Though it seems like a cardinal sin to question any college signings made by the Maple Leafs in the past year, breaking these guys down has to start somewhere.
Since I’ve spent too many words on Tyler Bozak in past articles, right now it’s time to take a look at the other two thirds of the frat pack; Viktor Stalberg & Christian Hanson.
Hanson was signed as a free agent last spring, while Stalberg is a Leafs' pick who decided to take a college route after being drafted.
Usually fans don’t want to pipe up with any criticisms of any prospect.
“He’s only 20 and developing into his frame” they’ll say, or “They drafted him for the player he’ll be three years down the road.”
This is often true, but with these college players the Leafs have stocked up on there’s one thing to realize; these are 24-year-old men. They may be considered projects, but they shouldn’t receive all the niceties of a newly-drafted prospect.
The window for these players is much smaller than those who have gone the traditional draft-prospect route, and so it should be. Does it mean they won’t step up and become great NHLers? There’s no reason to think they can’t, but low risk is still risk.
I’m not trying to rip these guys by any means. Far from it actually. I think the signings were a great idea and Burke continued what I think is a magnificent strategy; stock up on good players of all walks and create a competitive atmosphere to push the entire franchise in one direction; up.
If Christian Hanson finds his game floundering, while in the AHL another player capable of filling his role is effectively picking up his play, then obviously it creates a sense of urgency for Hanson to perform.
Any player with the Leafs will have to up the ante, or be replaced. This is Burke’s philosophy and we can all find comfort in that.
My question is this; how long of a tenure do these guys have before we (as fans) really need to see results?
Viktor Stalberg grabbed 14 points this past season over 40 games played. His plus/minus was a -13, which is a little startling for less than 15 minutes of ice-time per game.
If he wishes to remain with the Leafs, next season he will have to elevate his game and keep it at a high level. He needs to stay in the top two forward lines.
The more the Leafs stock up and add more depth through signings, the draft, and prospects at training camp, the less toleration will be had with current players who aren’t performing.
Stalberg could become a victim of Burke’s competitive atmosphere if he doesn’t break through. Is that a bad thing? Maybe for Stalberg, but it lets us fans know that the system is working. Refreshing to say the least.
For Hanson the situation is different. He isn’t relied on to score points, thankfully. Hanson’s game is supposed to be using his physicality to be a grinding power forward.
But on some nights Hanson looks slow and it’s tough to tell where he fits in the lineup from game to game. If he falters, even slightly, someone else can come in and take his job.
The players know that Burke isn’t afraid of trades at any avenue. He can flip players in a second if they no longer fit. There’s barrels of talk regarding the Leafs acquiring new players in the off-season. Who are they replacing?