My Response to Hodgemail

In this weeks Hodgemail feature on TSN, Dave Hodge asks ” WHAT SHOULD BURKE DO TO FIX THE MAPLE LEAFS?”

I drafted a response last night but decided to post it here instead of sending it to Dave.  Some of you may be tired of the “how to fix the Leafs” question but….I’m more tired of hearing rediculous ideas….

Comments/feedback welcome…

Do nothing for now….or at least very little.

Once you come to the realization that making the playoffs is an unlikely goal at this point, you need to make sure you don’t negatively impact your ability to be better next year.  Yes, the net result might be a top 5 pick in the draft for the Bruins…but that’s not as bad as screwing things up even worse and giving the “B’s” another top pick the year after.

There is very little Burke can do on the trade front.  What other teams want we need to keep; namely Kadri, Kaberle (NTC) and Kessel…the three “K’s”.  I’d put Ian White on the list but his name starts with a “W”.  Under performers have high price tags; Beauchemin, Blake, Kamisarek to name a few, and would be difficult to move (and should not be given up on yet anyway). 

What about moving guys to the minors?  To that I reply…who?  Burke needs to do what he can to maximize the value of the guys who are UFA’s at the end of the season (Stajan, Ponikarovsky, Stempniak, Primeau, Mayers, Exelby)…with the hope that he can move them before the deadline for picks (albeit low picks).  Time in the minors won’t increase their value. 

If there was a desire to bring up guys like Stalberg, Hanson and perhaps Bozak from the AHL, then he can waive a guy like Mayers or move guys like Hagman, Grabovski Finger and Kulemin down….though I don’t know off hand what the impact would be in terms of losing them on entry or return to the NHL.  That said; this might be the only type of move I’d contemplate at this point.  I wouldn’t mind seeing the aforementioned threesome play a few games on the big club.  This will become a must-move at the backend of the season to give these guys some NHL experience to prepare them for next season.

How about the coach?  I was never a fan of Wilson…I think he’s particularly problematic for a team that doesn’t have a captain to provide shelter / act as a liaison between players and coach. His pre-game comment last night that suggested that Kessel is the only talented player up front may be true but doesn’t help the fragile psyche.  How often do you want to hear how bad you are from your coach?  As playoff hopes dwindle it’s going to get even harder for Wilson to get the guys to play for him.  That said; I don’t see Burke dumping him at this point.

In my opinion; the most pressing need is up the middle.  A true #1 and #2 centre will make the world of difference.  Centermen are the most impactful forwards in terms of support/help for the defence…they increase possession time by winning face-offs and are usually the quarterback for the office…they can make mediocre wingers look good.  There is a reason why most star players are centermen.  Imagine shooters like Kessel and Blake (yes Blake) if they weren’t required to also be the guys to consistently be the puck carriers…what if they could spend more time skating to find openings to receive a pass? Addressing our issues at centre won’t happen mid-season.  I don’t think we have what’s needed to make a play for Patrick Kane or Jordan Staal.  Bozak and/or Kadri could be part of the answer but it’s the UFA market in the summer that is the more likely place to find what we are looking for in terms of immediate help…just not sure much will be available.  Savard (rumored to be presented a $6M deal to stay with the “B’s”), Marleau? Jokinen? Not sure….


PS: I wrote this before last nights brutal loss to the Canes!   Move them all to the Marlies!

About the Author
Notify of
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
November 20, 2009 4:22 pm

What about Lecavalier? This is probably the time in his career when his trade value is the cheapest. He’s big and can dish the puck to Kessel. We’d have to make some room to trade him, but more importantly, we’d still have room to work with next season–about 10mil.

That being said, a Kaberle-to-the-Pens for Staal is a deal I have been saying for 2 seasons is worth it.

But I agree. A true #1 center gives us 2 players that form a #1line, bringing more stability to the team. The revolving door of Stajan and Mitchel with Kessel will never develop chemistry. How can Stajan and Mitchell flip the switch between being #3 shut down guys and #1 need-to-score guys on a nightly basis? A #1 realigns the rest of the team.

November 20, 2009 4:31 pm

When ever I see this I’m always a bit sad that Dave is reduced to being the P.J. Stock of TSN… at least he has his own show on Sun mornings.

November 20, 2009 4:32 pm

The bottom line is this team does not have enough talent up front to put the biscuit in the basket.They can forecheck and buzz around the opposition net till the cows come home,Kessel (and a few others to varying degrees far below Kessel’s level) are the only ones with finish.You may be watching a team at its optimum efficiency,and that’s scary.Free agency(and Kadi) are our only hope down the road for a couple of years.I wonder how much space Burke can fee up for free agency next summer?

November 20, 2009 4:49 pm

@Eggbert….while he’ll need to field a team after the dust settles, there are 8 UFAs (not including Van Ryn) and 3 RFA’s on the roster right now…including a few with sizable contracts (Tosk and Stempniak alone are $7.5M).

Check it out:

November 20, 2009 5:08 pm

But isn’t it supposed to get worse before it gets better? Last years team was not the worse this team could be. It is really disappointing to see them this poorly but it wont last forever. Like many fans, I believed this team had an outside chance to make it to the post season but I’m not shocked to see them suck. Even Wilson and Burke tried to tell us last year that its a long and hard road, that the worse was still to come but like the fans we are, no one cared to listen to that non-sense. I guess they were right and we were wrong.

November 20, 2009 5:11 pm

@lt67 : Thank God we won’t be handcuffed next year.Keep White,sign Gus and maybe Poni, and clear the rest of the deadwood out.

Would love your thoughts, please comment.x