Maple Leafs Watch: Misplaced expectations

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After following the more recently Non-Mighty Oilers of Edmonton last year, I’m back for a second tour of duty chronicling the Toronto Maple Leafs.

As a born-and-bred Torontonian, I enjoy seeing long tread-upon Leafs fans finally talking about a promising future for their team…and not having sane people make insane faces behind their backs.

But with the plethora of passion Leafs Nation possesses, there always will be some notable over-reactions, as well as an overlooked-but-important issue or two. So let’s briefly examine Two Things Leafs Fans Are Paying Too Much Attention To – and One Thing Leafs Fans Aren’t Sufficiently Excited About:

Two Things Leafs Fans Are Paying Too Much Attention To:

1. The Goaltending “Controversy.” The season was just two games old, yet there were cries for (a) the head of incumbent Leafs starter Vesa Toskala; and (b) the immediate induction of much-heralded rookie Jonas Gustavsson into the No. 1 job and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

I’m with Leafs coach Ron Wilson on this: Toskala’s early subpar showings shouldn’t spell his demise in Toronto. Anyway, it’s best Gustavsson starts his career in a platoon role –platoons usually fail if half of it feels like a second wheel in a unicycle act.

2. First Round Picks! First Round Picks! Let’s All Run Around In Small Circles Like Our Hair Is On Fire Because We Think Brian Burke Traded Too Many First Round Picks! The price for acquiring Phil Kessel may seem high to some, but draft picks guarantee zilch – and if the Leafs are out of the playoff picture, Burke can deal some of his veterans for some high picks.

One Thing Leafs Fans Aren’t Sufficiently Excited About

1. A Subtle Yet Significant Scouting Surge. In September, Burke quietly increased his scouting staff to its largest size ever. That’s a great sign ownership, at long last, is using its financial power in ways the NHL’s salary cap cannot restrict.

Indeed, more scouts – at least, more good scouts – should mean more good young players. And more good young players mean more to Toronto’s future than any netminder or draft pick.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appear regularly in the off-season, his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays and his column, Screen Shots, appears Thursdays.

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

This article also appears in the Toronto Metro newspaper.

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