Gord Stellick is host of The Big Show, the popular afternoon radio program on the FAN 590. The former general manager of the Maple Leafs is also a hockey commentator on numerous local and national television shows.
For the current Leaf team, one challenge is the loss of Jason Smith, Bryan Berard and Danny Markov over the years without an equitable return in blueline talent. You can even go back further and include Sylvain Cote and Kenny Jonsson in that category. A highly touted first-round pick (Jeff Ware) and second-round pick (Marek Posmyk) from the mid-1990's never panned out.
While Bryan McCabe is one player who seems to be coming into his own, the best case scenario for the current Leafs would be as follows: Dmitry Yushkevich plays as he did in the 1999 and 2001 playoffs, Aki Berg continues to show the type of improvement he showed in last year's playoffs, an often unfairly maligned Cory Cross exhibits more consistency while Anders Eriksson comes into his own in a Toronto uniform much the way Lefebvre elevated his game after joining the Leafs from the Canadiens.
Aside from the 1993 comparison, a legitimate 2002 run for the Stanley Cup will have to include Tomas Kaberle's signature on a new contract and Pat Quinn facilitating the addition of a "corps five" defenceman by the trade deadline. Otherwise the Leafs will be at a disadvantage on the blueline compared to the other contenders.
For the mid-term and long term future, some current Leaf prospects have to develop into solid NHL defencemen. This list of prospects includes D.J. Smith, Karel Pilar, Petr Svoboda, Jonathan Zion and fan-favourite Nathan Dempsey. They have quantity, but is there the quality in one or two of these players to be part of Stanley Cup runs in 2003 or 2004?
In summation, we need more evidence before we can continue our defence of the Leaf defence.