Well, the day is finally upon us. Today, June 20, 2008, is the day the Toronto Maple Leafs take the monumental first step toward rebuilding their franchise.
Legions of Leafers are trying to figure out what Cliff Fletcher is up to after acquiring Jamal Mayers from St. Louis last night for the 70th overall pick in this weekend's draft.
It's unsettling to see the man of "Draft Schmaft" fame dealing away a third-rounder in a strong draft after spending weeks talking tough about a rebuild.
On the bright side, Mayers is a tough-as-nails winger who brings grit, accountability, and leadership.
If Fletcher can jettison most of the Leafs' vets over the summer for picks and prospects, this move looks brilliant, because it will give the young'uns a role model in the room without stalling the youth movement.
There's a second, more simple explanation for the Mayers trade, though. Maybe Cliff has seen the previews for The Love Guru.
But enough about Jamal, let's talk about the seventh overall pick in this evening's first round.
Who will the Leafs get?
If it were up to me, I'd find a way to move into the top six. No matter the cost.
Landing a guy like Alex Pietrangelo or Luke Schenn is easily worth including just about any roster player on the Leafs in a package deal, with the exceptions of Vesa Toskala, Tomas Kaberle, Alex Steen, Jiri Tlusty and Anton Stralman.
Someone like Mikkel Boedker or Colin Wilson would be great at No. 7, but they just can't compare to the big four defensemen.
I would guess that the Kings and Thrashers are both interested in moving down, but probably not to number seven. Columbus might be a team to target.
If Bryan McCabe would just waive his bloody no-trade clause, we could move him to the Isles in a deal for the fifth overall. But that won't happen.
So, if the Leafs can't move up and no one drops, who do they take at seven?
Boedker would be my first choice. His speed, skill, and positive attitude make for an enticing package for a Leafs squad in need of all three. And he's a winger, something the Leafs are lean on.
Next would be Colin Wilson. Carey's son has tremendous hockey sense and vision, and he simply approaches the game in the right manner. Plus, he can dish and shoot with equal effectiveness.
The other option would be Cody Hodgson. I don't know as much about him as the others, but he sounds like future captain material, which is excellent for a Leafs team that has lacked accountability and the willingness to stand up for teammates.
Any way you slice it, the Leafs should pick up an elite young player tonight.
But Fletcher has a chance to really seize the moment and get a franchise player. Toronto is in desperate need of such a cornerstone—and Fletcher would be a clown to let the opportunity pass him by.