'Garbage' won't discourage Burke

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 11:35 AM ET

Ask Brian Burke about some of the trade offers presented to him during his six-week tenure running the Maple Leafs and his answer is blunt.

"Garbage," he says.

With his team mired in a three-game losing funk, Burke admitted yesterday there have been a number of inquiries from other teams -- none that have seriously tweaked his interest.

Yet.

But that will not alter the game plan.

"There will be change," he promised.

It is less than 24 hours after the Leafs' 4-1 defeat at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers and Burke has just been queried about the state of his squad heading into the second half of season. Specifically, how many bodies do you hope to move by the conclusion of the regular season in April?

"It's too early to tell," he said.

Since taking over in late November, there has been no shortage of speculation of which players might be airlifted in Burke's impending overhaul.

Nik Antropov, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle are logical candidates. But Ponikarovsky's stock on the open market is not very high, while Kubina and Kaberle have no-trade clauses in their contracts.

Burke will not ask a player to waive such a clause. It is a privilege, he feels, they've earned.

But Kaberle admitted last week he would contemplate waiving it if approached by management. That news sparked calls from various teams to Burke, who is certain to receive more lucrative offers as the March 3 trade deadline approaches.

Because of their available cap space, the Leafs will be willing to take on a player whose team is looking to dump salary. A high draft pick, if not a package of them, would have to come to Toronto as well.

The New Jersey Devils, for example, might be looking to move a contract after signing veteran Brendan Shanahan over the weekend.

Whatever the case, Burke pulled no punches in addressing numerous issues as his team wades through the second half of the season.

WISH LIST

Burke's No. 1 wish for his team?

"If I had to light a candle and pray for one thing from this team, it would be for consistency," Burke said. "We've played some excellent games, and, for the most part, effort has not been an issue.

"We played well in Philadelphia other than a handful of costly mistakes. But I was not happy with the previous games, losses to Montreal and Florida. We need to be more consistent."

WHERE'S THE BEEF?

When he was hired six weeks ago, Burke called for a tougher team. He still is.

"I'm clearly not happy with our physical level, whether it be dishing out or (absorbing it)," he said.

The acquisition of Brad May last week added some spark to the lineup, but his presence might mean even more off the ice.

May is known for his influence inside the dressing room, having organized team-building activities such as team dinners in the past.

Given the mandate of beefing up the roster, pending free agent defenceman Jay Bouwmeester could be an intriguing option this summer.

TANK THIS!

Burke flatly rejects the notion of purposely having the team tank in order to get a shot at one of the top draft picks such as John Tavares.

"It would be an insult to the paying customers," Burke said. "It's not in Ronnie (Wilson's) DNA and it's not in my DNA.

"I've done (the top end) of the draft twice. It's not fun. It's a reflection of mediocrity."

Of course, by moving bodies for draft picks at the deadline, a drop in the standings might occur naturally.

CHEMISTRY CLASS

The country-club atmosphere is gone. Whether it be the evolving roster shuffle or Wilson's benching of veterans, players will no longer be coddled.

"Why shouldn't our players be more accountable?" he said. "Ronnie's done a good job of that."

Burke agrees a change in the dressing room culture was needed from last year's team.

"You can't accept mediocrity. There has to be accountability."

NET GAINS

Burke said goaltending prospect Justin Pogge will see more action with the Leafs in the second half of the season.

But not because he has been standing on his head with the Marlies. He hasn't.

"It's not because he's earned it," Burke said. "It's because we have to see what we have in him."

The evaluation continues. Expect casualties.


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