Brian Burke’s Vision a Work In Progress

It’s a work in progress and there isn’t a deadline.

No, this isn’t an ideal school project for a high school senior, but instead the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Brian Burke has pulled off numerous blockbuster deals since coming to Toronto approximately 18 months ago, but a few more deals, and the ones that will probably make or break his time here, have yet to be completed.

He traded for Phil Kessel and in doing so gave up the right to draft Tyler Seguin, something that had to sting no matter how brave a face he puts on for the Toronto media. By the way, if the Leafs didn’t have Kessel all season they likely would’ve ended up with the 1st overall pick and had their choice of Taylor Hall or Seguin.

He traded for Dion Phaneuf in a deal that no one saw coming and few believed actually happened. With the deal he instantly got a new face for a franchise that was faceless since Mats Sundin left two summers ago, whether it is the right face or not is yet to be determined.

He traded for Kris Versteeg in what is one of the most shocking turn of events in the NHL’s history as never has a Stanley Cup champion team been dismantled so quickly, of course it’s not by choice but it’s shocking nonetheless. Trading three prospects, good or not, for a top-six forward is always risky, but bolds Burke’s statement that he isn’t interested in a long rebuild.

Let’s call it a short-term rebuild with the interest to re-tool.

Interesting it is indeed, most don’t believe in it, but then again most don’t need to keep Larry Tanenbaum & Co. happy.

Three blockbusters thus far in his young career as Leafs general manager and you get the sense it’s just the beginning. He is able to trade his most prized possession of the off-season in Kaberle for another month, whether or not it will happen remains to be seen, but it should happen.

Kaberle’s been a great player for this mediocre team for numerous years, but this team has tons of depth on the back end that it can afford to move him for a forward, but moving him for a draft pick at this point would be counter-productive to how Brian Burke is building this team.

The play of Carl Gunnarsson last season should ease Burke’s decision, if he didn’t develop as much as he did Kaberle would need to be kept as one of the lone puck-moving defensemen they have. But, Gunnarsson may be ready for a chance on the first power play unit and that can’t happen with Kaberle quarterbacking.

The decision would have been even easier had Dan Hamhuis or Paul Martin signed with the Leafs last week, but they settled for Brett Lebda. He’s a guy who didn’t get much recognition around the league but anyone who’s watched the Red Wings play knows he was a quality player on a team that takes defense very seriously and he immediately surpasses Jeff Finger on the depth chart.

Of course, there is also the option to keep Kaberle and move one of your other defensemen. Immediately, the name Luke Schenn comes to mind as he is still young enough to have considerable value around the league, especially for a guy who has been in the league two years and hasn’t been able to develop a good point shot.

He’s been compared to Adam Foote, but let’s not call Adam Foote names without him being able to defend himself. He was a force on the back end of many championship teams with Colorado; Schenn won’t be more than a good middle-pairing shut down rearguard.

Maybe package him with Mikhail Grabovski, a guy who does not fit into the template of the kind of team you are building but would still be of use on another team as a centre who can produce 40-55 points a season.

The template I am referring to is that of a top-six forward unit who puts up the points and a bottom-six forward unit who shuts down the other teams scorers and isn’t afraid to stick up for teammates. Grabovski falls into neither category and is thus trade bait.

Package them for whom? Hmm, maybe a restricted free agent on the west coast such as Bobby Ryan, just throwing that out there.

Being able to get a top-six forward without having to deal your best first-pass defenseman would be vital to any success the Leafs want to have next season.

Everyone knows Burke’s vision; it’s just unclear as to how he is going to go about achieving it.

Ah yes, it feels like it’s just the beginning.

Hopefully for the faithful of the blue and white it’s not the beginning of the end.

Yes it’s true, a championship this season for the Leafs is highly unlikely and almost impossible to imagine, but isn’t it always in a work in progress.

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July 11, 2010 11:57 am

Since when is Versteeg a ‘top six forward’? He’s a third-liner. If they get a legit ‘top six forward’ for Kaberle, they’ll then have 2 who fall into that category with tons of holes up front and basically no other ‘assets’ to trade and no first round pick next year.

July 11, 2010 1:02 pm

Bobby Ryan isn’t getting traded, GM Bob Murray said so via Darren Dreger’s Twitter.

July 11, 2010 7:49 pm

Ya and Versteeg got 44 points playing on the 3rd line. Without doing the stats analysis to prove my point I wouldn’t be suprised if he actually got more points than many other teams ‘top 6 forwards’. Go take a look at any team and see how his points compare before you claim he is at best a 3rd liner. I think most teams would be thrilled to get a ‘3rd liner’ who can put up almost 50 points in a season. And I would suspect he would be a top 6 forward on the majority of the NHL teams out there. Not many teams have the kind of depth the Blackhawks have (had) and this guy will be awesome for Toronto.

July 11, 2010 8:24 pm

Tell me how many players have come to the Leafs by trade or as a free agent in the last 10 years who then boosted their point totals significantly or at all. I’ve got the summer off so I can wait a looooooooong time for a name….

July 11, 2010 8:26 pm

…and just because everyone’s new favourite player may end up playing on the first or second line, doesn’t make him a ‘top 6 forward’ by any reasonable fan’s (or even a Leaf fan’s) defintion

July 11, 2010 9:33 pm

Chicago chose depth over front loading their team.
Had they chosen to front load, then Versteeg would have been a top 6 forward.
Bobby Mac at TSN seems to think that he is a top 6, so I will stick with his analysis.

July 11, 2010 9:37 pm

How is he not a top-six forward? Let’s be reasonable. There’s not many team that would have Versteeg on there third line. Other than the Washington Capitals and the Chicago Blackhaws I’m sure any team would love to have this guy in there top-six. Oh and your comment about players droping there point totals after they joined the Leafs is true, but that’s because we always signed or traded for old players who were well out of there primes. Versteeg’s 24.

July 11, 2010 9:41 pm

As far as players comming over who have bosted their totals, off of the top of my head…

Darcy Tucker
Jonas Hoglund
Bryan McCabe
Chad Kilger
Johhny Pohl
Mikhail Grabovski
Dominic Moore

Im sure that there are more, I put about 10 minutes thought into it.

July 17, 2010 12:50 am

Yeah.. Jonas Hoglund was the man.. Anyone remember Gary Valk? He was a real warrior.

July 19, 2010 1:32 pm

Sean’s list of players who improve after coming to Toronto is one that only a true Leaf fan could be proud of! Including Poll and Grabowski was pretty gutsy.

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