The stage is set; it's Montreal it's the NHL Draft and Mr. Burke over here has been talking big. How big? Try moving up to draft (arguably) the best player in this draftclass big.
But before all of that however I'll take a step back into the regular season, or to the end of it I should say April 11th 2009, Battle of Ontario, Senators vs Maple Leafs.Because it was with this game that the fate of Toronto in this draft will be decided if they were to lose it would have been Toronto with the fifth pick in the 2009 draft and most likely another Schenn donning a Maple Leaf jersey, but it wasn't to be due to the leafs beating their cross province rivals 5-2.
The name Boyd Devereaux the man who got the hat-trick, the man who inevitably won them the game and the man who indeed handed the Maple Leafs the 7th overall pick.Now by no means is the Maple Leafs beating the Ottawa Senators at a packed ACC a bad thing it's quite the opposite in fact, but once its all said and done it was still that game that put the leafs in a slightly worse position to make a pick. Even more significant about this is the fact that the draft had a major gap between the talent in the top 5 and the talent that followed.
After yet another year of missing out on the playoffs, Leaf Nation were yet again watching the Stanley Cup playoffs going past them with out a team to cheer for.It didn't help matters that this was also one of the best playoffs in recent memory and it also emphasized the point of draft picks.
Yep,the Stanley Cup playoffs back to how it should be great rivalry match ups, unbelievable comebacks and an incredible final. Also the top players were all players selected high in the draft with Malkin eventually taking home the Conn Smythe and the young Pittsburgh team taking home Lords Stanleys trophy. Through all of that excitement,drama and superb hockey it just made me realize how long it's been.
How long it has been since the Leafs have really put a team on the ice that you can be proud off, how long its been since the Leafs had made a good playoff run, heck, how long it's been since the Leafs were actually in the playoffs.
I like many others I presume saw this draft as step 1 in making all of that history and returning to the better days of hockey in Toronto. With Pittsburgh's effort lead by Malkin and Crosby showing exactly how the draft can help towards that ultimate goal and actually put this city back on the hockey map for the right reasons. With that said I was more then ever looking forward to the draft.
Before the cup could even be lifted or the Conn Smythe awarded, Brian Burke came out and announced to the hockey world that he was going to do everything within his power to trade from the 7th overall spot to the first if necessary. As You can imagine this cooked up quite a reaction from the hockey world and made the upcoming 2009 NHL Draft all the more interesting.
26th June 2009, Draft Day all eyes are on Brian Burke expectations are high and for the first time in a long time the fans are NOT to blame for it. Gareth Snow approached the podium and announced that they indeed will be taking John Tavares 1st overall in the 2009 NHL Draft. For most this was expected as the Leafs really didn't have enough to move up all the way to 1st without overpaying, it was as much as I had expected on the John Tavares front anyway.Now for some reason I was pretty sure the Leafs had it within their means to move up to number 5 without packaging Schenn in a deal rather gaining another but as the draft rolled on it seemed it was not to be.
Now it was apparent the leafs although much speculated by the media and Brian himself were not moving up, the question remained however who does he take with the 7th pick MPS or Cowen were the popular candidates amongst the prospects still available "And with the 7th pick in 2009 NHL Draft the Toronto Maple Leafs select... Nazem Kadri". Neither the speedy winger nor the hulking defencemen were selected instead the playmaking center Nazem Kadri was selected with the 7th pick to the surprise of many a Maple Leaf fan.
I'm no exception I was sure that Burke was going to pick Cowen, yep that was the first surprise of the Maple Leafs in this draft but by no means the last. Through out the draft Burke surprised me with his picks, with the 20th pick in the 2nd Round the Leafs were on the clock and Richard Panik was still available he is a big guy and could be an outstanding talent for years the Leafs however select Kenny Ryan. To be honest I know nothing about him so I can't really judge him however yet again another surprise pick.
The Leafs again had a selection in the 2nd round at number 28 and opted for Jesse Blacker, again another player I know nothing about but would have liked to see the big defencemen Brayden McNabb picked instead(who managed to slip to the 3rd round)
From then on I honestly can't judge as I was not following too closely the prospects past the 1st and 2nd round.By no means am I saying that this draft was a disaster as I will need to see the picks grow and then I can judge, but for the amount of hype surrounding the draft from the Maple Leaf camp quiet draft in the end.
I will state again though I'm not going as far as to call Brian Burke a failure but I am coming to terms with realizing this rebuild will take a lot longer then many leafs fans would have liked to have hoped and this draft was what made me realize this fact sooner rather than later.