Toronto Maple Leafs: Was Trading Nik Antropov a Mistake?

Drew WestCorrespondent INovember 14, 2010

ATLANTA - OCTOBER 22:  Nik Antropov #80 of the Atlanta Thrashers against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Philips Arena on October 22, 2010 in Atlanta, Georgia.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

During the current Toronto Maple Leafs losing streak, the offense has, for the most part, been nonexistent. This could be attributed to the lack of size in the top-six forward group and a lack of willingness to drive the net.

The Leafs forwards look like they are easily kept away from the front of the net, which has created a habit of shooting from the perimeter.

As far as I can remember, these offensive problems began once Brian Burke gained control of the team and began to dismantle the roster in return for draft picks and prospects.

One such player sent packing was 6'6", 240-pound giant Nik Antropov. Antropov was a bit of a frustrating player for Leafs fans to watch over the years due to his inconsistent scoring and all-around effort.

I agreed with the need to "remodel" the Leafs roster with the hiring of Brian Burke. But in some cases, I wish we still had a couple of the players from two seasons ago to help out with the current lack of offense.

Love him or hate him, Antropov was a player who was useful in front of the net and could use his body to to dig out pucks in the corners, two areas the Leafs need lots of help with at the moment.

At the moment it looks like only a few players may score over 20 goals this season, assuming Toronto's struggles continue for the majority of the remaining games. Antropov scored 26, 28 and 24 goals in the last three seasons, but Burke didn't feel he was worth the money he was seeking during free agency ($4 million).

Even though Burke viewed Antropov as one of the players who bought into the country club atmosphere of the previous Leafs team, I wonder if he regrets trading a big-bodied, perennial 25-30 goal scorer for a mere second-round pick.

The Leafs were expecting big things from Kenny Ryan (drafted using New York Rangers pick in 2009) when they drafted him, but it looks like he will be better-suited as a checking, penalty-killing, bottom-six forward in the future, something the Leafs have many of.

Burke constantly assures Leafs fans that he considers the free agency period to be his draft, although it seems every week potential free agents are re-signed by their current clubs before they can hit the open market.

Players such as Patrice Bergeron, David Backes and Jeff Carter have already been re-signed long-term by their current teams, and it seems like this trend will continue for the foreseeable future. I'm sure it won't be long before Brad Richards, the newly appointed savior of the Toronto Maple Leafs, will be re-signed by the Dallas Stars.

Without a healthy free-agent market and a willingness of other teams to trade their top players, Burke will find it very difficult to acquire a big, scoring center for Phil Kessel to reach his full potential.

Although I was one of the Leafs fans who Nik Antropov frustrated from time to time, he would have created a lot of space for Kessel to work his magic.

Sometimes I guess the old saying is true. You don't know what you've got till it's gone.