September 6, 2011
Burke talking playoff spot
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
MILTON, ONT. - Brian Burke doesn’t mind sounding repetitive about his blueprint for a winning hockey team starting with the blue paint of his own crease and moving on home.
With that in mind, the Maple Leafs general manager feels off-season changes have at least set the team up with an opportunity to finally challenge for a playoff spot.
“We think we made some changes that made our team dramatically better,” Burke said prior to the team’s annual charity golf tournament at Rattlesnake Point Golf Club. “Those things have put us in a position where we want to be, which is to compete for a playoff spot.”
The further bolstering of the defensive group with the addition of John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson gives the Leafs what Burke believes is among the best in the league.
“I think this team stacks up to just about any other team in the (Eastern Conference) in terms of the blueline,” Burke said. “We think we are set in net. We think James Reimer is the real deal.
“Now the next question is the guys we brought in for the forward spots are going to answer our needs and can we count on some internal improvement from the guys we have.”
Leafs coach Ron Wilson said the top three lines are basically set heading into camp - Joffrey Lupul-Tim Connolly-Phil Kessel followed by Nikolai Kulemin-Mikhail Grabovski-Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong-Tyler Bozak-Nazem Kadri. But both Wilson and Burke said one spot on that third unit could be up for grabs between Kadri, Joe Colborne, Matt Frattin and Philippe Dupuis.
“We’ve left one spot open for the forwards because we want some competition,” Burke said.
As for contract talks with defenceman Luke Schenn, the Leafs’ GM said he is “optimistic” something will get done before camp.