Coach Paul Maurice, G Andrew Raycroft, C Mats Sundin, RW Darcy Tucker, C Kyle
41st year of rebuilding, the Maple Leafs have purposely taken a step backward.
Retrenching under G.M. Cliff Fletcher, who may be keeping the seat warm until
Brian Burke's contract expires in Anaheim next summer, Toronto allowed free
agent Mats Sundin to depart and will fill a bunch of holes on the roster with
young players. Even Fletcher concedes that the Leafs have only one top six
forward—a polite stretch in describing winger Nik Antropov—and the defensive
core is thin behind
Tomas Kaberle (above). If nothing else, Fletcher and new
coach Ron Wilson have tamped down expectations nicely.
Yet Toronto might
not be the Hindenburg on skates. The canny Wilson, whose teams always play
hard, can erect a picket fence in front of goalie Vesa Toskala and keep the
Maple Leafs in most games. Toronto will miss the playoffs for the fourth
straight season, but some luck in the 2009 draft lottery would speed the Leafs'
ongoing reconstruction process considerably.