Leafs' Burke is mad as hell

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke during the second day of selections at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft...

Leafs General Manager Brian Burke during the second day of selections at the 2011 NHL Entry Draft at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul Minnesota June 25, 2011. (DAVE ABEL/QMI Agency)

DAVE HILSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:25 PM ET

TORONTO - Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke had to tell tough guy Colton Orr on Thursday afternoon that he was being sent down to the Marlies. And Burke didn’t like it one bit.

For that matter, Burke doesn’t like it one bit that there seems to be less and less of a place for enforcers such as Orr in today’s National Hockey League.

“I do wonder where we’re going with this. I do wonder where our game is going?” a heavy-hearted Burke said as he held court shortly after having to make a very difficult phone call to Orr.

“I’m troubled by this when a player with the character of Colton Orr can’t contribute in this league. I’m not sure I like the way things are going,” Burke said. “The Green Peace folks will be happy with this but I wonder where we’re going when (league disciplinarian) Brendan Shanahan has six hearings every two days. And you see the garbage that happened in here the other night (Lightning forward Steve Downie going after Leafs captain Dion Phaneuf at the ACC on Tuesday).”

The 29-year-old Orr was placed on waivers on Wednesday afternoon and cleared them at noon Thursday.

“And I wonder about the accountability in our game and the notion that players would stick up for themselves and for each other,” a weary-looking Burke continued. “I wonder where we’re going with that? That’s the only lament I have on this is; the fear that if we don’t have guys looking after each other that the rats will take this game over, that’s my fear. You see guys that run around and start stuff but won’t back it up. It makes me sick to my stomach.”

Burke’s sentiments regarding Orr may be noble, but are things really any different now that the goon appears to be going the way of the dodo? Hasn’t the game always had rats?

What about Kenny Linseman or Esa Tikkanen to name just a couple? They are two of the most infamous rats the NHL has ever known (and pretty good hockey players too) and both played before the instigator rule came in. So having a player such as Orr — who by all accounts is a great guy — in the lineup certainly doesn’t guarantee an end to the infestation.

“The role of fighting and the strategy behind fighting has been systematically reduced, which I support,” Burke said. “But there’s still been a level of accountability which appears to me to be drying up very quickly.”

Nobody’s suggesting, though, that players shouldn’t be able to defend themselves. But for the game to continue to evolve and improve it needs fast, skilled guys who can ply their trade and if a fight breaks out in the heat of battle so be it. But to have a guy in the lineup just to fight; it’s an idea whose time has passed

Players will simply have to learn to control themselves and they will do so when the cost to themselves or their team becomes too severe. It’s that simple.

Just as they learned to control their stick work when Burke was league disciplinary, they will learn to control themselves under Shanahan. Besides, there’s no other pro league in North America where the players police themselves. So why should they do it in the NHL?

Even Burke admits (with fighting down no less) the hockey we are watching right now is a great product.

“I think the game we provide now, the game that the National Hockey League plays, is the best it’s ever been since we opened our doors for business,” he said.

So knowing the game is evolving Burke begrudgingly sent down Orr — a guy he admirably feels a lot of loyalty toward — to the minors, hoping that someway, somehow the bruiser’s game can improve enough for a return to the big club.

“My admiration for this kid just knows no limits,” Burke said of Orr. “He’s a wonderful young man and now he’s cleared so now we have to get him back to the Marlies and get him playing. Try to get his game back and see where he can maybe help us later in the season.”

Can Orr’s game evolve with the league’s? It will have to if he ever wants to play in the NHL again. Even Brian Burke knows that.

LACK OF SPEED

Speed kills. At the very least, it has caused significant injury to the career of enforcer Colton Orr.

The 29-year-old bruiser was sent down to the AHL Marlies on Thursday afternoon after clearing waivers.

Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke says there is no doubt that one of the areas in which Orr is lacking is foot speed.

“For the most part yes,” Burke replied on Thursday afternoon when asked if Orr was just too slow for today’s NHL. “The most dramatic change in the game in the last three years has been the foot speed. It’s not a surprise, we’ve adjusted to it, that’s why we picked up Mike Brown, that’s why we made the (Matthew) Lombardi acquisition. These are guys that had foot speed.”

So has Orr’s time as an NHL player come to an end?

“I’m not ready to say that, not with his character,” Burke said. “We’ll get him down there, (Marlies coach) Dallas (Eakins) will work with him, we’ll get his game back and hopefully we’ll see him again.”

Orr dressed in only five games for the Leafs this season, recording one goal and a five-minute major.


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