Fixing the Maple Leafs: Toronto's Need for Speed

Mark MakuchCorrespondent IFebruary 4, 2008

Is it possible that we've all witnessed the reason for Toronto Maple Leaf's poor showing this year?

Could it be as simple as one word? Could it be that the Leafs, as a team, have simply lacked speed?

In some ways it makes perfect sense.

Before the lockout, slow players could still be incredibly effective and they clutched and grabbed their way through a game—the Leafs have the most hold-overs from that era.

But under the new rules, speed wins.

Speed means more opportunities. More penalties for the opposing team. Easier, more confident decisions with the puck, better ability to back-check...I mean, on Saturday night, didn't Ottawa look just like the Leafs have recently?

One step behind every play.

It could even explain how Nik Antropov's production tailed off this year. Early in the season, while players are getting their legs, he was scoring in bunches. Then, as the season progressed, and the speed of the game went up a few notches, he stopped scoring.

So if we look at revamping the Leafs, shouldn't we be looking at more speed throughout the lineup, instead of a few speedsters here and there? Could it be that simple?

Here's what I propose:

Trade, demote, or buy out:

- Tucker $3M

- Antropov $2M

- Poni $2M

- Bell $2M

- Woz $.5m

(- Raycroft $2M)

Thats's $11M.
 If we can play young, speedsters such as Robbie Earl, Dominic Moore, etc, and pick up some speedy prospects, could we not replace that group for about 500k each? or 2-4M?

That's 7-9M for free agents and retains a youthful corp of Steen, Stajan, Wellwood, Colaiaccovo, White, and Kaberle.

Throw in a departure of Kubina and you're laughing.

Then, let the speedsters play. And play and play.

Speed—you can't teach it.

Could it be the crux of this team's issues this year?