Leafs may enforce their own trade deadline
ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
|Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke. (ALEX UROSEVIC/QMI Agency file photo)
TORONTO - Brian Burke is fond of referring to the Maple Leafs hockey club he runs as “Big Blue” for its elite status in the sports world.
But the sometimes bombastic general manager laments that it often comes with a price.
In fact, Burke said the noise surrounding the NHL trade deadline, which arrived Monday at 3 p.m., has been so loud this year that he’s considering implementing his own trade freeze 10 days earlier.
“For the peace of mind it might be worth it,” Burke said Monday at the Air Canada Centre. “We’re going to seriously consider it.
“Every year I’ve been here, the trade deadline has been hard on our players.
“I think the trade deadline is hard on players (around the league) but I think it’s murder on players in Toronto.”
Saying it’s “remarkable” that his players have remained focused despite the constant badgering of players rumored to be on the block, Burke hopes now that it’s gone the team’s fortunes will turn.
Actually, focus and other qualities have been lacking as the team has lost eight of its past nine games and fallen out of a playoff position in the Eastern Conference.
While there is a trade freeze around Christmas, Burke has always extended it 10 days earlier out of compassion for his players. Doing it around the trade deadline, he acknowledged, would be more difficult because of the action that generally takes place around the league.
But Burke said the unique pressures of the hockey-mad Toronto scene is something his management team takes seriously when acquiring new talent.
“When we go to get a player, we don’t talk about whether he’s an NHL player, we talk about whether he can play in Toronto,” Burke said.
“It is different here. That’s our life. It’s part of why people love this team, because of the (media) coverage and part of why it’s so special to play here, but there are times of year where it’s a big millstone.”
And especially for certain players. Goaltender James Reimer, who has struggled lately, was razzed mockingly on Saturday for making a couple of routine saves against the Washington Capitals after giving up a pair of suspect goals early.
“I don’t think it’s an easy place to play if you are a goaltender and you struggle even a little bit,” Burke said. “When we signed (Jonas Gustavsson), that’s what we spent all the time on: Can he play in Toronto? Not can he be an NHL goaltender, but can he play in this market.
“I’m not whining about this or complaining about this it’s what we do, it’s where we live. But there’s no question in my mind that there’s times when the pressure in this marketplace is a millstone, not an asset.”
Feisty Leafs forward Mike Brown isn’t about to blame the pressure of the deadline on the team’s slump, even if the boss is selling it.
“I think the good players keep it in the back of their head but don’t let it bother them,” Brown said.
“It might be just an excuse. I’m a player who has been traded twice. You’ve got to play every game. You can’t worry about getting traded. I guess you can say some guys get rattled but if it happens, it happens.”