What are the main characteristics of Brian Burke's perfect team?
Skill, speed, size, toughness, and character.
These key elements defined the 2001-2002 Toronto Maple Leafs. That year's squad was the most successful Leafs team of the decade. They finished second overall in the Eastern Conference with a 43-25-10-4 record.
They made a heroic run to the Eastern Conference finals before ultimately falling to the Carolina Hurricanes in six games.
The 2001-2002 Maple leafs displayed an amazing amount of leadership and heart which, in my opinion, made this team so successful. The roster was completely built the Brian Burke way, with skill in the top six and grit in the bottom six. Yet, it seemed one guy on every line did the dirty work.
Here is the roster that made Leaf fans so proud during the 2001-2002 season:
LW - Darcy Tucker (24G - 35A - 59P)
C - Mats Sundin (41G - 39A - 80P)
RW - Alexander Mogilny (24G - 33A - 57P)
LW - Gary Roberts (21G - 27A - 48P)
C - Robert Reichel (20G - 31A -51P)
RW - Mikael Renberg (14G - 38A - 52P)
LW - Jonas Hogland (13G - 34A - 47P)
C - Travis Green (11G - 23A - 34P)
RW - Shane Corson (12G - 21A - 33P)
LW - Wade Belak (1G - 3A - 4P)
C - Alyn McCauley (6G - 10A - 16P)
RW - Tie Domi (9G - 10A - 19P)
D - Bryan McCabe (17G - 26A - 43P)
D - Tomas Kaberle (10G - 29A - 39P)
D - Dmitry Yushkevish (6G - 13A - 19P)
D - Jyrki Lumme (4G - 8A - 12P)
D - Cory Cross (3G - 9A - 12P)
D - Aki Berg (1G - 10A - 11P)
As you can see, most of the players on this team consistently delivered on offense (five players with more than 20 goals and 50 points). Many of these same players could drop the gloves and strike fear in the eyes of the opposition (6 players with more than 90 penalty minutes).
Comparable Players on Current Leaf Team
Phil Kessel = Alex Mogilny *fast and skilled, 30-50 goals per season
Tyler Bozak = Robert Reichel *2nd line center, fast, with 20-25 goal potential
Nikolai Kulemin = Mikael Renberg *Big winger with speed, Kulemin will be better scorer
Victor Stalberg = Jonas Hogland *fast, with 20-30 goal potential
Colton Orr = Tie Domi *enough said
Dion Phaneuf = Bryan McCabe *Big shot, good leader, Dion is obviously better
Tomas Kaberle = Tomas Kaberle *Not for long
Francois Beauchemin = Dmitry Yushkevish *All around good d-man
Mike Komisarek = Cory Cross *Big, stay at home d-man, Komi is obviously much better
After comparing the current roster to the 2001-2002 roster, it tells us mostly what we already know. The Leafs are very thin on offensive talent and toughness. However, the defense is just about where it should be to contend for the Stanley Cup.
I didn't analyze goaltending because Jonas Gustavsson and Curtis Joseph are not even close. Whether Jonas can develop into one of the league's top goaltenders will remain to be seen.
What Burke Needs To Add
Mats Sundin = Richards, Carter, etc. *Big, Franchise 1st Line Center
Darcy Tucker = David Backes *Hard Hitter, Screens Goalie, Skilled, Agitator
Gary Roberts = Wheeler, Setoguchi, etc. *Skilled Winger
Shane Corson = Clarkson, Bolland, etc. *Agitator, Screens Goalie
Wade Belak = Ben Eager *Another Fighter To Give Orr a Hand
Through trades and free agency, Burke will likely add these types of players to the Leafs roster. Hopefully, we will see a gritty and skilled Leafs team battle through the playoffs for years to come.
Just like we did earlier in the decade.
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