TORONTO - The general consensus is that Brian Burke did well for himself in the Tomas Kaberle deal, securing a prospect, a first- round pick and a conditional second-round pick for a guy who could have just walked away this summer.
Nobody knows for sure whether Joe Colborne, the prospect, will amount to anything. But itís about assets, and Big Burkie, to his credit, is collecting them.
However, I am not jumping on the ĎBurke for Mayorí bandwagon quite yet.
Yes, he has a solid track record with Anaheim and Vancouver, but, to me, he hasnít proved anything yet in Toronto ó and Iím not about to celebrate Burke like they celebrate Jerry Lewis in France ... yet.
If the Leafs are well positioned for the future, a lot of the credit has to go elsewhere ó and Iím sure Burke would be the first guy to agree with that sentiment. Between sneers, heís a very magnanimous fellow.
Who are the six best young players/prospects on the Leafs squad right now? In my mind, they are James Reimer in goal, Luke Schenn and Keith Aulie on defence, and Phil Kessel ó when he shows up ó Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin at forward. Though the latter two arenít kids anymore, theyíre still young enough, at 27 and 24, and certainly talented enough, to include in any rebuild. Leafs prospects in junior or with the Marlies, Nazem Kadri included, have a long way to go development-wise before you can include them as building blocks for any great future team.
But those six, I believe, represent a solid foundation for the Leafs.
I know, I know, you could argue team captain Dion Phaneuf, who turns 26 in April, is likely a future star, but Iím not buying that ... at least yet.
Heís big and he can skate, but Phaneuf, to me, just seems confused and out of place too often on the ice ó though he had a solid match against the Ottawa Senators on Saturday night. And his slapshot ... wow, letís just say his shot is wild, wild stuff. And I mean wild as the operative word.
But hereís the kicker ó and I donít mean to raise the blood pressure of Burkie or any of his many allies ó but four out of those six are not Burke guys. Aulie and Kessel are and, as everyone knows, Burkie paid a pretty penny for Kessel.
Schenn and Grabovski are Cliff Fletcher guys. Schenn was drafted fifth overall in 2008 and Grabovski was acquired from the Canadiens in 2008 for a second-round pick and Greg Pateryn, who may, or may not, crack an AHL lineup some day ó a pretty good deal for Fletch.
Reimer and Kulemin were John Ferguson draft picks. We know how everyone likes to dump on Fergy, but he did a magnificent job in securing those two. Reimer, who is looking like the Leafsí goalie of the future more and more, was selected 99th overall in 2006 and Kulemin, a player any team would love to have, was drafted 44th in 2006.
WILD AND WEIRD STUFF
Maple Leafs Sports & Entertainment Ltd. doesnít always do tributes well, but they did a first-rate job on the Armed Forces Appreciation Night Saturday. The only down side, the troops had to endure an awful game ... Jay Rosehill and Francis Lessard went toe-to-toe in the second period in one of the better tilts in recent weeks. The fans went crazy but, of course, nobody wants fighting in hockey ... Ottawa forward Alex Kovalev is amazing. Heíll make an stunning move around someone and then give up on the play if it means any extra effort ... CBC reports have Don Cherry sticking around through the 2011-12 season. Enlightened liberals everywhere are gnashing their teeth ... Christian Hanson tried to clean the ice around the Toronto net with Milan Michalek.