There are those in Leafs Nation that still believe Leafs management should have tanked and rebuilt through the draft. Instead Brian Burke has focused on a combination of trades (11 players), free agents (7) and drafts (4) to rebuild the roster. For Burke the draft approach just takes too long and after all the Leafs are still one of the youngest teams in the NHL despite the low number of Leafs draft picks on the roster.
It's interesting to compare the Leafs with the rebuilding Edmonton Oilers who have mostly relied on the draft. Both teams began the process in 2008. So how have the two franchises fared?
Both teams finished with about the same number of points at the start of their rebuilds in 2009. The following season Edmonton finished 30th and drafted Taylor Hall. The Leafs traded for Phil Kessel and finished 29th but 12 points higher than the Oilers. Last season the Leafs began to rise in the standing while Oilers finished last overall with 62 points again but now 23 points behind the Leafs. This season the Leafs have been competing all season for a playoff spot while the Oilers are still struggling to win games. The Leafs project to finish with 90 points. While the Oilers project to only 68 points which would be 22 points behind the Leafs.
These rebuilds are incomplete but the numbers seem to support Burke's position, rebuilding through the draft takes a long time. Edmonton has some dynamic, young players but have yet to experience much success with them. The Leafs are just as young but have begun to climb back to respectability in 3 seasons.