February 1, 2010
Leafs didn't give up muchGM Burke purges six from roster
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
If one man's trash is another man's treasure, then Brian Burke fired a bunch of waste around the Western Conference on Sunday.
In one busy morning, the weary Maple Leafs general manager scoured house, getting rid of almost one third of the Leafs roster for Saturday's epic collapse against the Vancouver Canucks.
While the quality of players Toronto-bound in two separate deals is up for debate, the value of those on outbound flights weren't exactly blue chip.
In fact, other than Ian White, it's difficult to imagine any of the six players on the move would be significant components of Toronto's long-term future.
And in least one case, the Leafs' braintrust showed it no longer could tolerate the misery around the worst club in the Eastern Conference.
"Vesa (Toskala) is not a guy who likes to be coached," Leafs goaltending consultant Francois Allaire told Sun Media on Sunday. "He didn't build a relationship with his last coach. In the NHL in 2010, you need as much information as you can get."
It is clear that Burke had enough information on the players he dispatched, having little trouble putting them in the Air Canada Centre bluebox and starting fresh.
Here's a closer look at what the Leafs "lost" in the purge:
Does it really matter how much J-S Giguere's game has regressed in Anaheim? It is impossible to imagine he can be as unreliable and unmotivated as Toskala, who was maddening in his underachieving ways and seeming indifference to it.
Allaire's comments speak volumes, but so did Toskala's inability to make a big save at a key moment in his two-and-a-half seasons as a Leaf.
Though Giguere clearly had been relegated to backup status behind Jonas Hiller in Anaheim, his save percentage of .900 and goals against of 3.14 are still significant improvements on Toskala (.874 and 3.66.) As an unrestricted free agent this summer, there wasn't a hope the Leafs would re-sign him.
Given his love-hate relationship with coach Ron Wilson tilted mostly to the latter, it was inevitable that the Mississauga native would be moved -- either today, at the trade deadline or this summer. One of the classier Leafs, he benefitted from added ice time he wouldn't likely get on a contending team and made the most of it.
What bugged Wilson most was Stajan's inconsistency. He went through separate 12- and 13-game scoring slumps this season, despite getting mostly first and second-line minutes.
"The most disappointing part is that I couldn't help this franchise get over the hump," Stajan said Sunday. "When you are eligible to become an unrestricted free agent, you have an idea something might happen but I didn't know anything about this."
Wilson's other principal whipping boy never really settled into life as a Leaf and was ridden hard by the coach throughout the past two seasons. He was wildly overpaid, with a $4-million cap hit and though he could skate like the wind, too much of his best strides were done along the boards rather than the tough areas of the ice.
"I guess a lot of people would say I haven't lived up to expectations," Blake said. "It's a difficult place to play, especially when you are not winning. To be honest, it can be stressful."
When it suits his mood, the Finnish forward can score. And on occasion, the Olympian even sees fit to go to the front of the opposition net, though clearly not enough to please Burke. Apparently truculence means something quite different in Hagman's mother tongue.
Sure there is a downside of losing your leading goal scorer and with 20, Hagman was in range of a career-high season. But he took too many shifts and nights off as witnessed by his output from Dec. 14 to Jan. 15 when he scored just once in 17 games.
God bless them, but Leafs fans are sometimes victim of optical illusions. As impressive as White has been this season, it was difficult not to shine on a blue line that has had its challenges. Make no mistake, White has improved dramatically since the start of the 2008-09 season, going from a player who was all out to make the team to one deserving a healthy raise as an unrestricted free agent this summer.
But the Manitoba native's trade value never has been as high as it is this moment. This despite going minus-8 in his past eight games, including a pair of boneheaded giveaways that led directly to New Jersey goals on Friday. And ask yourself which of White or Dion Phaneuf is most likely to ever be mentioned in the same sentence as Norris Trophy.
From the moment he arrived in Toronto early in 2008-09, Mayers was destined to be a fourth-line filler, a role player on a struggling team. The upside was that he brought speed and toughness to the lineup and by most indications was a decent influence inside the Leafs room.
But there was no chance the 35-year-old Toronto native would have been around next season, which is why Mayers (or his agent) wasn't shy about asking for a trade.
Mayers was a healthy scratch 11 times this season, though had seen regular duty the past couple of months.