Managing Burke’s Maple Leaf Expectations

Well friends, it’s that time of year again. Time for our GM to check his list and go shopping. Yes, it’s the proverbial Thursday after American Thanksgiving for NHL GM’s. For us Leaf fans it is also what has been one of the few days to get excited about. So I turn to you again, and ask, what are you expecting? I don’t necessarily mean in terms of players, but what is it you want Burke to do? What is the goal? How should we judge him? Unfortunately, from my perspective, Burke has misspoken again, by saying that he will spend to the cap. Why is this a mistake? For two reasons primarily, one, I don’t care how much he spends as long as he builds the team properly. Don’t go overpay just to spend to the cap. I have much for patience for smart contracts than I do for dumb ones. Secondly, cap space is worth GOLD. Why go out and blow it now? If everyone is only mostly right (as opposed to mostly dead) and the cap only goes down slightly next year as opposed to dramatically, isn’t it still better to have lots of room to maneuver? Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t so much like last year when the battle cry was wait till 2 years. I think we got our Burke day present early and this is now his team.

So, here is what I am thinking. I would like things to be a little more clear in net than they were last year. I for one never was a huge fan of Toskala. I said when JFJ traded for him that it was another desperate move by a desperate GM. So an upgrade in net would be nice for me. I am also a big believer in trading assets when they are at their peak and also never losing assets for nothing. For that reason I think it would be in Burke’s best interest to move both of Kaberle and Kubina. I think therefore his attention should be on a stud pointman and some good strong tough d as well. Upfront more jam is needed and few guys with some hands. I know I am not overly popular with this but I don’t know why you go spend 12m on the twins, but as I say too often there are smarter folks out there who think this is a no brainer.

It was suggested to me that with a few brush strokes it is not beyond the realm of possibility that Burke could sign the Sedin twins, Beauchemin and trade Kaberle for Kesse and than also have the Monster in place. Would you be elated with that? If not that, what is it you want? How should we judge Burke? What do we want from our team this year?

For my 2 cents, I am certain of one thing. If they are going to be tooth and nail to make the playoffs, I would rather they shit the bed all over again. I’d rather be dead in the water than be in no man’s land again. In that regard, I would rather see Burke, spend really smart, retain as much cap space as possible and let the kids play. If he thinks he can really turn this around smartly and not mortgage his ability to make the right moves down the road, than I can live with that too. I won’t be crushed if they make the playoffs. I will be pretty fucking pissed if they finish 3 points out of it though. I would like to see him get out from some contracts, move some guys who are otherwise not going to be resigned and get value for those guys who are at their peak in terms of value.

The emphasis should be on building the franchise. Creating the right atmosphere, and getting players who make everyone around them better. No one in the boat who isn’t rowing the same way. I don’t care about what comes out of Burke’s mouth nearly as much as what comes from his fax machine and PR department. Show me, Brian, don’t tell me. Talk is cheap. Don’t tell me you are going to be active. Be active. Don’t talk about John Tavares, go get John Tavares (figuratively speaking).

I am not the least bit surprised that he tendered an offer to Justin Pogge. Why the hell wouldn’t he? There is nothing to lose. I mean, let your new goalie guru take a shot at him and if he still can’t play you have lost some cash. No brainer.

So, leaf fans, spill it…what do you want, and how do we judge BB?


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June 30, 2009 8:48 am

I don’t disagree with what you say….Bottom line is results i.e. does BB improve the team smartly to make us legit contenders within 2-3 years.

Re: topping up to spend to the cap this year? I have no issue with that if the contracts are reasonable, especially since there are lots of existing contracts that fall off next year…assuming they all stay through the 09/10 season, the total value is $25M. Some of these players may be worth resigning while others should be shopped; if not now, at the trade deadline e.g. Toskala or Poni if they aren’t in the plans for the future. Adding a guy like Kessel at a fair market value is a good example of a good/young player that might be worth adding to the team.

June 30, 2009 10:30 am

Strange as it sounds, the Leafs have one of the league’s best cap situations for next year. The team has just under $19M committed to the salary cap for 2010/11 (we have just 5 players under contract, but still). Going into a year where the cap is expected to fall, that is a serious advantage to have over other teams that will be desperately slashing payroll. There is significant potential for bargains simply because the other team has no choice.

I want kids that we project as part of our future to get those chances this season, so that we can hopefully fill some key roles from within. If you can acquire somebody who fills a role we currently don’t have anyone that we can reasonably conclude will end up in that role, sign them. I’d like to see a few veteran defensive-oriented forwards (guys like Grier, Moen..)

I also want to see us try and acquire cap space for a propsect or a draft pick again. there are a number of guys in the last year of their contract that other teams might look to get out from underneath their contract to free up cap space. (Guys of interest might be Randy Jones in Philly, or Brian Pothier in washington)

June 30, 2009 11:59 am

I am going to vague here but this is all I want:

Be actively pursuing ‘good’ available hockey players.
Offer ‘cap friendly’ contracts, minimum length (1yr).
Pursue trades only if the return fills current gaps and are also term length & cap friendly.
Do not absorb high salary contracts unless 1st round picks are coming back with them to the Leafs.
Trade any asset we have the we don’t see helping the team in the future.

Most important – sometimes the best move is doing nothing at all, so hopefully Burke keeps his word that he will only do something if it makes sense long term. No more short term fixes. Period.

June 30, 2009 2:25 pm
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