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Nope, you didn't misread the title.
And yes, the adjective chosen was one which had a purpose.
I don't use the word insane in the common sense that you find in the sportsworld to describe a remarkable save or rave over an incredible shot.
Instead when describing what the Maple Leafs front office has done this offseason, I use the word as more of a clinical term. In a literal sense, such as the moves made by the Toronto Maple Leafs this summer are unequivocally and absolutely insane
Hey, that may not be such a bad thing either.
Admit it. You were one of the people who were quick to jump the gun in condemning the Phil Kessel trade as one of the worst of all time weren't you? Perhaps you've had to pull back on that assessment a wee bit now, right?
Because maybe, just maybe there is a method to the madness.
GM Dave Nonis just MIGHT, perhaps, know what he is doing?
So it would only seem fair that we let this play out on the ice before TOTALLY destroying the front office entirely, right?
(But then again, there is still plenty of time for the Kessel trade to turn into the disaster that many previously had predicted. Especially if Kessel leaves Toronto as a free agent after this season).
In all honesty, I am finding it difficult to comprehend these moves, but many Leaf fans seem to support the transactions, and given how close they are to the pulse of the team it isn't like we should question them.
Now there are fans of every single team in every single sport who are ultra sensative. They read articles like this and assume that the author, being myself in this case, are simply attacking the team based on some sort of personal vendetta. And Maple Leaf fans are certainly no exception to this rule.
That being said, those types are usually obnoxious, have been drinking (the two often go hand in hand) and I've found most fans to be relatively objective, Leafs fans being no exception.
Sadly though, there are those blind, yet vocal few who find a way to be the loyal apologist even as the ship is sinking. And EVERY team has its share of those.
By now you have heard the criticism.
You know, the whole outcry which goes something like this.
"Toronto gave how much to WHO and for HOW LONG"??!?
This is usually found on message boards, by fans of other teams who revel in the Leafs misery.
And I can easily see the justification in that line of criticism. The Leafs have struggled for years in the high pressure, high expectation hockey Mecca that is Toronto. They couldn't make the playoffs in what seemed like forever. They couldn't draft well. They made poor personnel decisions.
Then last season rolled around and we saw the emergence of some good young players. Homegrown talent in Nazem Kadri and James Reimer. Phil Kessel continuing his rise amongst the leagues elite. Solid scoring threats in Joffrey Lupul and James Van Riemsdyk. And a major bounce back year from Dion Phaneuf saw Toronto make the playoffs for the first time in nine years.
And then the melt down happened.
Up by three goals with ten minutes left to play in game seven against the Boston Bruins, Toronto seemed poised to advance to round two in an inprobable upset.
But they didn't win. They didn't advance and perhaps it is important to keep this in mind when discussing what Toronto did this summer.
The criticism goes like this.The Leafs gave big money deals to players whom aren't worth the cash value or term of the contracts which they signed. And to make matters worse, two of those young, breakout players remain without a contract and precious little room under the cap to sign them (Cody Franson and Nazem Kadri).
It is a legit beef to have.
(Speaking of insane, if reports speculating that Kadri's camp is wanting up to a six million dollar contract are true then I've found someone who's sanity I question more than the Maple Leafs management).
Perhaps it is equally important to remember that not all of the Leafs moves were complete head scratchers mind you. They traded for playoff warrior Dave Bolland as well as a very promising netminder in former Los Angeles Kings first round pick Jonathan Bernier. Both moves could turn out very well as both players bring elements in their game that any team would find value in.
I also like the potential risk versus reward signing of defenseman Paul Ranger. When he walked away from the game years ago, he looked like he could become a very good puck moving defenseman in an era before they became the en vogue position in today's NHL.
However, try as certain fans might to excuse the summer as a whole, these moves don't come close to excusing a series of baffling decisions by Toronto's GM Dave Nonis (who was given a five year extension during the offseason to boot).
Signing a 30 year old David Clarkson to a 7 year contract worth 5.25 million annually is going to make some people scratch their heads.
Tyler Bozak inking a five year contract that is worth 4.2 million dollars per season is going to raise some red flags. Especially when the perception remains that these players are getting compensated far above their actual ability.
But that isn't how unrestricted free agency works.
I've been around long enough to understand the ramifications of unrestricted free agency. I understand that during this period a players worth is usually inflated beyond their actual abilities. I understand that this years crop of free agents was the WEAKEST class in years. Because of that the inflation would be even more compounded. And I CERTAINLY understand that some team was going to have to overpay for these two players.
What I don't understand is why the Leafs felt the need to be the team that did so for TWO players.
What I don't understand is the trade off, and the lack of foresight for the future salary cap.
What I don't understand is the direction this team seems to be going in.
The easy answer is that they are going for the more hard nosed line up but I am not so sure having two tough guys in McLaren and Orr take regular shifts is a recipe for success.
What I don't understand is the decision to ostracize and then buy out Mikhail Grabovski to keep Tyler Bozak.
Say what you will about Mikhail Grabovski, but he has skill. And his skill is a more difficult commodity to find than a player of Tyler Bozak's ilk.
There is certainly no love lost between Grabovski and The head coach of The Leafs, Randy Carlyle and it showed up in how the coach misused Grabo during his tenure for the team. It showed up in the ice time Grabovski received compared to Tyler Bozak (while still out scoring Bozak mind you).
And it certainly showed up when Grabovski ripped The Leafs coach very loudly, and very publicly.
I understand the guys perceived deficiencies and I get that the only checks Mikhail Grabovski possessed were that of those in his wallet.
But the Leafs lost a whole lot of skill when they used a compliance buy-out on Mikhail and skill of his nature is very difficult to come by in this league.
They also chose not to re-sign Clarke MacArthur who provided some very valuable secondary scoring to go along with his responsible all around play.
The issue is compounded considering both Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf are unrestricted free agents after the 2014 season and the Maple Leafs have precious little room under the cap to give them the raises that both of them will certainly seek.
They have precious little room to extend the other valuable pieces who will be entering into various stages of free agency at the same time.
The aforementioned Dave Bolland, an up and coming defenseman in Jake Gardiner, the spark plug, yet sometime enigmatic Nikolai Kulemin, elite defensive forward Jay McClement and potential starting goalie James Reimer.
The salary cap for next year is anybody's guess, and the Leafs look poised to lose one, two or more of those assets.
Assets who's value is NOT easily replaced.
They wont have room under the cap fill these potential holes in free agency.
It is difficult to get maximum value for a pending UFA in a trade as well. Besides, this would be a lateral move at best.
The Leafs cannot, under any circumstances afford to lose either Kessel or Phanuef. They cannot afford a squabble that would see Kadri sit for any amount of time or even be moved.
And losing Franson, Gardiner or Kulemin would certainly hurt.
Is keeping Bozak really worth losing one of those guys?
Look, Clarkson and Bozak are good players. Don't get me wrong. Each could play a significant role on any team in the national hockey league. But that doesn't mean that The Leafs had to sign BOTH of them to UFA contracts folks. Especially knowing that they would have to overpay by a rather large amount for two guys who scored a collective 52 points in 94 games between the two.
That is correct. 9.4 million per year, over at least the next five years for two guys who have zero fifty point seasons between them.
Yes, a players value can't always be measured in mere points. Yes Clarkson is a tough hombre, but the Leafs weren't lacking in that department to begin with.
What they've been lacking since Mats Sundin bolted to Vancouver is a number one center. Tyler Bozak, for all of his value is not a number one center. Heck, he is an average second line center in this league. Ideally on the Leafs he would have been a third line center behind Grabo and Kadri. But who wants to pay a third line center 4.2 million dollars? This cements his place in the top six and I'm not so sure that is a role which best suits him.
And the potential future number one center that Leafs fans covet still awaits a new contract, probably wondering why he isnt getting a piece of the insanity.
I think Toronto took a step in the right direction during this past lockout shortened season. However, I also understand the criticism levied against them.
Having said that, if we have learned anything from the recent history of the Maple Leafs it should be that we shouldn't completely condemn any of their decisions before letting them play out.
And I am willing to let this season play out before passing judgment (ala the Kessel trade).
For the record, I think they will improve upon last year and make a slightly deeper run in the playoffs.
For the record, had Toronto iced this current lineup against the Bruins, I think they advance to the second round.
On paper they seem like they are a better team this season.
Beyond that, it is anybody's guess, and that is where the criticism may become justified.
Thanks to the Leaf fans who helped contribute to this article.
The Puck Hog