The need for vets

On to the huge news of the day ... the Leafs traded a third round pick for Jamal Mayers. Mirtle is surprisingly restrained considering this is a move only Leaf fans could rationalize.
The mood in Toronto when it comes to the Maple Leafs is as ugly as I've seen it, and even a deal as minor as the one that brought in Mayers this weekend is being met with jeers. I've had a few self-identified Leafs fans over the past few days come by my desk to remark on how getting an "over the hill" checking winger from the Blues was another sign of things gone wrong in Toronto.

The Leafs are in trouble there's no question, but bringing in Ron Wilson, drafting Luke Schenn and GM Cliff Fletcher's talk of tearing down what's there are all positive signs. It's time for a rebuild, and the brass seem to be well aware of that.


But what I don't think you can do in a situation like this is go scorched earth, throwing anything resembling a veteran overboard and putting a club of all kids on the ice, night after night. Prior to bringing in Mayers, Toronto had just two forwards over 30 on the roster, and if, in fact, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe and Pavel Kubina are somehow shipped out, Jason Blake and Tomas Kaberle would be the de facto veteran leaders on the team.

Not exactly stand up and take charge types.

There's a great piece in the latest issue of The Hockey News written by Red Wings GM Ken Holland that talks about his philosophy on team building, and the nine-point plan laid out is something I think all NHL clubs could benefit from.

No. 2, titled "Players learn from others players," reads as follows:
In 2002, we brought Zetterberg over from Europe to watch some playoff games and he said his favorite players were Igor Larionov and Steve Yzerman, then two of our key veterans. I decided it was important to keep Larionov for another year or two, even though he was coming to the end of the line. Coaches can teach players only so much, but they can also learn a lot from veteran players. People look at our team and say we're old, but we're old for a reason. Those guys serve a purpose in our organization. They are there to guide our young players. I'd like to think when an older player is done here, he's done.
More than a roster overhaul, what the Maple Leafs need is an attitude adjustment, a change from the laissez-faire style of leadership that has taken hold for years. That's not going to come from the 24-year-olds, Matt Stajan and Alex Steen, and it's too much to ask of the mild personalities like Kaberle, Alexei Ponikarovsky and Nik Antropov.

Mayers can play a role in Toronto. He stands up for teammates, he fights, hits hard and he's a player others, like newcomer Schenn, can look up to.

He might not be a Larionov, but it's a start, and given he's only 33, there's a chance he'll still be in the mix when the tide (theoretically) starts to turn and this team is ready for a climb up the standings.

Mayers is a local, but grew up without being able to buy a ticket to Maple Leaf Gardens, the son of a single mother who worked two or three jobs to keep him in hockey. Fans here might not yet know him well, but he's a classy individual (nicknamed 'GQ'), an ambassador, and he just might become a fan favourite in the years to come.

He has heart and that's contagious.

That's worth a third-round pick.

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