Toronto Maple Leafs- Chicken Vs. Egg

Greetings and Salutations… Back in Toronto after driving home from Florida over the last two days. I arrived in Niagara Falls in time for the third period and the post game on the radio and was left with a few thoughts and questions for you all.

I have said this a million times, but god bless the guys who do the post game call in shows, some of the comments, calls and questions are just plain moronic. I am stunned that people will sit on hold for as long as they do and still have absolutley nothing to say. Tonight was no different than any other night. However, one caller got me thinking. This guy went off the handle, he sounded like many of us do after yet another loss…totally frustrated. The callers prior to him, he suggested were all out to lunch (in his opinion) in pointing the fingers at the players like Poni, Stajan etc. when the blame should be placed on the GM.

Andy Frost’s response was basically, that whom the finger is being pointed at is a tad immaterial, there will always be blame to go around.

That got me to thinking. First, Burke has been here long enough to make his own changes, it is almost fair to say this is his team. Now he has some “dead weight” that he can’t be blamed for, however he has had time to make changes (and he has). So the question is, and let me ask this very clearly, ASSUMING there is something to blame for with respect to the Leafs perfromance to date- then who is to blame? Does it fall on the shoulders of the players, the coaches, management?

It’s not that easy an answer I don’t think. Ultimately, the buck stops on Brian Burke’s desk. It’s pretty simple if a guy he traded for or signed isn’t up to snuff- that is a mistake he made (and I know that it is too early to judge). Is it fair to say that a guy Burke inherited is also under Burke’s purview simply because Burke decided to keep that player as opposed to any of the alternatives available to him (and yes there are options on every player)? There are several guys who aren’t performing up to expectations who pre-dated Brian Burke’s arrival. Is it fair to say, well Burke made lots of changes, he chose to keep these guys there for he is on the hook for them?

The easy answer is, when you make the type of money Burke is making and are given the term Burke is, Yes- he is on the hook. It is however a little bit like the chicken and the egg.

Similarly, earlier in that same segment Andy Frost said, and this is a direct quote “Matt Stajan is an excellent player”- Frost went on to say that Stajan would be a great 3rd line center however he is being thrust into a 1st line center role and therefore having to assume 1st line center duties. This also got me thinking… Is this the main reason for the success former Maple Leaf players have upon their departure from Toronto? Is the problem not the player, but rather the role that player is being asked to play? If so- and I suspect to a large degree that it is, who’s fault is that? Is it the players? Should a player be blamed for not being able to produce over his capabilities? Is it the coach who is unable to get more from the player than he has shown before? Is it the GM who erred in thinking that because a player can do it elswhere in a reduced role that they can do it in a more prominent role here?

Ron Wilson commented last year about Grabovsky, that we all had to take his success in stride because he was getting top line minutes, the question would be how would he perform when he wasn’t getting top line minutes. The proof is in the Luke Schenn pudding wouldn’t you say? Is it the responsibility of the coach to best use his assets in their most effective way? If Matt Stajan is the an awesome third line center isnt Wilson doing everyone involved a huge disservice by playing him as a first? Doesn’t Burke have to find someone better equipped to play that role if Stajan isn’t?(easier said than done I grant you).

It seems to me that the reason trades and free agent signing go awry in hockey is that guys perform at a certain level in city A and they are brought in to a new city to play a much different role that they simply can’t do. If Tie Domi had been signed by the Red Wings to replace a retired Bob Probert (you know what I mean) then the role expected of Domi would be similar to that which he had previously played. Where teams go offside is taking a defenceman who played exceptionally well as a number 3 or 4, and thrust them into the first or 2nd slot and expect that player to be able to handle the responsibility just because they played so well the year before. It seems the responsibility is in the scout and ultimately the GM for misjudging the capabilities of the player ….

Food for thought…



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Gordon Enright
Gordon Enright
January 3, 2010 12:36 am

We have to remember it takes time to make changes. You have to either trade a player ~~ and what tradeable commodoties do the Leafs have? other than Kaberle.

Otherwise you buy a player out, that counts against the cap. Burke has got Kessel (who will be better than any first rounder), Kadri is getting some important experience right now and the college kids in the minors along with Gustaffson (who was outstanding against the flames). there will be a much different look to this team next year.

January 3, 2010 12:47 am

So what this post is saying is: who is to blame? Simple: everyone.

P.s. why can’t anyone spell gustavsson right? Or pronounce it?

January 3, 2010 11:37 am

This is dribble, a four year old has deeper thoughts than this.

January 3, 2010 12:02 pm

I see no reason to blame anyone at this point. Burke is in his first full season – he’s made a number of changes but an overhaul change takes time as Gordon suggests. We can blame Burke if 2-3 seasons from now the team is no closer to being an elite team. Pieces like Gus, Kessel, Komisarek and Beauchemin are just the begining. More will come in the next off season and so on. As for specific players and their roles….I agree 100% that guys like Stajan are good (but not great like Frost suggests) players but are in the wrong roles…but what else does Wilson do at this point.? As more top six players arrive over the next couple of years, the others will drop down to their appropriate slots (if they are still around). Imagine a third line that includes Stajan, Poni and Kulemin? That would be a difficult checking line to play against (that could also pot a few goals).

I know we’ve been asked to be patient for many years but – nobody can turn this around in 1.5 years.

January 3, 2010 12:54 pm

I think your emotions are getting the best of you and it seems your thinking ability is taking a hit.
“First, Burke has been here long enough to make his own changes, it is almost fair to say this is his team.” Really? I don’t think anyone can really say that but here it is, very cox/berger like wouldn’t you say? So basically in a year and a half you think Burke should of been able to turn one of the shittiest teams to a contender? If you’re not saying that then what? What’s the point of making that claim when there are contracts on the team that he is handcuffed by, whether it be by it being unmovable, ie player is greatly underperforming contract or the return on such players is worse off than retaining them.
All these arm chair GM don’t have a efing clue of how and what things can be done realistically. Moving bodies and $$$ in a cap world is very hard and coaches, like Wilson, have to suck it up like the players and preform with what they are given. Seriously, after reading this article I now understand why Leafs fans are often called dumb. We just don’t get it, we don’t realize how bad this team was put together in the past and how far it really is from being a great team. Burke and Wilson both said its a LONG road; they will do what they can to make it as short as they could but realistically, it will take some time and one and a half seasons is not the amount of time it takes to turn around this team. They were both correct in when they said that this city and its fans cannot stomach a full rebuild and every time this team loses as a team that is currently still rebuilding, the articles like this one prove that comment perfectly. Its funny how tankers like yourself wanted the team to tank last year and claimed you were ready for the tough road of a rebuild… Liar!

Garrett Bauman
January 3, 2010 3:55 pm

You make a good argument … but …

… it’s not exactly as simple as you make it seem. First line centres aren’t exactly readily available commodities. Burke is, to a certain extent, stuck with what he inherited from the previous regime.

LT67 makes a great point – Burke has already put several pieces in place for the future. But you can’t expect him to be able to overhaul the entire roster in one shot. This will take time, and it will take patience (I know, it’s Toronto, that word carries no meaning here).

I agree with the assessment on Stajan – he is a very good two-way player, who could thrive well in a 3rd-line centre role with spot duties on the PP and the ability to shift to the 2nd line when needed. Asking him to shoulder the offensive load is asking him to do something above and beyond his strengths as a player. You are right, he is not being used in the most effective manner – but that brings us back to the original point – who else is there that can better fill that role on this roster?

Will a top C be available for a fair price in FA? Does Burke have the pieces to get one via trade? Or, if you’re looking at existing prospects, how long before a Kadri or Bozak can fill a scoring line role?

So it’s not so simple as “he’s been on the job for a year, this team should be competitive by now.” Burke inherited the roster he did, and has made the moves he’s been able to make. And hopefully as we approach the trade deadline he will be able to make more. But it’s going to take patience.

Earlier this offseason, prior to the Kessel trade, people were willing to suffer through a losing season. Funny how that changes as soon as the team no longer has a top draft pick. But I’ve ranted long enough, I won’t even touch that whole argument … otherwise we’ll be here for quite some time. 😉


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