February 18, 2011 9 Comments
It might be a bit generous to describe what Brian Burke has done with his Toronto Maple Leafs as two steps back and one step forward. In just over 2 years as General Manager, Brian Burke has been unable to dig the NHL’s most important franchise out of its deep, dark hole. After another confusing trade today it is apparent that Burke is guiding the Leafs down a pathless wood.
The Tomas Kaberle saga is finally over in Toronto. Kaberle waived his no-trade clause and has been dealt to the Boston Bruins in exchange for prospect Joe Colborne, their first round pick in 2011 and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2012. This is the Leafs 3rd deal in a little over a week. Coincidentally, in a little over a week Brian Burke has changed the direction of this team around 180 degrees.
While not conceding that his initial decision as GM to win right away was wrong, Burke’s dealings over the past week have done the talking for him.
He traded away Francois Beauchemin back to his former team the Anaheim Ducks for Joffrey Lupul who have both had disappointing seasons. Both teams are hoping that the solution is a new environment for their overpaid underachievers. He also traded away off-season acquisition Kris Versteeg to the Philadelphia Flyers for a 1st and 3rd round pick. Versteeg was had by the Leafs for a number of prospects including Viktor Stalberg.
Right now it would seem that a headless chicken would have a better sense of direction than this Toronto Maple Leafs team. Win now? Go young?
The Leafs have an interesting mix of veterans and young players, but nothing that is near ready to compete at a high level.
Their franchise player, Phil Kessel, who they paid a pretty penny for (2 first rounders and a 2nd rounder) has simply been a disappointment for Leaf fans. Lack of production and effort have highlighted the season of the supposed franchise. Inadequate line mates could partially be responsible for this but it’s clear that Kessel is not worth the value that Brian Burke initially placed on him.
Captain Dion Phaneuf who they received from Calgary approximately a year ago is also not performing close to the level that they hoped he would.
However, Toronto is witnessing breakout seasons from their 3 leading scorers. Young guns Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin are all having career seasons. The issue here is that trade speculation has surrounded these guys as MacArthur and Grabovski are restricted free agents at the end of the season.
What to do? At some point you have to pay your young up and comers, but are these guys the ones you want to move forward with? Going even younger is exactly the opposite of what Burke says he wants to do, but with his recent trades who the hell knows what the Leafs front office wants anymore.
Regular readers of mine will know my thoughts on rebuilding and in June I wrote how the Maple Leafs had set themselves up for a future of mediocrity. As of right now I can’t see how this has really changed despite these last two trades that look to signal rebuilding. The Leafs are still facing a number of bad(ish) contracts so in actuality they are not even starting from scratch at this point, rather they are restarting from a hole that has been dug by Brian Burke trying to win with an unwinnable roster. Rebuilding, a slow process in itself, will likely take a greater length of time for the Maple Leafs.
It looks like Burke is finally taking the proper route in rebuilding this team, but the drastic change in the appropriate direction could also mean that another 180 degree turn isn’t out of the question. With this always entertaining drama in full motion and the pieces of the puzzle still scattered, is it possible that the Toronto Maple Leafs situation is even more confusing than it was on November 29, 2008 when Brian Burke was appointed General Manager?
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