If you had told an NHL fan six years ago that the Toronto Maple Leafs wouldn't see playoff action for another six years, they would have laughed in your face.
However, that is the situation the Leafs are presently faced with.
The Leafs are on pace to miss the playoffs for a sixth straight year this year. Fans are calling for coach Ron Wilson's head, demanding the release of "goalie-of-the-future" Jonas Gustavsson and putting their faith in various Marlie call-ups. To say the atmosphere in the area is cutthroat would be an understatement.
With no immediate help in the system, GM Brian Burke will likely be forced to make a trade or two as an attempt to right the sinking ship that is the Maple Leafs.
We've already heard a number of rumors this year—some respectable, some insane. Until a move is made, we won't know which of these rumors are reality and which are fantasy.
Despite the rumors, Burke probably has a number of players listed as possible acquisitions for the club.
Here are the top 10 possible trade targets for the Leafs.
Andrew Cogliano is a player who desperately needs a change of scenery.
I'm sure that a player of his current status is the last thing Leaf fans want. The years have watched Toronto acquire numerous "struggling" players in hopes of reviving their careers. What's worse is that the team always seems to give up good, young talent in the process. Anybody remember Andrew Raycroft?
However, the Oilers probably wouldn't ask for much in return for the speedy forward, especially considering he's an RFA at year's end.
The situation would seem to be perfect for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Bring in Cogliano to see if he can make a splash. If he does, the team gets the exclusive chance to re-sign him. If not, then let him go.
Maxime Talbot would be a good mid-season pick-up. He's a free agent at year's end and makes just over a million dollars, so if the team liked his contributions, he could be re-signed for relatively cheap.
Talbot can help offensively and would be a solid center for the third line. He's posted five goals and six assists so far.
The third-line center role is currently occupied by Marlie call-up Darryl Boyce. The addition of Talbot would give Boyce some extra time in the AHL to prepare for a possible full-time role in 2010-11.
Hey, Talbot insulted Alex Ovechkin on live radio. That makes him a hero in my books.
Okay, so a first round pick obviously isn't a player. Nonetheless, the Leafs would love to have a first round pick in 2011 to make up for the selections lost in the Phil Kessel trade.
Toronto could chase a first round pick from almost any team, really. The San Jose Sharks, Los Angeles Kings, New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers are clubs that might be easier to pry a first-rounder out of, as they're all rumored to have interest in Leaf players.
Everyone and your mother knows that the Leafs' chance at acquiring Brayden Schenn can be called a long shot at best. However, that doesn't change the fact that Toronto should take a stab at him.
I, like Brian Burke, have dreams of the Schenn brothers being reunited in blue and white.
Conveniently, there have been countless rumors of some form of action between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Los Angeles Kings. In addition, the Kings are looking to add depth to their forward corps, something the Leafs could provide.
Burke will likely go to great lengths to snag the talented forward from the Kings. Unfortunately, I can't see Los Angeles letting go of B-Schenn.
There has been a rumor floating around lately that the Florida Panthers are looking to ship 27-year-old Stephen Weiss out of town. For the right deal, of course.
Weiss has posted 13 goals and 20 assists thus far for a total of 33 points. He has a no movement clause, but would likely consider waiving it as he hails from Toronto.
Weiss could be the top-line center that the Leafs need so desperately.
Bergfors seems to have fallen out of favour in Atlanta. Acquired in the Kovalchuk deal, he would likely become expendable if the Thrashers found a trade that could ensure them a spot in the playoffs.
He's put up 10 goals and 17 assists this season, and he's done so with an average of just 14:35 of ice time per game.
Bergfors is also an RFA at the end of the season, and it would probably be in the Leafs' best interests to re-sign the 23-year-old if acquired.
R.J. Umberger is a player the Toronto Maple Leafs should target as he would work well on the top line. His acquisition would finally give the Leafs a left winger worthy of first line minutes.
He's posted 17 goals and 16 assists in 49 games so far, which will make him tough to pry out of Columbus GM Scott Howson's hands.
The Blue Jackets have shown interest in Leaf defender Francois Beauchemin. Perhaps a deal could be centered around him and prospects or picks.
Had the New Jersey Devils not traded for Ilya Kovalchuk last summer, there would be a lot less rumors about Travis Zajac. However, Kovalchuk's massive contract is a contributing factor to New Jersey's cap troubles. Zach Parise needs to be signed at the end of the season, and in order to do that, the Devils will need to cut some salary.
Zajac might be the victim of this situation.
The center has posted seven goals and 26 points so far, which are pretty impressive totals when you're playing for the Devils. He has notched a couple of 60+ point seasons in the past.
Zajac would become the center on the first line of the Toronto Maple Leafs if he was acquired.
Francois Beauchemin to San Jose for Devon Setoguchi.
It's one of the most publicized trade rumors of the year, if not the most publicized. While deals as such often prove to be false, this trade is one the Toronto Maple Leafs should definitely pursue.
The trade works for both teams, as the Leafs need offensive help and the Sharks need defensive help.
The seasons of both Beauchemin and Setoguchi can be summarized with one word: disappointing.
While Setoguchi's disappointment may run a little deeper (he's been underachieving for a couple of years now), he makes up for it with a load of potential.
However, do the Leafs really want this so-called "potential"?
Jonas Gustavsson has potential to be the team's number one goaltender. Nazem Kadri has potential to become the team's first line center. Jesse Blacker has the potential to become the next elite NHL defenseman.
Potential, and nothing more. Just because these players could accomplish such feats, doesn't mean they will.
Such is the case with Devon Setoguchi. Could he find his former, goal-scoring self as a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs?
Potentially, yes. Which is why this deal makes sense for the Maple Leafs.
What do the Leafs need on their top line? Size, grit, and a left winger.
What would Dustin Penner bring to the Leafs' top line? Size, grit, and... well, you get the picture.
Penner is the perfect forward for the struggling Leafs club. He would bring almost everything the Leafs need on their top line. His toughness would compliment Phil Kessel's, well, lack thereof.
He's willing to go into the corners and dig for pucks, a job that has been thrust upon the unsuspecting Joey Crabb for the time being.
Nothing against Crabb, but he's not a first line left winger.
Dustin Penner is.
He's posted 16 goals and 16 assists so far this year, which is impressive when you consider he plays for the Oilers.
If he were added, the Leafs would likely be a top-line center away from a forward squad that could, dare I say, compete with the best in the league.
Brad Richards anybody?