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Tavares in a Leafs Uniform? Pray to the Hockey Gods

As of today the Leafs sit in sixth to last place. This is, in fact, close to as far as the Leafs have fallen this season.They've been closer to fifteenth overall, and they've been as low as fifth last. What is true for the Leafs is that if they want to fall any further, they're going to have to make a valiant effort (or lack of) and get some luck on the way.

Also as of today, the Leafs have 10 more point than those lowly New York Islanders who have amassed a 12-26-4 record giving them 28 points. It's hard to get much worse than that! And the Leafs are far and away a much better team. In fact, it's not impossible to imagine Ron Wilson coaching this team right out of a top 10 pick.

And that's where Brian Burke comes in. If the Leafs want to get a draft pick, the Leafs need to strip this team to the ground - or at least closer than the other teams. If that doesn't work, then they'll need a bit of silly luck.

Here's my "Tavares Sweepstakes" wishlist.

1. The Islanders and Thrashers learn how to play hockey.
It's safe to say that these two teams would only rise above .500 if they joined the AHL. What's worse is that they're likely to trade whatever assets they have before the deadline. Doug Weight and Bill Guerin, the creaky old warriors that have held the fort for the Islanders this season, will be shipped out of New York for whatever they're worth. In Atlanta you are likely to see defenseman Schneider and perhaps one of their goalies dealt. So let's hope we get MVP performances from goalies Rick DiPietro and Kari Lehtonen, because the teams playing in front of them are atrocious.

2. The Lightning find ways to score, win in shootout.
The Lightning have only won 12 times this season. Almost as many times as they've won games, have they lost in the shootout or overtime: a total of 10, or approximately once in four games. They're getting heroic performances nightly from Mike Smith, but the defense in front of him are a bunch of pylons. The trading away of puck-moving blue liner Dan Boyle was one of the worst last season.

3. Dallas, Nashville, St. Louis and Los Angeles avoid the injury bug.
These teams all need to stay healthy in order to float above the Leafs in the standings. They all have the potential to win games (don't be surprised if the Stars squeak into the playoffs), but they need their men to get healthy/stay healthy. Nothing would please me more than seeing Andy McDonald and Paul Kariya both return for the Blues and revive that team in the latter portion of the season.

4. Ottawa needs to...do many things
Dear god. If you think this team is a few players away from becoming good, you're wrong. Let's look at this team from top to bottom and you tell me where there aren't holes.

Goal tending - some of the worst, and most inconsistent. Their best netminder is Alex Auld, a man who some thought had used up all of his lives staying in the NHL. But this journeyman has found a way to stick around, and he's made the most of it.

Defense - who, aside from Filip Kuba, can even move the puck through the neutral zone? And their supposed defensive specialist, Chris Phillips, is a godawful minus-20.

Up forward, you have three guys in Spezza, Heatley and Alfredsson who absolutley need to put up points nightly for this team to be successful. In the absence of that, you don't have much of a supporting cast. This is a one line team and everybody knows that. However, in previous years people have overemphasized their importance. Now we see what happens when they're the only thing the team can rely upon.

What would be ideal is for the teams mentioned above to care less about the draft and more about this current season. They need to adopt the Leafs mediocrity model of trying to squeak into the playoffs at all cost. Unfortunately, the Leafs might not be so fortunate, and the other bottom-dwellers in the league are probably all thinking about who they're going to send away before the trade deadline. We're going to need to outdo them.

Alas, we probably aren't going to get our way. The Leafs just don't give you that irk of terribleness that we've seen of the Islanders, Atlanta and Ottawa. My one glimmer of hope is that the Islanders beat us. Yes, we would be at 40 points and they would be at 26, were it not for that game.

If and when we don't get Tavares
There are piles of other players in this draft who the Leafs could use. I certainly wouldn't be upset seeing any one of these guys in Blue and White. Hedman is ranked first in the list I'm about to give, but I can assure you the Leafs need prospects at forward, and would likely take Tavares. Might help them sell more jerseys.

ISS Top Prospects for 2009 NHL Entry Draft, December 2008
1. Victor Hedman, LD 12/18/1990 L 6.06 220 Modo SweE
2. John Tavares, C 9/20/1990 L 6.00 200 Oshawa OHL
3. Matt Duchene, C 1/16/1991 L 5.11 196 Brampton OHL
4. Jared Cowen, LD 1/25/1991 L 6.04.7 218 Spokane WHL
5. Magnus Svensson-Paajarvi, LW 4/12/1991 L 6.01 198 Timra SweE
6. Jordan Schroeder, RW 9/29/1990 R 5.08.2 175 Minnesota WCHA
7. Evander Kane, C 8/2/1991 L 6.01 180 Vancouver WHL
8. Nazem Kadri, C 10/6/1990 L 5.11.5 180 London OHL
9. Richard Panik, C 2/7/1991 L 6.01 202 Trinec CzeJr
10. Brayden Schenn, C 8/22/1991 L 6.00 193 Brandon WHL