No Kid-ding: Maple Leafs Should Have Gone with Youth Movement Earlier

Steve McSweenSenior Analyst IFebruary 10, 2010

TORONTO - JANUARY 30: Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates up the ice during game action against the Vancouver Canucks January 30, 2010 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Abelimages / Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

At the beginning of Maple Leafs' training camp, it was said that if the veterans didn't perform, they would be out of a job in Toronto.

That was simply a smokescreen as it turned out, because GM Brian Burke and company had no intentions of burying big contracts in the minors, no matter how good Nazem Kadri and Tyler Bozak were.

While the preseason brought hope to Leafs Nation after Toronto went 6-3, it was all for nothing, as Viktor Stalberg was the only member of the youth movement to crack the opening night lineup.

The end result?

Well, how about eight-straight losses to start the season—and a dreadful 17-28-11 record before changes were made?

The Maple Leafs horrible season probably could have been avoided. It has been like not taking the car keys away from that really drunk guy at a party, then acting shocked when he gets in a car wreck. 

If Burke and Head Coach Ron Wilson had stuck to their guns and kept the youngsters who performed so well on the roster, this Leafs club may be challenging for a playoff spot instead of drastically trying not to finish dead last—which, of course, would send the consensus No. 1 pick, Taylor Hall, to Boston.

Leafs' management couldn't fathom sending the millions they had invested in players like Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala down to the Marlies for a wake-up call. There was no way keeping Kadri and Bozak, who both had five points in six games, would have been a bad thing.

If anything, it may have lit a fire under the asses of players like the aforementioned Blake—and it is hard to believe this team would have gone 3-11-6 in its first 20 games when guys were still fighting for jobs.

Now, the season is all but lost in a sea of what-ifs.

Although it is tough to argue with Burke—as I think he may be the best GM in the business—the Leafs had a fighting chance this season until the tenure of John Ferguson Jr. continued to rear its ugly head.

Instead, the season has been like watching Rosie O'Donnell do sit-ups in a bikini.

Yes, there is a glimmer of hope now for the future. Dion Phaneuf has brought some much-needed swagger and emotion and injected it into the Leafs lifeless lineup.

Which is basically the same thing that kids like Kadri and Bozak did for the team in the preseason.

It's just too bad that management didn't realize it sooner.