It’s a work in progress and there isn’t a deadline.
No, this isn’t an ideal school project for a high school senior, but instead the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Brian Burke has pulled off numerous blockbuster deals since coming to Toronto approximately 18 months ago, but a few more deals, and the ones that will probably make or break his time here, have yet to be completed.
He traded for Phil Kessel and in doing so gave up the right to draft Tyler Seguin, something that had to sting no matter how brave a face he puts on for the Toronto media. By the way, if the Leafs didn’t have Kessel all season they likely would’ve ended up with the 1st overall pick and had their choice of Taylor Hall or Seguin.
He traded for Dion Phaneuf in a deal that no one saw coming and few believed actually happened. With the deal he instantly got a new face for a franchise that was faceless since Mats Sundin left two summers ago, whether it is the right face or not is yet to be determined.
He traded for Kris Versteeg in what is one of the most shocking turn of events in the NHL’s history as never has a Stanley Cup champion team been dismantled so quickly, of course it’s not by choice but it’s shocking nonetheless. Trading three prospects, good or not, for a top-six forward is always risky, but bolds Burke’s statement that he isn’t interested in a long rebuild.
Let’s call it a short-term rebuild with the interest to re-tool.
Interesting it is indeed, most don’t believe in it, but then again most don’t need to keep Larry Tanenbaum & Co. happy.
Three blockbusters thus far in his young career as Leafs general manager and you get the sense it’s just the beginning. He is able to trade his most prized possession of the off-season in Kaberle for another month, whether or not it will happen remains to be seen, but it should happen.
Kaberle’s been a great player for this mediocre team for numerous years, but this team has tons of depth on the back end that it can afford to move him for a forward, but moving him for a draft pick at this point would be counter-productive to how Brian Burke is building this team.
The play of Carl Gunnarsson last season should ease Burke’s decision, if he didn’t develop as much as he did Kaberle would need to be kept as one of the lone puck-moving defensemen they have. But, Gunnarsson may be ready for a chance on the first power play unit and that can’t happen with Kaberle quarterbacking.
The decision would have been even easier had Dan Hamhuis or Paul Martin signed with the Leafs last week, but they settled for Brett Lebda. He’s a guy who didn’t get much recognition around the league but anyone who’s watched the Red Wings play knows he was a quality player on a team that takes defense very seriously and he immediately surpasses Jeff Finger on the depth chart.
Of course, there is also the option to keep Kaberle and move one of your other defensemen. Immediately, the name Luke Schenn comes to mind as he is still young enough to have considerable value around the league, especially for a guy who has been in the league two years and hasn’t been able to develop a good point shot.
He’s been compared to Adam Foote, but let’s not call Adam Foote names without him being able to defend himself. He was a force on the back end of many championship teams with Colorado; Schenn won’t be more than a good middle-pairing shut down rearguard.
Maybe package him with Mikhail Grabovski, a guy who does not fit into the template of the kind of team you are building but would still be of use on another team as a centre who can produce 40-55 points a season.
The template I am referring to is that of a top-six forward unit who puts up the points and a bottom-six forward unit who shuts down the other teams scorers and isn’t afraid to stick up for teammates. Grabovski falls into neither category and is thus trade bait.
Package them for whom? Hmm, maybe a restricted free agent on the west coast such as Bobby Ryan, just throwing that out there.
Being able to get a top-six forward without having to deal your best first-pass defenseman would be vital to any success the Leafs want to have next season.
Everyone knows Burke’s vision; it’s just unclear as to how he is going to go about achieving it.
Ah yes, it feels like it’s just the beginning.
Hopefully for the faithful of the blue and white it’s not the beginning of the end.
Yes it’s true, a championship this season for the Leafs is highly unlikely and almost impossible to imagine, but isn’t it always in a work in progress.