Ugh, you’ll have to forgive my ignorance here with the Toronto Sun. It’s not that I refuse to read it, it’s more like I don’t want to pay for it or slip into a Coffee Time to pick one up and bemoan the misfortunes of the Toronto Maple Leafs with the locals. Anyway, not that anyone should be surprised, but Rob Longley‘s piece this morning on the Flyers’ “blueprint for success” and how it relates to Brian Burke’s ongoing mess in Toronto is about as abstract as you can get in comparing two entirely dissimilar squads. As much as I don’t want to look like the new guy that shows up and rips the mainstream media, that’s clearly what I’m about to do here.
What’s got me really confused is Longley’s checklist for success; ‘truculence’, ‘a chassis built from the net out’, and ‘a fleet of skilled, top six forwards not afraid to bang when that duty calls’. The assumption here is that he’s referring to the Phildelphia Flyers template, because to be honest the Toronto Maple Leafs are a good 4-5 forwards away from anything worthy of being labeled ‘top six’. Longley himself denotes that Burke’s blueprint is merely just a paper plan at this point, but to refer to the Philadelphia Flyers as having a “chassis built from the net out”? The Flyers’ goaltending situation this season, let alone the past two decades, has been anything but solid.
Michael Leighton was a steal at some $11,000, and he has looked outstanding in five playoff games thus far, but the storybook on him has yet to be finished. I seriously doubt that Longley’s referring to the bruised up and underwhelming regular season tandem of Ray Emery, Brian Boucher, Leighton, Johan Backlund, and Jeremy Duchesne as this so solid chassis with which the Flyers’ success rests upon… Then again, maybe he is. Goaltending would be the one and only area in which Brian Burke’s roster is superior to that of Flyers’ G.M. Paul Holmgren (Holmgren does enjoy the fruits of a few Bobby Clarke products, though).
As for the ‘truculence’ point, yeah, some degree of physical toughness is required for success if you ask me. That’s where the Flyers have clearly been able to out-stage their opponents. Unlike the crew of punch-first-score-never tough guys that Burke seems to love so much, Philadelphia’s tougher players have some skill.
The only area I find the Leafs and Flyers to be remotely similar is on the blue line, where if you minus the game-changing presence of Chris Pronger (no, Dion Phaneuf is absolutely not Chris Pronger) the teams have similar structure. Kimmo Timonen is a slightly more defensively responsible, albeit far more expensive version of Tomas Kaberle. I suppose you could call the rest of Toronto’s D-core a working man’s substitute for the Flyers, but it’s not as though either team had an exceptionally defensively imposing regular season.
My point in all of this is not just that this Toronto Sun article is a load of shit, but that it’s a waste of print to compare the Leafs and Flyers in terms of how they’re built. The Flyers’ M.O. over the past few years has essentially been to spend big on free agents while drafting and developing talent. If you look specifically at the Flyers’ forwards Mike Richards, Jeff Carter, Claude Giroux, Simon Gagne, and James Van Riemsdyk; they’re all Philadelphia draft picks brought up through their system. The Toronto Maple Leafs, on the other hand, have a lot of work to do before they’ll have a forward core that compares to that even in the slightest. That can be tough to do when you’re building without the luxury of first round draft picks.