It was with great interest that I read the following headline in the National Post ” Leaf’s improvement weighing on Burke”. While the Toronto Maple Leafs have come far from the horrid beginning, it is hard for me to believe that Burke is that easily swayed.
“So much so that general manager Brian Burke, whose self-imposed holiday trade freeze begins Wednesday, is having difficulty deciding what to do with the team’s many soon-to-be free agents.
Does he shop them around for draft picks? Does he try to sign them to new contracts? Or does he simply allow their current deals to expire?”
I know this may sound overly simplistic, however Burke has talked about the big picture, the master plan, and while he didn’t panic when the team was in the dumps, I don’t think he is ready to re-sign all the guys on the team simply because the tide “appears” to have changed. It’s not like the Leafs took the horrible start and erased it by going the exact opposite in wins. Don’t get me wrong, they are playing much better- however, given their start that doesn’t exactly have to say that much.
The reality is, there were lots of new faces in the lineup and that usually leads to the requirement for time to gel as a team. Now, not every team is in such a need of gelling that they crap the bed like the Leafs did. These things do take time though. I am certain Burke is aware of the old adage, you aren’t as good as your last win or as bad as your last loss.
“”Obviously, the answer I give you Wednesday is different than after our 0-8 start,” said Burke. “So we’re in the process of finishing that evaluation, which of those guys we would like to extend and which we are going to cut loose at the deadline. And then the second thing will be what is a reasonable price for extending a certain player. If the price tag is not reasonable, then we’ll unload him at the deadline.”
Again, I don’t think all that much has changed for Burke. He decided very quickly that he wasn’t an Antropov fan last year. No matter what Burke says, I don’t buy for one second that he is going to try to mortgage anything to simply qualify for the playoffs. So if the question is ship out a guy for a higher draft pick versus, keep him and get nothing to try and sneak in, I suspect that Burke will do the right thing.
“The most intriguing are forwards Alexei Ponikarovsky, Matt Stajan and Nikolai Kulemin, defenceman Ian White and goaltender Vesa Toskala. Any of those players could probably fetch a second-round draft choice or more at the March 3 trade deadline. Of course, depending on what position the team is in by then, it could be in the Leafs’ best interest to re-sign them to new contracts.
Second round picks are valuable, especially to a team that doesn’t have a first this year or next. Perhaps more so than just sneaking into the playoffs. That isn’t me saying Burke shouldn’t try to improve his team for this year, rather it’s just hard for me to imagine that Burke’s opinion is so easily changed after 1 month’s upswing.
“”It’s a work-in-progress for a lot of players,” said Burke. “Players have improved so dramatically in the second month of the season from the first month that obviously it’s changed our view.”
That to me sounds like a sales pitch. The question will be come deadline day, is anyone buying?
Did you see Dowbiggin’s column in the globe? In it he states that John Shannon has replaced Jim Kelley as the permanent/rotating co-hose on McCown’s PTS. The funny thing about that is that I would have laid a few sheckles on Shannon taking over the reigns at the Fan 590 when Nelson Millman moves over to Sportsnet. Shannon may not know the radio business, he does know the media business, clearly McCown likes him and he has lots of contacts in the sports world. As for Kelley, Dowbiggin says that he has left the fan for personal reasons. If that’s truly the case then we hope all is okay for Mr. Kelley. Alternatively, I would say that it’s been long overdue. Kelley hasn’t offered much on the air for a long time. Personally, I would prefer to get more Bruce Arthur and more Jeff Blair then Shannon. One last question, who is going to hook up the old laptop to the TV’s at the Marriott on Bloor now that Kelley is gone?
From freezing Banff….
Traikos article on Burke from the National Post is here
Dowbiggin is here