be in.

Toronto has a number of RFA players to sign this off-season that are going to get paid, while navigating the loss of their UFA's and trying to fit all of that under the cap. The Leafs may have to move on from a William Nylander, Kasperi Kapanen, or Connor Brown and if they do so, teams around the league will be lining up to offer them trades... are teams lining up for the chance to have Milan Lucic?

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Toronto is far from a perfect team, however they have a skilled young core that will soon all be under contract for the next decade, they have set themselves up to not only compete for a Cup this season, but at least the next 3-5 years, and management has shown they have the ability to make changes on the fly to bring in more NHL players.

Bob Nicholson, Peter Chiarelli, Daryl Katz and the rest of the MOD squad have caused the Oilers to miss a window of opportunity and are now pulled over onto the side of the road, frantically trying to find another one. The Toronto Maple Leafs might be an egotistical bunch, but right now they have reason to be.
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