Didn’t Burke Do What We All Wanted?

The Toronto Sun has been running, and re-running the “Maple Leafs suck, have always sucked, will always suck, it’s the fans fault” ticket for several weeks now. Bill Lankhoff has been leading the way, each article less intriguing then the next. Today’s 2 pager is no real exception.

Let me start my review by asking a series of questions:

What was it that everyone knew and wanted in a new GM?
What was it that everyone wanted the new GM to do?
Didn’t we all say that we had patience for the rebuild?

“Brian Burke promised there would be changes when he took over as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

And, there have been.

It’s just that nobody expected it would be a change for the bad.”

We all wanted a GM who would come to Toronto, without blue and white colored lenses and would have the conviction to do the things that many of his predecessors didn’t. Yes, the goal is to win a stanley cup. However, we all knew that the goal ahead was to blow this team. We had seen the quick fixes. None of them fixed anything. What was needed was, as Steve Kee referred to as throwing the proverbial bomb in. Yet this time the bomb needed to be nuclear.

As Howard Berger wrote in his blog last week, of the thirty something players who wore the blue and white in 2007-2008 one remains, Tomas Kaberle. Next in line in terms of seniority is Kulemin only to be followed by the cagy old veteran, Luke Schenn.

“Toronto is now the only city in North America with two teams that have American Hockey League rosters.

In rebuilding the Leafs, Burke has left this team naked of much of its recent history.

Maybe, that isn’t such a bad thing.

Maybe this was a dirty job that someone had to do.”


I’m told that the vast majority if not all of the candidates considered for the GM job when Burke was hired all said the same thing. The franchise had to be totally blown up. From the bottom up. Everyone acknowledges that this has been done.

“There is no denying that today’s roster is weaker than the one — flawed as it was — that Burke has blown up.

People want to believe in Burke.

They want to believe he can rebuild the Maple Leafs as he did the Anaheim Ducks.

They want to believe he is constructing an Iron Curtain defence like he did in Vancouver. ”

Isn’t the notion that it’s weaker redundant? Look at the guys he has jettisoned. Their has to be 2 steps to this, knocking down and then building up. The vast majority of Burke’s work so far has been in the blowing up. For those, like Lankhoff bitching, consider all the crap that was leveled at the teams in the past. Look at the guys Burke has thrown over board in order to start again. He hasn’t lost or given up 1 player that you really wish he had kept(we’ll talk draft picks in a second).

The mere fact that he was able to get anything, let alone a guy like Phaneuf for the guys he got rid of remains nothing short of remarkable. You have to knock it down before you build it up. No matter what anyone, Lankhoff included thought, Burke wasn’t going to turn every piece of chicken bleep into a stud young player. As the guys on TSN said on deadline day, the Calgary Flames now contain a strong nucleus that was the Toronto Maple Leafs. The same Toronto Maple Leafs that owned the non-playoff track record. Burke can’t really be on the hook for last years miss. So his clock starts at 1 this year. Gone are, what really amount to, as the old saying goes, a bunch of over paid bums.

What’s left really is a bunch of maybes. At least these maybes are young. As with the Blue Jays, I am much happier watching a bunch of hungry kids losing yet trying then a “bunch of over paid bums”. I too am going to have to bite my tongue the rest of the way this season and most likely next as the losing mounts. Games like the one this past week against Carolina can’t be tolerated. Losing is okay, not showing up isn’t.

“But when looking at a roster of mostly college kids, untested rookies and a sprinkling of second-hand veterans that faith is being severely tested. People look at what Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment is selling and who can blame them for wondering about what they’re buying.”

Sorry, if your faith is being tested, your a tad clueless and your expectations aren’t realistic. The team was full of crap and this is part of the process. I will say this once again about prices, tickets etc. If you don’t like the prices, stop paying them. MLSE, the New York Yankees, Morton’s Steak House, the Four Seasons hotel will ONLY CHARGE WHAT THE MARKET WILL ALLOW. This constant chatter about shame on MLSE for doing what their doing is crap. They are a business. My company runs the same way. I am sure everyone who is reading that works, works for a company that is the same too. Private schools, restaurants, do it as well. No one is holding a gun to anyones head saying you must keep paying. If you are questioning anyone, question yourself. If you aren’t happy, stop buying.

“Plus, I personally share a pair of greens and they’re $180 a pair and my wife is a hockey nut too, so we’re there all the time. And, I’m looking at the roster. We have maybe seven bona fide NHLers and one top-six forward. If we’re an American Hockey league team and you can get top of the line tickets for twenty-five to fifty bucks why should I be paying this kind of money for a team when only 30% of the roster is NHL calibre.”

That’s crap. Go to a retailer in Toronto pick up most items, look at their price and then go home and see what you can pay for it in buffalo. My family is going to Las Vegas this summer. I need 4 plane tickets. The cheapest flight in Toronto is $504 roundtrip. They are flying from Detroit for $219! Don’t give me this crap about gas….4 people in one car, driving 4 hours each way will be in total an extra $120 TOTAL, not per person. Take a look at Buffalo Sabres tickets. Drive to Pittsburgh and see a game. “why should I be paying this kind of money for a team when only 30% of the roster is NHL calibre.”? Becuase your a fan, you want to go and that’s the price of tickets. IF you don’t like it, don’t pay it! I guarantee you there’s a ton of others out there who will.

“Fans expected that Burke would have to gut the place before rebuilding but few expected that the hole could get this dark and this deep.”

Then we (and me included) were idiots. You can’t get uperstars by trading collective crap. Answer me this. If Burke hadn’t traded our picks to Boston for Kessel, would Leaf Nation be elated? Would these articles be written? What were we expecting?

Now- the Kessel issue. Im not sure there’s been a more polarizing issue for Leaf fans since the whole Mats Sundin saga. The hard part to swallow with the Burke era so far is that Kessel appears to contradict what he is preaching. Trading picks for a player doesn’t flow the right way. Yes he got a kid back, but man he gave up a lot. The biggest problem is, is that Kessel has yet to capture the imagination of the Leafs fans. The biggest question is will he ever? Those who watch junior hockey are drooling over the the guys who could be drafted at the top of this year. On paper they appear to have much greater star value than Kessel. Burke argues that he likes the kid he has. A bird in the hand…..as the saying goes. What if Burke is right? What if the Kessel produces at a clip of 20-30 + goals a year and the guy Boston picks becomes the next Alexandre Daigle? I am not suggesting it will happen- but what if?

The point is we all have to (and most of all me) take a deep breath and relax. Let’s enjoy the ride and watch this unfold. More bodies are going to go overboard this summer. No one saw or predicted the Phaneuf move. Right now the prospects of a gaining any forwards of any significance are slim given the UFA list. Let’s see what happens.



About the Author