Brian Burke = Fail

Make that a major fail. The season isn’t even a quarter over, but it is pretty hard to make a case that the Leafs are going to make a push in the Playoffs right now. As a Leafs’ fan, why would you even want them to?

Where is the truculence? Nonexistent.

Where is the accountability? Ron Wilson blasting someone in the media does not make them accountable for their actions because there is absolutely no consequence! Who is going to replace the current lack of talent on the Leafs right now? They’ve already stated on multiple occasions that Kadri is not ready for NHL duty. Way to groom and build confidence in your best prospect who has 13 points in 13 games for the Marlies.

Where is any sign of promise in their younger players? Sure, they could compete for a Playoff spot in a few years with this core. But again, who wants that? These are all second or third line players being thrown in positions they are not ready for, and are not skilled enough to be in.

Brian Burke was supposed to come in and build a team that would compete for a Stanley Cup. He has almost been here for two years now, and all he has been able to do is completely turn over a roster and make it even worse than it was when he got here. Regardless of what he says, he wanted his own finger prints all over this team. That is why there are only five players left from the starting lineup the Leafs iced during Burke’s first game; Grabovski, Kaberle, Kulemin, Mitchell and Schenn.

For me, it all starts with one word when describing Burke; arrogance. Call it overestimation if you want, but it all comes down to what Burke thought, and what was actually reality. He was wrong in three major categories of hockey management; trading, scouting and free agency.

It all starts with one deal. If Burke hadn’t done the Kessel deal, the Leafs would be in a much better position than they are right now. No one can deny that. First of all, they would at least have Tyler Seguin in their system, maybe even Taylor Hall. Secondly, based on how this year is going, they would have another top three pick lined up for the taking at the 2011 Draft. Not to mention the 2nd rounder that also went for Kessel last season. Instead they have a very streaky player who scores in bursts but clearly can not be depended on as the centrepiece of a team. Kessel is a great player, but worth two 1sts and a 2nd he is not.

In both that deal and the Phaneuf deal, they took players who were once considered ELITE prospects by the teams that drafted them, but had somehow worn out their welcome within two and four years with those teams. Doesn’t that tell you something? Basically, Burke overestimated the talent on the Leafs as a whole and in the talent that he was getting back in these deals.

The second thing he overestimated is the impact that the college players would have on the roster. It worked when he was in Anaheim, so why wouldn’t it work in Toronto? The Ducks already had Andy McDonald, Dustin Penner and Chris Kunitz out of college when Burke got there in 2005. All of them had breakout seasons in 2006-07 as they helped the Ducks to their first Stanley Cup. The thing Burke must be forgetting is that the Ducks also had Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Teemu Selanne, Chris Pronger or Scott Niedermayer. Those players came into Anaheim as secondary players, and were put that respective role. Tyler Bozak was thrown into the top centre position this season and has looked lost, weak and often overmatched by the quickness of the NHL game. Who would Leafs’ fans rather have as a top centre now, Bozak or Antropov?

The third overestimate on Burke’s part, while not entirely his fault, has been that he expected there to actually be some UFAs on the market that are worth signing. While there is no way to predict exactly how the market will look when July 1 hits every year, should a team’s hope be left upon the CHANCE that players don’t re-sign with their current teams? Even if some of those players did become UFAs, who is to say they would want to come to Toronto?

Maybe he thought Chicago would let go one of Kane, Keith or Toews. Or that Columbus wouldn’t re-up Rick Nash for 8 extra years about one full year before he actually becomes a free agent. The list goes on of players that weren’t allowed to go to free agency and instead, were re-signed by their teams: Zetterberg, Franzen, Thornton, Marleau, St. Louis or Semin to name a few.

Mike Cammalleri was brought to Toronto for a meeting with the team while he was a UFA last summer. Unfortunately, Burke was in SWEDEN!!! trying to woo the Sedin brothers. They ended up re-signing with Vancouver, Cammalleri signed with the Habs and led them to the Conference Finals last year.

And I mean really, could they not have tried to go after guys who did actually make it to free agency like Gaborik or Hossa. Oops, they’re not Burke’s “style”.

Burke wouldn’t have been wrong those three areas of hockey management if he would have shown some patience and realized the lack of talent on the team and tried to build the Leafs the way most good teams are built; to put it bluntly, by absolutely sucking for a few seasons.

I will finish this with a look at the last two Stanley Cup champions and the teams that are currently on the rise right now in the NHL, highlighting the wealth of talent they have received from their first round picks. But first, take a look a at Toronto’s recent draft history.

No 1st round picks in 2003 or 2004
Rask (21st in 2005) —-> traded to Boston for Andrew Raycroft
Tlusty (13th in 2006) —–> traded to Carolina
No 1st round or 2nd round pick in 2007
Schenn (5th in 2008)
Kadri (7th in 2009)

Pittsburgh Penguins–Cup in 2009

Fleury (1st overall in 2003)
Malkin (2nd overall in 2004)
Crosby (1st in 2005)
Staal (2nd in 2006)

Chicago Blackhawks–Cup in 2010

Seabrook (14th in 2003)
Barker (3rd in 2004)
Skille (7th in 2005)
Toews (3rd in 2006)
Kane (1st in 2007)
Beach (11th in 2008)

Washington Capitals

Semin (14th in 2002)
Ovechkin (1st in 2004)
Schultz (27th in 2004)
Green (29th in 2004)
Backstrom (4th in 2006)
Varlamov (23rd in 2006)
Alzner (5th in 2007)
Carlson (27th in 2008)

Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos (1st in 2008)
Hedman (2nd in 2009)

LA Kings

Brown (13th in 2003)
Kopitar (11th in 2005)
Bernier (11th in 2006)
Hickey (4th in 2007)
Doughty (2nd in 2008)
Teubert (13th in 2008)
Schenn (5th in 2009)

St. Louis Blues

Oshie (25th in 2005)
Johnson (1st in 2006)
Berglund (25th in 2006)
Eller (13th in 2007) —-> traded to Montreal as part of the Halak deal
Cole (18th in 2007)
Perron (26th in 2007)
Pietrangelo (4th in 2008)


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