Watching the NHL transaction wire over the last 11 days has been exciting. Players coming, players going, retiring etc. I am not sure there is any sport like hockey when it comes to off-season transactions in such a short time span. Yes there is turnover in other leagues, yes teams makes lots of changes, but are they done with the speed and tempo of the NHL come July 1?? Big shooters move, medium guys move and even minor leaguers go. It’s dizzying.
For years we have been told that one of the biggest problems that we as Leaf Nation have is that we see the world through blue and white colored lenses. Every prospect is, in our minds, the story goes, the next coming of Orr, Howe or Gretzky. I have never felt that way, however I think one thing we as Leaf fans do do is root for the younger kids as hard as we do for the seasoned vets. These guys become part of the family from the minute we acquire the younger players rights via trade, draft or signing.
Well, who the hell cares what Leaf Nation thinks, it’s what the top dog thinks that really counts. Having attended the University of Vermont I am biased or prone to root for a Leaf who played there. Do I think they are the best prospect ever? No, but I will root harder for them. Does that matter? No. What matters is that Burke and his team assess everyone and decide when or if it is time to cut bait and move on.
Make no mistake folks, this is Burke’s Maple Leaf team. The signings of the Monster, Mike Komisarek for example, the Kubina trade are all telling moves for sure. However, equally as important and perhaps more telling is the movement under the radar of what Burke has been doing at the AHL level. I don’t think too many question Greg Gilbert’s ability as an AHL coach. The easy thing would have been to let him stay. The leaf dressing room guys had been there for awhile, many have been shown the door too. Jaime Sifers and Jeremy Williams are the latest two of the can’t miss prospects who have signed elsewhere. Does it mean that their respect careers are over? Not by a longshot. What it does mean, is that, for the first time in recent memory, the Maple Leafs are building a hockey department. Everything and everyone associated with the team is being evaluated by one person, Brian Burke.
Now, the goal is pretty simple to define. Win the cup. Anything less and the guy has been a failure. I don’t care how close they come. If in his tenure he doesn’t deliver a cup, he has failed. Is he the right guy? I think so. I think he is one of a few who can tell a potentially meddlesome board where to go. He’s a guy who will be fully accountable. Most importantly he is a guy who can build a hockey department. For all his flaws on the team side of things, Richard Peddie is by all accounts a business whiz. For the first time since he joined MLSE he now has 2 team guys who will tell him where to stick it on the team side should he try to provide advise on personnel. Good owners, good executives hire the right people to do their jobs. This has finally happened.
So while we wait for Burke to pull the next big fish out of the lake, keep an equally trained eye on the minor league stuff. It’s fascinating to see which players he chose not to sign. It’s telling which guys he does resign and then the new guys he does go after. Everything has a purpose now. It’s the first time I think we can all agree on at least that.
Enjoy your Saturday. Keep it tuned here all day for on site Toronto Argo home opener coverage!
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