BY TREVOR BOOTH – FAN FUEL BLOGGER
Ahh, the infamous Boston Bruins-Toronto Maple Leafs trade. The one that has doomed the Leafs rebuild. No, not Phil Kessel for Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. I’m talking about one back in 2006. It’s no secret that the Maple Leafs have been searching for a number one goalie since Ed Belfour retired. Andrew Raycroft, Justin Pogge, Jean-Sebastien Giguere, Vesa Toskala, Curtis Joseph part two, Jonas Gustavsson and now James Reimer and Ben Scrivens. That first name on the list, Andrew Raycroft. What if he was replaced by the man John Ferguson Jr. traded for him, Boston Bruins number one goalie Tuukka Rask? Bet the list following Rask would be a lot shorter and the Maple Leafs would be a lot better. I was at the draft when JFJ traded Rask for Raycroft. A day I will never forget and one I hope the Maple Leafs won’t forget either.
June 24, 2006. General Motors Place in Vancouver, BC at the NHL draft. Myself and a good friend sitting about twenty or so rows up to the right of the podium. A few rows in front of us, Phil Kessel, Jonathan Toews, Erik Johnson and Bryan Little sitting anxiously with their families, waiting. They look like high schoolers. Boys. Barely old enough to vote, still too young to legally drink a beer… waiting.
Commissioner Gary Bettman takes the stage to a chorus of boos, pretty much standard procedure then, since and even now. He welcomes the fans, the families and finally the group of young men who are about to have their lives permanently changed forever.
With that, the St. Louis Blues brass take the stage, approach the podium, thank the city of Vancouver for the hospitality it has shown them and select Erik Johnson as the first overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft. The young man stands up, hugs his mother, father and younger siblings. He shakes hands with a few others in the row where they were sitting. He makes his way to the aisle smiling and begins to head towards the stage. As he pulls the Blues jersey over his head and forces an arch into the ball cap, I think to myself, “Wow, what a feeling that must be for that young man.” Cameras flash, reporters scramble close and the floor is a buzz with ringing phones and men in suits frantically strutting from table to table.
Jordan Staal, Jonathan Toews, Nicklas Backsrom and Phil Kessel follow. Each of them putting on the respective jerseys of their new teams. When we get to number thirteen, it is the Toronto Maple Leafs turn to take to the podium. John Ferguson Jr. walks to the stage and is met with an even louder chorus of boos than even the Commish received. (Not surprising in Vancouver). He “proudly” selects Juri Tlusty from Klando Czech Republic. At position twenty two the Flyers select Claude Giroux. (What a steal that was). As the first round concludes, we see the New Jersey Devils select Matt Corrente from the Saginaw Spirit and there it is, round one is in the books. (A highly condensed version as it actually took over two hours to complete).
At this point, my friend and I get up and leave along with 90 percent of the viewing audience who attended. We go for lunch and talk hockey over beers and burgers for the better part of two more hours. Upon arriving home, I head to my computer to see if I had missed anything of major importance. Boy, had I
On the front page of Sportsnet.ca, it reads “Leafs Acquire Andrew Raycroft From Bruins”. I click on the link nervously, only to find out that whilst I had been consuming beers and burgers with my friend, John Ferguson Jr. had completely lost his mind.
It was only about six months earlier that I and that same friend sat in front of the TV at my place and watched the Canadian Juniors destroy the Russians in the final 5-0 in the very same city. Justin Pogge was in net for the Canadians throughout that tournament. (Also a Leaf prospect at the time). More importantly, in the semifinals, Canada beat Finland 4-0, however, the kid between the pipes for Finland was nothing short of spectacular in that game and throughout the entire tournament. He was Tuukka Rask. The 21st overall pick by the Leafs in the 2005 NHL entry draft. (Yes, The Sidney Crosby Draft). He was the price that JFJ felt he had to pay to acquire Andrew Raycroft from the Bruins.
Whether it was in fact corporate pressure from above to “win now” or perhaps JFJ did actually slip into some form of temporary state of insanity, holy cow was I ever mad! I didn’t know much about Rask before the junior tournament but man, after seeing him put on a show as he did; I was really psyched about having him in the organization. It was obvious; this kid was the “real deal”, (sorry James Reimer).
The Phil Kessel trade has been and will be debated at nauseam for eternity or so it seems anyways. Truth be told, I don’t think that Brian Burke or anybody, including the Bruins, thought that the Leafs would finish 29th in a 30 team league and surrender the second overall pick to Boston that year. Tyler Seguin is a helluva hockey player and may end up being the best player in that deal in years to come. So could Dougie Hamilton for that matter. But for me, the Leafs got a pretty damn good player in return for that steep price.
Phil Kessel is a quiet, quirky fellow indeed, but he scores goals. That in itself leaves me feeling okay about that trade. Tuukka Rask on the other hand is exactly the tonic that the Toronto Maple Leafs need right now to put the Luongo, Bernier, Backstrom rumours to bed forever. Tuukka Rask is the one that got away!
Dwelling in the past is never a good thing. And I’m not. What’s done is done. No changing it now. Examining the past as a frame of reference for the here and now is however a useful tool to avoid making the same mistakes again. Let’s hope that much was learned from this. Quick fixes rarely work in the NHL. It has been proven time and time again. I’m certain the both JFJ and Brian Burke get a black and yellow thank you card every Christmas from Peter Chiarelli and will continue to for the next decade as the Toronto Maple Leafs continue their endless search for a number one goaltender.