Leafs GM ready to deal
LANCE HORNBY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke says he is a "January guy" when it comes to making trades. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - Brian Burke says he’d be willing to start the playoffs with the Maple Leafs’ roster as currently constituted, but intends to make a trade in the coming weeks to try and extend any post-season run.
Speaking on The Fan 590 radio Wednesday night, with his team in its best position to challenge for a berth since he arrived, the general manager said just qualifying for the first time in six years was not good enough.
“I’m not interested in getting our asses kicked in the first round,” he said. “I’m not paid just to get in the playoffs. We could have got in last year if we’d traded our kids for a couple of 30-year-olds.
“I want to get in with a reasonable chance to (advance deep) or bloody someone’s nose while doing it. I think we’ll be able to do something (trade-wise).”
Burke is being a little presumptuous, with the Leafs still having 40 games to go and sitting just five points from ninth place on Wednesday afternoon. But with a four-game win streak, five overall at home, a hot goalie and a favourable schedule the rest of this month, he’s ready to make his move.
“We’re a little small up front and we don’t have much playoff experience,” he noted. “If the playoffs started tomorrow, I would still like our chances. (But) we are looking to add and get better now.”
The trade he’s hinting at for a big centre or winger could come very soon, as he traditionally eschews the rush at the NHL deadline (Feb. 27 this year).
“I’m a January guy,” he reminded “I set my price and try and let my team play through the deadine (without worrying about trades). The math doesn’t work at the deadline when 24 teams are buying. There can only be one (Stanley Cup) parade.”
Burke said the cost could very well be one or more of the young assets in the system or even this year’s first or second rounder.
“I’d say ‘where’s the phone?’,” Burke said of the often risky venture of losing high picks. “They (fans) can live with a gamble.”
Burke didn’t dispute that he’s in a favourable spot for the first time in 3 1/2 years because his goaltending has finally stabilized, and not in the way he and his huge staff of advisors envisioned. Jonas Gustavsson was third on the depth chart at one point, then passed both the injured James Reimer and farmhand Ben Scrivens.
“I told Jonas ‘you saved our ass this season. You’re the reason we didn’t crumble to dust. I never counted on him, but I never discounted him.”
Commenting on some of the Leafs who may or may not be with the big team when the playoff crunch comes, Burke said defenceman Jake Gardiner will go back in the lineup or down to the Marlies in the next few days.
“I’ve told Ron Wilson he won’t go in the pressbox for a prolongued length of time,” Burke said.
The creative Nazem Kadri is “so far, so good”, but Burke is keeping a wary eye on the turnovers the former first rounder commits, including a couple in Tuesday’s win over Buffalo.
“There’s a risk factor,” Burke said, “and if he keeps that in his game ...”
If Burke is retained by MLSE’s new owners, Rogers and Bell, he says he wants to stay as president and GM for a long time and work for the company in a lesser capacity in is sunset yaers. He revealed at least two teams in search of a new GM had approached him in 2011 about releasing senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis. But Burke said Nonis is content here and has no summer window, unlike vice-president Dave Poulin, assistant GM Claude Loiselle and player personnel director Rick Dudley.
“If (they leave for other teams) you still have an ally for life, someone you can converse with and make trades,” Burke said.