Lee Stempniak: Evaluating the Trade

Chandler NicolCorrespondent INovember 25, 2008

This is my first article so any feedback is appreciated.


When Cliff Fletcher and Ron Wilson were brought into the MLSE establishment, the message to the players should have been rather straightforward: no player's job is a guarantee, and anyone is expendable.

Fletcher and Wilson have shown that night in and night out, throwing  Matt Stajan, Jonas Frogren, (who came here on an initially high contract) Ian White, and even Jason Blake in the press box on a few occasions.

What can we gather from this? Well for starters, this is no-bull management; that should have been clear to the players when Boyd Deveraux and Mark Bell were sent down, and McCabe was sent off to the Panthers.

So it should come to no surprise that trades would be made upcoming. Given the off-game of Vesa Toskala, who's average has dropped to the lowest in the East, (in virtually every category relative of a 'tender's play) and the defensive gap, that has left a team that was intended to be built on defense scratching their heads, one could smell a trade coming up soon; it was simply a matter of who for who?

Yesterday that message was rather clear, as amidst the Brian Burke mania that has swarmed Toronto, Cliff Fletcher showed he wasn't afraid to make another change. A change that has left a rift in some blue-bleeders' minds; two former first rounds for a 25 year old fifth-rounder?

There is no doubt that Alex Steen has been producing little offensively. One must also take into account that Steen was not being used accordingly, and is a potential high-point producer and a physical presence.  By being put on the checking line, it certainly takes away the minutes and the opportunities to score.

Yet with only two goals and two assists in 20 games, many should wonder if it was more than just his line placement. Furthermore, the injury prone Colaiacovo has left an ambiguity towards his potential, and currently stands with a single assist and no goals in 10 games.

When compared to Stempniak's 13 points in his 14 games played, (and a hot streak at his return from his injury) with a little under 20 minutes of MPG, it makes the two former Leaf players seem expendable.

The concern of the Blue and White fan base is not that of point production, but of potentiality, and the unanswered questions. It is noted that Stempniak had a 25 goal season two years ago, and seems to be on track for quite a few points this year as well.

However, our concern lays in the former first-rounders, who we gave up for a player with a recent injury and one who was drafted unpredictably.

This is a good trade though. I will go out and say it on a limb, expecting that many HOPE I'm right, but aren't too sure. I say to those who do, put your worries away, things will be fine. It is very much like the Leafs' fan-base to question a motive done by the GM, as we've had shaky faith in the past.

Fletcher has done no wrong since he has come in as "interim" GM for the Leafs. Steen needed a change of scenery; Wilson is a picky coach and as soon as Steen's point production dropped to the levels of Anton Stralman (who has less MPG, Less games played, a game winner which Steen does not have, AND more points as a defenceman) and Jamal Mayers, there's no reason why he shouldn't belong there.

Furthermore Colaiacovo has proven time and time again that he is an injury prone individual, and a gamble to say the least. St. Louis would not have made a trade like this if they didn't have many of their players tied up in injury woes as well. That should stand as something on its own.

If all trades were evaluated based on the premise of potential and draft round pickes, we would have terrible concepts of evaluation (Zetterberg anyone?). Stempniak has proved that he is a considerable and formidable opponent, while Steen and Colaiacovo have left nothing but questions with no straight answers.

What Fletcher has done is maximized the minimum, by a great deal. He has moved two risky players whose time to prove their worth was slipping faster than colour in an egg-timer, for a player who is not a high risk and a proven young player. Furthermore, he removed one of the many surplus defencemen who seemed to be riding the press-box locomotive.

For the current Toronto Maple Leafs fans, I suggest a new way of thinking. Instead of focusing on what potentially could have been beneficial, why don't we look at what  could have happened if Steen and Colaiacovo didn't pull through, and what we gained if they don't.

After all, we're in a rebuilding phase and it is not a time to gamble with our future. As I said, everyone is expendable.