It’s a frosty Monday morning, folks. It’s a blustery -15 C here in Toronto. The only place it may be colder is on Brian Burke’s cellphone. There are numerous theories out there this morning as to what is happening and what is going to happen. In essence, they all boil down to two:
Burke is playing rope-a-dope: Set expectations low and over deliver vs. there is no real interest in the Maple Leaf players and therefore Burke’s hands are tied.
Take a look at the Boston-based Tomas Kaberle rumour this morning — Kaberle for first round pick, a third round pick and a prospect. Burke quickly “pissed” all over it. Why would he do that? Of course it could be because there is no truth to it and Burke is a straight shooter. He said that he hasn’t talked to Boston about Kaberle. Now, let’s take a look at that comment too. Why would he say that, besides the fact that it is truthful?
Isn’t it in Burke’s best interest to at least give the impression that the wheels are in motion? With the Kaberle rumour, Burke not only shot down that specific story but shot down any talks involving the Leafs and Bruins as they relate to Kaberle. If you are Burke and you are hoping to get your socks knocked off, wouldn’t it be in your best interest to have as many teams think that you are talking about Kaberle as possible? Isn’t that how the game is played?
Let me throw this out there for a second. I believe that in many a hockey markets, owners react to news they read in the press. I am convinced of it. The owner of team A reads that the Bruins have offered X Kaberle, a player whom he has heard that his team may like and therefore he reacts. He calls or goes to visit his GM. In other words, I believe that the reason that stories get scooped in the media is that teams use the media as vehicles to help them get info and get shit done.
In some markets, the press (what’s left of them) can make or break an executive’s career. I would say that the press killed JFJ here in Toronto but I think it’s safe to say he did it himself. I think there is tremendous pressure on a GM from owners and I am positive that owners react to what they read or hear in the press. I think that GMs react to that pressure, or are forced to.
Which brings us back to Burke. From the beginning of training camp we have been told several, honest, not so flattering things about our Maple Leafs. Everything from Nik Antropov being the only top forward on the team, to the team being devoid of any real talent. We have also been told to be patient, that this could take some time. We are all fine with this. We have recognized that this season is little more than a necessary evil; we are doing little but hoping that the calendar would move a little faster than it is, without any real care for current results.
There are three specific days or times of the year that are actually important to us. They are milestones in the development of our team. These are: the draft, the opening of the free agent period and the trade deadline. For Maple Leaf fans that is it. That’s all we got. So people can or should understand the pent up energy as one of these days approaches. Burke is strong enough not to really care about that. He has the spine to do whatever he thinks is in the best interest of the team that employs him. However, like Cliff before him, he does have an ego.
Matt Millen will be forever remembered as the GM which built the first and only (so far) NFL team to not win a single game in an entire season. This is now Burke’s team. It has been for a few months. This is his shot to make his first imprint on it. Trading a pick for Brad May was one move. The next couple of days sets up the beginning of Burke’s legacy here. For now, all is quiet.
I will say it again. There isn’t a single guy on the roster I wouldn’t move for the right package. For 50 per cent of the guys, give me a draft pick back — any pick — and I am good. The rest, it would be nice to get an earlier draft pick for. It says here that Burke’s inability to move players for picks, or use available cap space to his advantage will be detrimental to the franchise. Does it all have to happen now? No. Does it have to start? Yes. To hell with the rest of the season…
For more content from TSM, visit his site Torontosportsmedia.com.