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Which rebuild is better: Leafs or Oilers?

Toronto Maple Leafs' Dion Phaneuf (3) celebrates his goal teammates Phil Kessel (81) and Joffery Lupul (19) during first period NHL hockey action against the Ottawa Senators in Ottawa, Saturday Feb. 4, 2012.THE CANADIANPRESS/Fred Chartrand

Fred Chartrand/CP

Everyone knows what the Edmonton Oilers have on their roster.

They have youth. They have high end talent. And they have the fruits of drafting in the top 10 four of the past five seasons, including twice at first overall.

What the Oilers haven't had, however, is much success on the ice, and they enter Monday's game with the Toronto Maple Leafs trailing another young, rebuilding team by 13 points.

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While Toronto currently has an 86 per cent chance of returning to the postseason (according to, Edmonton is in the basement at 1.7 per cent and needs to find 45 points in their last 30 games to get in.

That's not going to happen, even with their latest little run (4-0-1) against some pretty good teams.

So here's the question, with all that in mind: Do you like where the Leafs are in their rebuild better than where the Oilers are? Does a playoff appearance by Toronto show this team is in fact further ahead?

Or does Edmonton's really high end offensive talent (Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, RNH and Sam Gagner) put them in a better spot to truly contend compared with the Leafs core of Phil Kessel, Dion Phaneuf, Joffrey Lupul and James Reimer?

There's an interesting debate to be had here. When the Oilers went scorched earth a couple years ago, many in the hockey world saw it as the smart thing to do, as it came on the heels of Pittsburgh and Chicago winning championships with some of their best players still on entry level deals.

The problem in Edmonton, however, may come in the fact that they're not ready to take enough steps forward while those four youngsters are still underpaid. Gagner needs a new contact this summer, Eberle and Hall will come due in 2013, and Nugent-Hopkins is the year after that.

There's another high pick likely coming this off-season, but that's potentially a ton of cash right there in those four forwards. And building the type of defence core that can get them in the playoffs in the West and getting stability in goal still remain major question marks.

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Not that there's any certainty in Toronto. The Leafs may be ahead this season but will their top end talent be good enough to contend a year or two from now?

Something to ponder heading into their two meetings in the next two weeks...


- James Reimer gets the start again for Toronto after two straight shutouts coming out of the all-star break. Leafs coach Ron Wilson said it was "likely" that Jonas Gustavsson starts Tuesday in Winnipeg, however. The Leafs have a very busy week with three games in four nights and some heavy travel so it'll be interesting if they can maintain their strong play of late.

- There are not expected to be any other lineup changes for Toronto, meaning Mike Komisarek sits on the back end again. (Which is the right call.)

- The Oilers, meanwhile, will get Tom Gilbert back from injury for the first time in a month, which should be a big boost for them. Andy Sutton comes out of the lineup.

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- Oilers coach Tom Renney took a puck off the side of the head in the morning skate and had to go get stitches, but he's expected to be fine for the game.

- Former Kamloops Blazer Devan Dubnyk is expected to get his sixth straight start for Edmonton.

Leafs projected lineup

Lupul - Bozak - Kessel MacArthur - Grabovski - Kulemin Lombardi - Connolly - Crabb Brown - Steckel - Armstrong

Gunnarsson - Phaneuf Liles - Franson Gardiner - Schenn


Oilers projected lineup

Eberle - Gagner - Hall RNH - Horcoff - Hemsky Smyth - Belanger - Jones Eager - Lander - Petrell

Smid - Petry Whitney - Potter Barker - Gilbert


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About the Author
Hockey Reporter

James joined The Globe as an editor and reporter in the sports department in 2005 and now covers the NHL and the Toronto Maple Leafs. More

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