We will take a break from the ‘Top Five’ mania that has riveted and compelled the world of sports (ok, I made that up) and we will instead focus on the talk in “Leaf Land” today which seemed to centre on whether Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs should have signed Raffi Torres to a one year, one million dollar contract for the upcoming season. The popular answer among Leafs followers appears to be yes, we should have brought him into the fold, but my response to this question is an emphatic no and yours should be too.
Raffi Torres, who will turn 29 years old for the upcoming season is joining his fifth organization since entering the league as the 5th overall selection by the New York Islanders at the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. Four seasons removed from his last relatively productive season in 2005/06 with the Edmonton Oilers (27 goals, 41 points) Torres has been the model of inconsistent and one of the more frustrating players in the NHL.
Torres stands 6’0” and weighs over 220 pounds and has the reputation as under achieving power forward with some untapped potential, but since that 27 goal campaign four years ago Torres has averaged 59 games, 12 goals, 25 points (0.42 PPG) and a mere 45 PIMs. I applaud Brian Burke for passing on this player as this is the kind of recycled projects the Leafs need not partake in, though the price is right there is absolutely zero upside to a move like this as even a career season (very unlikely) from Torres would essentially only make him a poor man’s Alex Ponikarovsky, at best.
This guys is barely an NHL calibre player at this point in his career, and if he goes on to snipe 25 goals this year for the Canucks (not likely) than good for them but the Leafs have internal options who are younger, hungrier and most importantly what kind of message is Brian Burke sending those kids if he decided to bring in a complete re-tread on a guaranteed contract with a lousy track record to boot? This guy defines ‘replacement level’ hockey player, in fact he might be a step below and I think almost any of the Leafs current forwards (including Colton Orr) could give us 12 goals and 25 points with the type of minutes that Raffi Torres would need to put up even half decent stats for the team.
Didn’t we already go through this when we jettisoned Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake, Alex Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan last season, and those guys actually had some talent and past success? Torres doesn’t make us better at all this season and is not a step-up over any of our current returning or prospective forwards. He isn’t a great defensive player or penalty killer (like an A. Asham) and clearly is not a legitimate scoring threat of note so why would we waste a roster spot and risk the development in any way, shape or form of a Nazem Kadri, Marcel Mueller, Jerry D’Amigo, Christian Hanson or Luca Caputi, among others.
For better or worse, Brian Burke has a game plan and I admire the fact he doesn’t look for a band-aid solution to appease the masses of fans who seemingly want him to sign any recognizable free agent just for the sake of signing him at the expense of developing a core of hungry, young (and cheaper) alternatives internally. Not only would signing a player like Torres not make us better I would venture to say he would in fact make us tangibly worse not only this season but when we factor in the ice-time he is possibly taking away from a younger player who would just as likely produce at the same (or better) level, it also makes us worse for the future.
Thanks, but no thanks.