Sunday Maple Leaf Thoughts

Item- Kevin Allen’s blog post today:

” Here’s what I believe is happening, or will happen, as we move close to the March 3 trade deadline.

3. Although Tomas Kaberle has a no-trade clause, he probably will, around the trade deadline, give GM Brian Burke a list of trade destinations he would accept, just like he did last season. Why wouldn’t he want to play with a team with a chance to win the Stanley Cup?

8, Toronto will move potential free agents Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky, and maybe a couple of others at the deadline.”

Ah yes, the annual who will be willing to wave or not wave their no trade clause as the deadline approaches. To be followed by semantics Burke who will say yet again that he won’t ask a player who has a no trade clause to wave theirs. Leaf fans will call the shows with their huge overestimates of what Kaberle would land in a deal.

Burke is in a real catch 22 with Kaberle. He isn’t arguably the best player on the team, he is hands down the best player on the team. Kessel may be come it, but he isn’t right now. I don’t care what Kaberle makes, it’s, for this argument totally irrelevant. If you are going to deal Kaberle the return has to be remarkably better than what you are giving up. Forget the first round talk. If you are dealing Kaberle it’s going to be a team he wants to go to. Those are going to be teams with a legitimate shot at the cup. So a late first rounder for TK? I think not. Prospects? Well, again, unless they are quality A+ why take the risk? I have said this before, and will say it again, Burke can’t let Kaberle go for nothing when his deal is up. However, before he trades him he has to be 100 % sure that either he can’t resign him or he is hitting a grand slam.

Now, as for Stajan and Poni or anyone else on the team not named Kessel- I have full faith that Burke and co can exchange these spare parts for some degree of upgrade. If they are resignable at below market prices, then don’t let their asses hit the door.

Item: From Kevin Paul DuPont :

“It’s the first public tickle the 22-year-old Kessel has received since his departure from the Hub of Hockey. His very public scratch from the first round of the 2008 playoffs, issued by Julien, got him going. Now we’ll see whether he responds to the same kind of goose north of the border.”

Kessel getting singled out by a coach who can’t seem to get any type of performance out of his team for the season and a half that he has been here and being benched during a playoff series, are two entirely different things. i highly doubt that Kessel was remotely bothered let alone similarly embarrassed by Wilson’s antics. Kessel is squeezing his stick way too tight right now. He needs a puck to go in off his head, his ass or some other appendage and he will be fine.

Item- From Steve Simmons weekly column:

“A quick Brian Burke report card. His team stinks. His friend, the coach, can’t get the Maple Leafs to kill penalties or play anything resembling team defence. His big acquisition, Phil Kessel, has gone soft and sour. He won’t be drafting Taylor Hall in June or Ryan Nugent-Hopkins the year after. And his college free-agent signings are nowhere to be found while David McNab, who signed Andy McDonald and Dustin Penner for Anaheim, has come up with another good one for his former team in Dan Sexton. Outside of goalie Jonas Gustavsson, who has had two heart procedures and a groin injury in his rookie season, little has gone right in Burke’s world and, knowing him, that has to driving him to absolute frustration ”

Hard to disagree with what Simmons writes. knowing and hearing Burke lately however his ego is fully intact. He is just over 1 season into his tenure. Let’s talk at this time next season. If we are still on par for an 11 point decrease from the previous season (as we are now) then Burke has a major problem.

Item- From Larry Brooks weekly column:

“Here’s what we get to find out about Brian Burke as he runs the Maple Leafs: Can he succeed taking over as GM of a club that doesn’t have a brother of a pending Hall of Fame free agent defenseman on it?”

Here’s the question, is it the Maple Leafs, that Toronto seems to be the focal point of the NHL media or Brian Burke that Larry Brooks loathes? There was a time I actually rooted for the Rangers, now given Larry Brooks, I hope they never win another game. I wonder if Burke were to take over the NHLPA if Brooks would change his tune?

Item: From Damien Cox’s article in today’s Toronto Star:

“There’s no question Gustavsson is agile and quick and aggressive. But a No. 1 goalie? That’s unclear, and there’s just no way the Leafs can go into next season just wishing they have quality netminding.

They hoped Vesa Toskala would bounce back strongly from off-season surgery, and Burke was as wrong on that as John Ferguson was on banking that Andrew Raycroft could replace Ed Belfour.

They can’t just hope Gustavsson can do it next fall. They have to know. That means the final 36 games have to include at least 25 Gustavsson starts, assuming he’s healthy enough, and then a cold, realistic assessment has to be done over whether he’s ready.

If he’s not ready now, it doesn’t mean he won’t be eventually. But a serious contingency plan, like the Islanders had with Rick DiPietro’s status unclear last summer, would be necessary if Gustavsson still has too much to learn.”

This is a serious dilemma for Burke. After all the moves Burke made this off-season, the critics who claimed the Leafs would make the playoffs all did so on the strong belief that the goaltending this year would be improved this year. Hell, given the year in net last year it HAD to be better. Ooops. I don’t care what the numbers say. The reality is, barring a miraculous turn around, the same questions about goaltending will remain after this season. Few teams have been successful with questionable goaltending. Burke has to solve this problem as Cox writes and fast.

Item- Curtis Joseph set to announce his retirement

My memories of Cujo are very strong. I remember him being one of the leagues elite goalies when he played in St. Louis when Doug Gilmour did his round and round in that playoff game where the Buds finally knocked the blues off. I then remember the return to glory on Cujo’s back when he signed with the Leafs. It was the start of one hell of a run with the Leafs. Dare I say the Maple Leafs were respectable when he played in nets here. Then I remember the stab in the heart when Cujo jumped ship to sign with the Detroit Red Wings, claiming to think he had a better chance at a cup. Of course I remember cheering as hard as I could against Cujo and the Wings while he played for them.

In all, it’s fitting that Curtis ends his career here in Toronto. He had a tremendously successful career with stints in multiple cities. Few who get to wear the Blue and White capture the hearts of the fans like Cujo did. Hats off to a great career Cujo. Here’s hoping you find something that will keep you happy and occupied in the future.

TSM

@yyzsportsmedia

Kevin Allen is here

Kevin Paul DuPont is here

Steve Simmons is here

Brooks is here

Cox is here

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