It's in the best interest of the team if the Leafs put winning games on the back burner, but try telling that to coach Paul Maurice, who could be shown the door if his team doesn't produce.
So here’s the thing, if you are the Los Angeles Kings or the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is probably in your best interest – speaking big picture, that is – to lose the remainder of your games.
It would be better for both teams – and probably Florida, Tampa Bay and Buffalo, too – if they just gave up on this year and did everything in their power to get the top pick in the 2008 Entry Draft; in all likelihood Steven Stamkos.
The problem is: How do you tell 20 players, who are essentially auditioning for next year, as well as a coaching staff whose career might possibly hang in the balance with every victory or defeat, that you want to tank the year? Much easier said than done.
In the case of the Kings, who haven’t been in the playoffs the past four seasons, you could make a strong case they already have a solid base of quality youth that could benefit greatly from the experience of playing in this year’s NHL post-season.
The Kings have done a very nice job cultivating young players who will serve the organization well moving forward; the likes of Anze Kopitar, Dustin Brown, Patrick O’Sullivan and Jack Johnson among them.
Still, you’d have to think the notion of adding a Stamkos to the mix would be very delectable, especially when you look at organizations like Chicago and Edmonton that are moving forward with young guns like Patrick Kane/Jonathan Toews and Andrew Cogliano /Sam Gagner, respectively.
Toronto’s case is similar, in terms of needing quality young talent. But making the playoffs this season will do the team’s current younger members little to no good whatsoever; at least not at the expense of adding young frontline talent.
And even though Cliff Fletcher has been brought back to town with a mandate to rid the team of older players with big contracts as a committee searches for John Ferguson’s full-time replacement as GM, it would be pretty hard to go to current Leafs coach Paul Maurice and convince him it would be in his best interest if the team loses every game from here on in.
There have already been rumblings that a new GM, presumably one with a lot of clout and a Stanley Cup pedigree, will want his own man behind the bench.
For Maurice and his staff to survive the change in management, it would help their cause to win as many games in the 2007-08 season as they can.
In recent years we have seen teams sneak into the playoffs and then go on a long spring run, but in the end, it is always the favorite that wins in the final.
So though it may be tempting for a team in a rebuilding mode to take a run at it, it probably makes sense for those teams to keep angling toward to the future.
Regardless, it is hard to imagine players and coaches whose future is on the line giving anything less than their utmost for the remainder of this year.
Mike Brophy's Double OT appears regularly on The Hockey News.com.
One of THN’s senior writers, Mike Brophy gives you insight and opinion on the world of hockey like no one else. Subscribe to The Hockey News to get Mike's expertise delivered to you every issue.
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