Come on Burke, stick your neck out

Edmonton Sun columnist Terry Jones said he'd eat his newspaper column if the Oilers finished in...

Edmonton Sun columnist Terry Jones said he'd eat his newspaper column if the Oilers finished in last place again last year. They did, and Jones recently chowed down on his column in front of an Oilers crowd at the Rexall Centre. Steve Buffery thinks Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke should have to do something similar if Toronto doesn't make the playoffs this season. (AMBER BRACKEN/QMI Agency)

STEVE BUFFERY, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:57 PM ET

TORONTO - No one would expect Brian Burke to fall on his sword.

He is, after all, a GM, not a Samurai warrior, though the facial expression is somewhat the same.

But you know what would be great? If Burke, or somebody in the Maple Leafs organization, issued a guarantee that the Leafs would make the playoffs this season, if only to give long-suffering fans something to grasp on to (so to speak).

(MLSE president Richard Peddie made the guarantee a few weeks ago, but he was somewhat delirious from being dunked in a water tank).

We keep hearing about how this year’s edition of the Toronto Maple Leafs is better, how they finished last season on a strong note (which supposedly bodes well for this season), and how they only missed the playoffs by eight points in 2010-11. But no one in the front office is brash enough to actually step up and promise a playoff finish.

Well, maybe it’s time somebody did. The last time the Leafs qualified for the post-season was 2003-04. Six long, frustrating seasons have come and gone (not counting the 2004-05 lockout season), the longest stretch by a Leafs team ever not to make the playoffs. And yet, all we get from the Leafs brass is the same old song and dance: How the team’s better, how the team’s rebuild is on the right track, and how the fans have to be patient.

Burke keeps saying that the Leafs are on the right track. But it’s Year 4 of his great rebuild and that’s long enough. The 1950s Chinese agricultural reforms came to fruition quicker than the Leafs’ “long march” to the playoffs.

It’s time for Burke to stick his neck out and pledge to do something drastic if the Leafs fail to qualify for the playoffs for a seventh consecutive season.

Promise something.

Make it fun. Put something on the line. Show the fans that you actually feel their pain.

My colleague Terry Jones, the lead sports columnist at the Edmonton Sun, and a man who once ordered me eight rum and cokes at last call, wrote last season that if the Oilers finished in last place again, he’d eat his column. And guess what, a week ago Jonsey set up a table at centre ice at Rexall Place and actually ate his column (with sauerkraut, sour cream and bitter lemon).

Great stuff.

Basically, he put his tummy where his mouth is.

Burke should so the same.

I’m not saying eat a newspaper (we all know Burkie has a distaste for certain newspapers), but promise something that would get the fans worked up.

Show them just how optimistic he really is (if he truly is optimistic). Professional sports, after all, is supposed to be about fun, so why not throw the fans a bone?

Promise to take 30 fans fishing next summer if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs, OR, promise to borrow Don Cherry’s Lil’ Burkie tie and wear it at the GMs meetings if the Leafs fail to make the playoffs.

Burkie has said the team’s “goal” this year is to make the playoffs. That’s playing it too safe.

Head coach Ron Wilson said on Wednesday it would be “ridiculous” for him to guarantee a playoff spot.

The closest anybody on the team came to promising a playoff spot was forward Colby Armstrong, who said after practice on Wednesday that he promises Leafs fans on the street all the time that the club would make the playoffs.

“I say yes, absolutely,” said Armstrong. “It’s something I think everyone (on the team) gets asked all the time, whether you’re at the grocery store or pumping gas at a gas station.”

As opposed to pumping gas at a florist.

“That’s our goal,” said Armstrong. “We talk about it all the time. We talk about what we have to do, we talk about the feeling we had last year at the end of the year, we talk about the depth from the new guys that we have, we talk about our attitude and our preparation going into the start of the year.

“We had a big lull last year at the start of the year, and we can’t have that this year. We talk about (making the playoffs) all the time. It’s where we want to be and it’s what we want.”

That’s great. But talk is cheap. The Leafs have 82 games to end this ridiculous streak of ineptitude.

Somebody should stick their neck out.

Come on Burkie. What say you?


Videos

Photos