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Posted at 3:45 PM ET, 12/ 6/2010

On the Maple Leafs, Redskins and rebuilding

By Ryan Cooper

Tonight the Caps take on the Maple Leafs, and I’ve been thinking a lot lately of the parallels between the Leafs and our own local football team. Both squads have extremely rabid fanbases and huge media conglomerates that hang on every word they say. Both have a rich, proud history and have also failed spectacularly in recent years despite massive investments in time and money.

See, I think the average fan is pretty smart (for the most part). We can accept a rebuilding job, and we can accept painful years if there’s a light at the end of the tunnel and something that looks like a plan. For all the heat the Caps took in light of the Jaromir Jagr situation, they were smart enough to get out of it, trade him and other older players for 75 cents on the dollar, and blow the whole thing apart. That’s what I admired so much about the Caps rebuilding job. What we as fans can’t accept is an organization having a mandate to rebuild (like the post-John Ferguson, Jr. Leafs and last year’s 4-12 Redskins) and then trying to do the whole thing half-assed, while grabbing high-priced, older players (like Donovan McNabb) failing to trade away players that no longer fit your plans (like Tomas Kaberle) and trading away valuable assets (like draft picks).

It’s difficult to watch your team bottom out. But it’s excruciating to watch a team that’s mediocre, because they’re not good enough to compete for championships, and not bad enough to get high draft picks. This is the issue both franchises face. And now, they’ve both taken their mandates for rebuilding, and the chance they had to sell their fans on it, and thrown it all away. How can the Redskins talk about rebuilding now after (yet another) off-season of trading away picks for a quick fix? Similarly, how can the Leafs sell their fans on rebuilding after trading away so much for Phil Kessel (and not getting anyone to set him up)?

The worst thing is, both teams will go through this again over the summer. Redskins fans will get their hopes up at whatever washed-up free agent they manage to overpay, and Leafs fans will watch the Bruins collect another top-5 pick. I fear it will continue as long as we as fans continue to support mediocrity with our time and wallets.

By Ryan Cooper  | December 6, 2010; 3:45 PM ET
Categories:  Capitals, Redskins, Ryan Cooper  | Tags:  Capitals, Redskins, Ryan Cooper  
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A few corrections:

-Brian Burke has a 2007 Stanley Cup ring (Dan Snyder doesn't) and took the American Olympic team to overtime of the gold medal game in the 2010 Olympics.
-The team he inherited two years ago had the 30th ranked farm system (out of 30 teams). Today the Leafs rank 16th and their AHL team leads its division (it's very admirable how well Washington's AHL team does).
-The Leafs have the youngest team in the league (they didn't go out and sign aging free agents); for a long time the M.O. in Toronto was overpay for aging UFA's.
-The Leafs owners don't meddle (the majority ownership is the Ontario Teachers Pension Plan- they rake in the profits and go about their business) anymore.
-Brian Burke gutted the entire roster in less than 2 years. The only holdover is Tomas Kaberle who will be a UFA come July 1st.
-They didn't go out and blow nine figures on a morbidly obese UFA who refuses to practice or try in games (I truly feel bad for Redskins fans right now; expecting effort isn't asking too much).
-You're making the same false comparative about draft classes with regard to the Kessel trade. NHL Scouts and GM's have said that the 2003-09 draft classes had generational talent and have said that the 2010-2011 classes aren't as good (Seguin is projected as a top-six forward but nobody is saying he'll end up as a game-changer in the mold of an Ovechkin/Crosby or Stamkos type). Not that it matters but Kessel had a higher draft grade than Tyler Seguin (and more goals than anyone in his draft class of 2006).
-John Ferguson Jr made one bad deal after another and drove a team that was a Cup Contender into a ditch (trading Rask to Boston, trading a first round draft pick for Vesa Toskala). It was always going to be a rebuilding job from the ground up.
-If building through the draft were the true elixir, explain ATL, NYI, FLA, CBJ. They've had great drafts but collectively have four playoff game wins (all NYI- three in 2002 and one in 2007) from 2000 onward (and 0 series wins).

Posted by: jcurrin | December 7, 2010 1:15 PM | Report abuse

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