Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Maple Leafs' European Scouting Adventure

In an interesting story, it seems that the Toronto Maple Leafs are going to expand their network even more. From the IIHF website, the Leafs and the Zurich Lions now how a working agreement and will work closely together when it comes to scouting players from the Swiss league. The Leafs also have an agreement like this with German team Alder Mannheim.

While players who are draft-eligible aren't able to be plucked by the Leafs, all players who are older than 22 can be plucked up by the Leafs if they deem them to be worthy enough. Not only that, but Zurich and Mannheim can compare notes with the Leafs about other teams and players in their respective leagues.

First, I haven't heard this happen with many other teams-- so you have to respect the Leafs and GM Brian Burke for picking up this kind of idea and running with it. Though, it should be something expected, as Burke has gone for untapped markets before, mostly the US college ranks, and work to some success. Second, with the Swiss turning out some pretty decent NHLers (Jonas Hiller and Mark Streit) and prospects (Nino Niederreiter and Sven Bartschi), it seems like it could be the next, to pull a US college sports reference, "mid-major" country to be on the big map for development. Of course, many thought that Germany was going to be the next big thing and it fizzled a bit.

Yet, at the same time-- when it comes to European, undrafted players-- it hasn't turned out completely well. Both Fabrian Brunnstrom and Jonas Gustavsson have given less than stellar returns for the hype they got, which could turn some people off. Though, Burke is a guy who can sniff out solid talent, which could make these deal work more-- especially since he'll get notes and won't have to go on some hearsay and conjecture. Even so, you have to say that the put-off of what Brunnstrom and Gustavsson have brought could make this nothing more than a place for Burke to ship high-contract, underperforming players-- but that's just me.

All in all, it's another way for the Leafs, and mostly Brian Burke, to think outside of the box of professional scouting and also getting their foot in the door when it comes to untapped marketplaces for hockey talent. If this provides nothing of substance for the Leafs-- they still made the effort that other teams could be scared to do.

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