Killer Bs swarm Leafs

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

CALGARY -- Surrounded by a gaggle of cameras and microphones, Maple Leafs general manager Cliff Fletcher warned that "we can't afford to have turmoil around the team at this point because it would be very counterproductive."

Good luck with that.

The reality is, it might already be too late, thanks to the Killer Bs -- Brian Burke and Jason Blake.

In what was one of the craziest hours in the recent history of the Maple Leafs, chaos reigned supreme as the Leafs completed practice in Calgary yesterday.

Burke and Blake can take the blame for that.

Here is the sequence of events:

With word trickling throughout the arena of Burke's imminent resignation from the Anaheim Ducks, reporters swarmed Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment Ltd. president Richard Peddie, who had been watching the team's workout with Fletcher.

Peddie acted surprised at the news of Burke's resignation and answered every question with the poise -- and street smarts -- of someone who has clawed his way to the top of the corporate ladder.

Peddie is aware he must cautiously proceed as if he were tiptoeing through a minefield, knowing that Big Brother -- aka NHL commissioner Gary Bettman -- is sitting in his ivory tower in Manhattan, waiting for the tiniest slip-up in order to nail the Leafs with tampering charges.

Whatever spin MLSEL puts on the situation, the fact that Burke has been on the top of its wish list has been the worst secret in hockey for months.

Speculation concerning Burke will be rampant in the coming days, weeks, months. Brace yourselves. If you thought the Mats Sundin saga has been overkill, well, you haven't seen anything yet.

At least the players, for the most part, will be shielded from much of the speculation involving Blustery Brian. The same can not be said for Fletcher and Peddie, who will be peppered with queries about the situation.

Peddie got a taste of that yesterday.

And once he was finished being interrogated, it was time to scurry into the dressing room, where a disgruntled Blake was holding court.

Blake did not directly say he wanted out. But he dropped plenty of hints. Enough of them, in fact, to indicate that yes, he could be a major distraction if he is scratched again in the near future.

His teammates could not help noticing how the media swarmed the veteran winger yesterday. Should the soap opera intensify, it won't be long before they begin getting asked for their feelings about Blake.

At that point, Fletcher, in order to avoid the "turmoil" he so much despises, might have to step in and take action.

The most obvious step is to put Blake on waivers, then send him down to the American Hockey League's Marlies if he clears. Another option would be to lend him out to an independent minor league team. Such a move would prevent him from being a sideshow with the Marlies.

Let's see how Blake reacts if he is not in the lineup in Edmonton tonight.

Blake's agent, Neil Sheehy, insists his client understands the pressures of living up to the whopping five-year, $20 million US deal he signed in 2007. With just 17 goals in 96 games in a Leafs jersey, the aging Blake, at 35, has a long way to go to fulfil that task.

Veteran goalie Curtis Joseph knows all too well how situations like those of the Killer Bs can turn the atmosphere around the Leafs into a circus. As one of the respected leaders inside the dressing room, he will not hesitate to help keep his teammates focused on what's going on out on the ice instead of the sideshows off it.

"I answer their questions," Joseph said. "They'll come up to me and say, 'What do you think about this or that with management?' I just say: 'Hey, you are a young guy. Just worry about scoring goals.'

"We have a young team, which helps. Young guys worry about themselves and how to get better. It's veterans who want to know more about what's going on."

Given what's going on with the Killer Bs, keeping his teammates from being distracted might be easier said than done.


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