Though they could use an extra pick in this year’s draft, I’ll bet the Toronto Maple Leafs are much happier with the fact they have Ian White on their blueline.
White could easily have been exchanged for a second round draft pick a month ago, back when NHL GMs were doing their annual trade deadline dance. From Toronto’s perspective, it would have been easy to rationalize the move as another in a series of deals aimed at stock piling picks for the rebuilding organization.
That would have been faulty reasoning.
White, after being a healthy scratch for the first 11 games of the year, has established himself as a dependable defender colored by a streak of offensive acumen.
He’s not big, but go ahead and try to squeeze by him on the half-wall or take him lightly in a puck battle – you’ll soon find out there’s mettle behind that moustache of his.
In a somewhat strange twist, two players who found that out the hard way are goal-scorers Markus Naslund and Ilya Kovalchuk, though White isn’t bragging about his dance partners this season.
White has a good right-handed shot from the point, something that’s helped him record a respectable 10 goals and 25 points in 66 games this year. He’s also diverse, capable of taking shifts at forward when need be.
His 22:51 of average ice time per game means White, over a two-month stretch while Tomas Kaberle was injured, played more than any other Maple Leaf.
The hardnosed prairie boy is also one of the straightest shooters in Toronto’s dressing room when it comes to analyzing the actions of any given game. Ask Ian a question and you’ll get an honest answer.
White’s size and chameleon capabilities are in some ways reminiscent of New York Islanders blueliner Mark Streit. No, the former can’t quite crank the puck like the latter and doesn’t put up nearly the same offensive totals, but don’t forget Streit was essentially 30 years old before he proved capable of running an NHL power play. Who’s to say White won’t be there in five more years?
The Leafs’ decision to let things play out in Toronto was a wise one. Let’s say they went the other route and flipped White for second-rounder; what are the odds they draft a player who becomes more of a contributor than White already is? For every David Krejci and Shea Weber plucked in Round 2, there are five second-rounders who settle into nice ECHL careers.
It’s not like White is some fogey the Leafs were better off flipping for help down the road. The guy is only 24 – how long do the Buds plan to be bad?
It could be argued the Leafs should have acted while White’s value was inflated by his strong season, but I see continued improvement as a much more likely path for this guy than regression.
For that reason, Toronto will have no regrets on the course it charted.
Ryan Dixon is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey’s Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Wednesdays and his column, Top Shelf, appears Fridays.
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