Best laid plans of ice 'n men

MIKE ZEISBERGER, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:07 AM ET

When it came to writing a game plan for the future of his Maple Leafs, Brian Burke was not using invisible ink in his pen.

Keep that in mind, oh ye who are planning to march to the foot of Bay St., tar and feathers in hand, expecting the team's el presidente to simply erase his vision because of a horrific 0-6-1 start.

It's not going to happen. Not yet, anyway.

"We're not ripping up our blueprint," Burke vowed yesterday. "No business plan is ripped up even after 90 days and our season isn't even 30 days old yet.

"If I could do it all over again, I'd do all the same things."

Before explaining why he isn't ready to blow up the entire roster in a puffy blue-and-white mushroom cloud, the emotional Maple Leafs general manager wanted to set the record straight on one controversial point.

Day after day, he is reminded by media, critics and fans alike, that he allegedy predicted the Leafs would make the playoffs.

Wrong.

"I never said that," Burke claimed yesterday. "I said it was our goal to make the playoffs. There is nothing wrong with setting the bar high, but there were never any guarantees made."

Burke said it is easy to explain how the ship has veered so far off course to date. Here, in a nutshell, is his rundown.

1. GOALTENDING

The plan was for Vesa Toskala to be healthy and young Jonas Gustavsson to showcase his talents.

Neither scenario has played out that way.

"We shut down Vesa last year so he could get the medical attention he needed and come back fresh," Burke said. "Obviously, things didn't go like that. We know Vesa has not been great. But we also believe he is capable of being better.

"Jonas hardly has had a chance to play because of injury. Let's not be pushing any panic buttons until we see how our goaltending plays out when healthy. Good goaltending can turn a team around quickly."

2. DEFENCE

The plan was for the additions of Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin and Garnet Exelby to solidify the back end. That hardly has been the case to date.

"We know Komisarek and Beauchemin aren't playing up to expectations," Burke said. "But does anyone really think it's going to stay that way? We don't. In fact, if July 1 came all over again, we'd do the exact same things."

3. OFFENCE

The plan was to bring in an established top-end scorer to augment a roster that basically finished 10th in goals-for last season. If those returnees up front could improve or, at least, maintain status quo, the feeling was that the Leafs would be fine offensively.

So far, they are anything but.

"We brought in the elite guy with the acquisition of Phil Kessel," Burke said.

"He hasn't played yet. As for the other guys, obviously they have struggled and that's translated on the score board. We need guys to pick it up."

4. TEAM TOUGHNESS

The plan was to add sandpaper to the roster, which was addressed by bringing in the Exelbys, the Komisareks, the Colton Orrs.

"Our trainer has been on the ice once all year, and that was when Vesa was crashed into in New York," Burke said. "And no one points out that you don't see teams engaging in a lot of post-whistle scrums with us, giving us facewashes after faceoffs, those types of things. They know how (tough) we can be."

Maybe. At the same time, however, frustrated Torontonians also know how tough it is being a Leafs fan these days.

"I know myself," Burke said. "I hate to lose. But right now we are sticking with the plan."

MIKE.ZEISBERGER@SUNMEDIA.CA


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