Burke: Leafs to get tougher

ROB LONGLEY, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:14 PM ET

CAMPBELLVILLE, Ont. -- As frustrated as Brian Burke was at seeing the Maple Leafs miss the playoffs, he was equally bothered by the way it happened some nights.

Days before the annual NHL entry draft, Burke made his promise that the team will be tougher next season.

"We had a passive group, all year long our trainer was on the ice," Burke said at Mohawk Racetrack where he was the guest drawmaster for Saturday's $1.5 million North America Cup harness race. "We are going to be a much more hostile group.

"We will be tougher. I'm not watching this again."

Burke said he may not be able to dramatically change the complexion of the team overnight, but he's going to begin working at it immediately.

"I'm not sure how much toughness you can add at any one time, but we will be tougher," Burke said before leaving for Montreal where the Leafs management team will continue preparations for this weekend's draft.

Among Burke's other thoughts:

He said that while in Anaheim last year he was miffed at the Leafs decision not to send rookie defenceman Luke Schenn back to junior.

"I would have sent him back," Burke said. "In retrospect, (then general manager Cliff Fletcher) was genius."

Burke said he will keep all options open at the draft table this weekend including attempting to trade up from the current seventh position to get a higher pick.

"We've got nothing going right now and that doesn't discourage me," Burke said. "These things frequently happen late.

"Teams haven't said they won't move the pick, most have just said they don't like my price tag."

The forthright Leafs boss brought the house down when asked by Mohawk announcer Ken Middleton about his thoughts on the team's goaltending situation.

"When I do go to mass on Sunday, I pray for our goaltending," Burke said.

Later Burke re-iterated to reporters that the team is hopeful Vesa Toskala will rebound from his rough 2008 outing. And after three surgical procedures, the GM said there will be no excuses for the veteran Finn.


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