|Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke is starting to get frustrated with his club. Photosource: (Dave Abel/SUN MEDIA)
National Hockey League general managers rarely talk turkey about trades until U.S. Thanksgiving, when they’ve had about 20 games to assess their teams.
But with the Maple Leafs burdened by an 0-5-1 start, the passing of Canadian Thanksgiving has prompted some early phone calls in this market. ESPN.com reported yesterday that at least one Eastern Conference GM received a call from Toronto’s Brian Burke and suspects he wasn’t the first.
Burke told the website he is definitely getting calls, no doubt from those hoping the Leafs will be panicked into making a rash move.
“The ones that are calling, it’s not a helpful group,” Burke said. “I haven’t got anything but anchors thrown at me.”
Rival GMs think that if Burke gets too worried that the 2010 first round pick he gave up to Boston for Phil Kessel could turn into a No. 1, he’ll trade to stave off a 30th-place finish. The Bruins also hold the Leafs’ top choice in 2011 and a second rounder next spring.
In a conference call with Toronto reporters last night, Burke confirmed he would still make the Kessel deal today even though the club is now winless in six.
But his patience with players has limits and he’s laid much of the blame for the mess at their feet, not coach Ron Wilson, whose job is safe.
Burke said the coach hasn’t suddenly lost his touch after almost 1,200 games and 552 wins, not to mention how awkward it would be to contemplate firing an old friend who is working with him at the 2010 Olympics with Team USA. So, the rank and file better smarten up and earn the big contracts Burke and predecessor Cliff Fletcher doled out.
“I think the players know I’m serious ... we don’t intend to wait,” Burke said. “If they think that’s the case, they’re not paying attention.”
But Burke intends to give more a message of support to the downtrodden Leafs today at the Mastercard Centre in Etobicoke, where they’ll resume workouts after Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to Colorado.
Adding to the Leafs’ problems are injuries. Goaltender Jonas Gusatvsson, considered the strongest of the three stoppers with the team at present, is not yet ready to practice after a groin injury, meaning the earliest he will be ready to come off the IR is a week Saturday in Vancouver.
Vesa Toskala’s knee injury will sideline him until that Western trip, leaving Joey MacDonald to make a second start in the club’s only other home game, Saturday against the Rangers.
Defenceman Mike Van Ryn’s knee, which has kept him out since training camp, is more serious than first thought and Burke hinted he is facing a decision on major surgery. Centre Wayne Primeau (shoulder) could play Saturday.