NHL Playoffs 2012: Elite Centres and Defencemen Show Why Maple Leafs Aren't in

Harry Orbach Miller@@harryom95Contributor IIIApril 13, 2012

MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 3:  Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks to the media during a press conference to introduce new head coach Randy Carlyle at the Bell Centre on March 3, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

While ownership may be apologizing for another season in which the Toronto Maple Leafs have failed to qualify for the playoffs, what they, along with general manager Brian Burke, should be doing is looking at why some teams did make the playoffs.

The one thing that should instantly jump off the page is that almost all of the playoff teams have an elite centre and/or defencemen. The Maple Leafs currently have neither.

A good example of this is the Detroit Red Wings. They have two elite centres in Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk, with aging superstar Nick Lidström on the blue line. Yes, the Red Wings do have other players and are one of the deeper teams in hockey, but it is undeniable that the foundation of their success is this trio.

Another example is the Nashville Predators. While the closet thing they have to an elite centre is Mike Fisher, they make up for it by having two of the best defensemen in the league: Ryan Suter and Shea Weber.

I could go on listing the elite centres and defensemen in the playoffs—like Jonathan Toews, Claude Giroux, Drew Doughty and Brent Seabrook—but the point is made. 

Some of you might immediately rush to the conclusion that the Leafs do posses in elite defensemen in captain Dion Phaneuf and elite centre in Mikhail Grabovski. But then I'd ask you to look at their play on the ice, not their bloated salaries.

What the Leafs do have are two very talented wingers in Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. However, there is not one playoff team that gets by with elite wingers.

Even the Phoenix Coyotes, whose main offensive contributors are wingers Shane Doan and Ray Whitney, have young talent in Keith Yandle and Oliver Ekman-Larsson.

If Leafs ownership is serious about making the playoffs, then they must look at the rosters of playoff teams, which shows the need for elite centre men and/or defensemen, and emulate them. Having at least one is crucial to making the playoffs, but usually both are necessary for success.

Right now, the Maple Leafs have neither, and if they ever want to succeed in the regular season and/or the playoffs, it's time to start acquiring both.