We finally have a solid core of quality prime or younger players at every position: Kadri, Lupul, Kessel, Gardiner, Phaneuf, JVR, Gunnarson, Franson, Bernier, and Reimer. As well as some excellent gritty, two-way players in guys like McClement, Kulemin, Bolland, and Clarkson to compliment them and grind out wins.
We also have a blue-chip prospect in Rielly, as well as some great prospect depth. This is the best organizational position the Leafs have been in for quite some time. As long as we can lock down Dion and Phil before next summer, which I'm reasonably confident in us being able to do, things are looking up in Leaf land.
I don't fear losing Dion as much as losing Phil.
We can take Dion's $6.5 and replace him.
We can't take Phil's $5.4 and replace him.
The most enjoyable aspect as a fan of the team IMO is the clearly defined roles for the forwards. Everyone has a job.
Bozak is misplaced as a #1 centre and IMO the only player playing out of place.
The other 5 top 6 players are clearly offensive players. 3rd line is a great checking line and penalty killers and 4th line will be low priced muckers and energy guys.
In years passed we had too many Stajan's, Connolly's, MacArthurs that could play a little PP or PK, 1, 2, or 3rd line but were not ideal in any role.
The goaltending is solid.
Defense still a little up in the air but the pieces are in place to be fine.
there's not a lot to complain about in leaf land these days.
the team looks solid going into next season.
the moves we've made this offseason have all been good ones IMO. we're a stronger team going into next season. we signed the most desired free agent. we got the guy who scored the stanley cup winning goal. we signed one of the most promising goalie prospects who is ready to play.
the last thing that needs to happen is we need to find a way to keep Franson. But even if for some reason that didn't happen, we'd still have a very good team next year. Adding Ranger and having Gardiner play will already improve our defense a lot. If Rielly plays, that's another potential bonus.
There aren't any guys on the team who I think are weak links. I'm happy with the group we've got.
When was the last time a #1 Dman made it to UFA? Niedermayer? Chara? That's really all I can think of.
And Niedermayer was going no where else than Anahiem to play with his brother.
I'm sure there are other #1 Dmen that are 'scheduled' to be a UFA next summer, but they won't make it there, they will either get locked up or traded to a team that will lock them up.
I'd argue it was Suter last year if his play from this year continues, but overall you're right. People who think Dion is easily replaceable are out to lunch on not only their hockey knowledge but their common sense as well.
I'm not saying he's easily replaceable, but we could probably fill in quite a bit of the gap Phaneuf would leave with our now-depth guys like Gardiner, Franson and Rielly, and a UFA signing/trade.
Losing Kessel would **** our forward lines right up and we can't replace his ability to draw the top shutdown units attention while still scoring at a PPG pace. We'd have to replace that production, and the loss of production that would effect Kadri/Lupul who would now face those defenders.
Losing either would hurt, but we'd probably be able to make up more ground losing Phaneuf than Kessel.