Changing pieces hasn't changed Leafs

Niklas Hagman (left to right), Matt Stajan, Tomas Kaberle and Ian White are among the dozens of...

Niklas Hagman (left to right), Matt Stajan, Tomas Kaberle and Ian White are among the dozens of players that Brian Burke has shipped out of Toronto during his tenure as Maple Leafs ganeral manager. (QMI Agency file photo)

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:07 AM ET

BUFFALO - For all of the criticism Brian Burke takes, and will take until the Maple Leafs participate in a playoff game, there’s one area where the Leafs general manager comes out smelling like roses.

When he was hired in November 2008, Burke didn’t like the attitude he saw in the Leafs dressing room and vowed to rid the club of complacency, or as it’s now called, Blue-and-White Disease.

Just three players — forwards Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin and defenceman Luke Schenn — survived as Burke took his scythe to the roster. A fourth, defenceman, Jeff Finger, was sent to the Marlies because of his hefty contract (signed while Cliff Fletcher was general manager) and has spent the past two seasons in the minors. Finger is slated to be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

None of the Leafs Burke inherited in 2008-09 and then sent packing from the organization likely have given the GM pause for thought. Regrets? Hardly. Tomas Kaberle went on to win a Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins, but didn’t play a significant role in the Bruins’ march last spring. Ian White might win a Cup with Detroit, Pavel Kubina could capture it with Philadelphia and John Mitchell will have a shot with the New York Rangers. But other than Jiri Tlusty and Jay Harrison, both with Carolina, no player really has grown since Burke showed him the door.

So maybe now all of the players in the lineup care about only one thing: Winning. Actually doing it is something else entirely, but for now, it’s the thought that counts, right?

A glance at what became of those from 2008-09 who were bid adieu by Burke:

Jason Blake, forward

Then: Led the Leafs in scoring in 2008-09, Burke’s first season in Toronto, with 63 points in 78 games. Traded to Anaheim on Jan. 31, 2010, after recording 26 points in 56 games that season for the Leafs. Wasn’t an overly popular guy in the dressing room.

Now: Missed 34 games in 2011-12 with a lacerated wrist and had just 12 points in 42 games through April 3.

Alexei Ponikarovsky, forward

Then: Had career highs with 23 goals, 38 assists and 63 points three seasons ago. Followed that with 41 points in 61 games the next season prior to being dealt to Pittsburgh on March 2, 2010.

Now: Burke was on to something. Ponikarovsky is with his fourth team, the New Jersey Devils, since leaving Toronto and is little more than a shell of the player he was with the Leafs.

Matt Stajan, forward

Then: Blossomed into a solid centre in 2008-09 with 55 points in 76 games. Stayed on course the next year with 41 points in 55 games for the Leafs until being included in the seven-player deal that brought Dion Phaneuf from Calgary.

Now: Burke read the tea leaves right again. Stajan signed a fat contract with the Flames but appears to have peaked as an NHLer when he was with the Leafs. Through April 3, had 64 points in 162 games since the trade.

Nik Antropov, forward

Then: One of the first players gone in Burke’s facelift when he was sent to the Rangers on March 4, 2009. Had 46 points in 63 games with the Leafs that season and was on his way to a career high.

Now: Offensive production has slipped, but the big Kazakh has helped resurrect NHL hockey in Winnipeg. Signed as a free agent with Atlanta in 2009 and had career highs with 43 assists and 67 points in 2009-10.

Niklas Hagman, forward

Then: Had just recorded his third consecutive 20-goal season in the NHL when he became part of the Phaneuf swap with the Flames. Had 75 points in 120 games with the Leafs.

Now: Burke got it right. Hagman was traded to the Ducks by the Flames early in the season, but is unlikely to approach 20 goals again.

Dominic Moore, forward

Then: Dealt to Buffalo on the same day Antropov was jettisoned to Manhattan. Seemed to be comfortable in Toronto with 41 points, his career best, in 63 games before he was traded.

Now: With the San Jose Sharks, his fifth team since leaving Toronto. Good depth player, but nothing more.

Pavel Kubina, defenceman

Then: Managed to make it all the way through that first year and was traded to Atlanta on July 1, 2009. Offence was never a problem, but was incapable of doing much defensively.

Now: Picked up by the Philadelphia Flyers from the Tampa Bay Lightning for the playoff run. Has not come close to the 14 goals he scored in his final season as a Leaf.

Lee Stempniak, forward

Then: Was acquired by Leafs from St. Louis by Cliff Fletcher, five days before Burke took over. Scored a middling 25 goals and recorded 61 points in 123 games as a Leaf.

Now: Contributing every so often for the Flames. Burke essentially threw him away in a deal with the Phoenix Coyotes on March 3, 2010, getting a minor-league player and two picks that were never used by the Leafs.

Tomas Kaberle, defenceman

Then: Had become the longest-serving Leaf at the time and, as such, was the poster boy for all that Burke wanted to wash away. Finally agreed to be traded in February 2011 to the Boston Bruins, netting the Leafs Joe Colborne, a solid prospect.

Now: Helped, if you can call it that, the Bruins win the Stanley Cup last spring. Signed with Carolina as a free agent, was a bust, and was traded to Montreal. He is currently out with an upper-body injury.

John Mitchell, forward

Then: Appeared to be on his way to solidifying a roster spot, playing in 76 games in 2008-09 and recording 29 points, but eventually fell out of favour with Ron Wilson.

Now: Traded to the Rangers in February 2011 for a seventh-round pick (yikes), Mitchell has been reborn in the NHL after spending the majority of last season in the minors.

Ian White, defenceman

Then: Off-ice stories followed White around, but those were off-set by the offensive flair he brought on the ice. Usually logged more than 21 minutes a night.

Now: Has looked like an all-star playing alongside Nicklas Lidstrom on the Detroit Red Wings blue line. Took him time, though, as Detroit is his fourth team since leaving the Leafs in the Phaneuf trade.

Jamal Mayers, forward

Then: Didn’t mind playing a truculent style, but didn’t bring much else to fourth-line duties. Part of Phaneuf trade with Calgary.

Now: Has managed to stick around with Chicago, his third team since departing Toronto.

Anton Stralman, defenceman

Then: Played a total of 88 games with the Leafs. Sent packing in July 2009 to Calgary, with Leafs getting Wayne Primeau.

Now: In and out of Rangers’ lineup after spending two years in Columbus.

Boyd Devereaux, forward

Then: Ended NHL career with 95 games in a Leafs uniform. Scored a hat trick in final NHL game, against Ottawa, in March 2009.

Now: Retired.

Mike Van Ryn, defenceman

Then: Played in 27 games in injury-plagued 2008-09 season and didn’t appear in NHL again.

Now: Retired.

Jiri Tlusty, forward

Then: Couldn’t find his footing as a Leaf under Wilson and traded to Carolina in December 2009.

Now: Has blossomed with Hurricanes and looks to be an NHL fixture.

Christian Hanson, forward

Then: Signed as a free agent out of Notre Dame in March 2009. Played 42 games in three seasons for Toronto.

Now: Playing for Hershey of the AHL after Washington signed him as a free agent last summer.

Brad May, forward

Then: First player Burke acquired, coming from Anaheim on Jan. 7, 2009. Played 38 games for Leafs and 40 the following season for Detroit.

Now: Retired.

Tim Stapleton, forward

Then: Made his NHL debut with the Leafs in February 2009 and played in four games for Toronto.

Now: Has become a fairly regular player for the Winnipeg Jets.

Jay Harrison, defenceman

Then: Originally picked by Leafs in 2001, played in seven games for Leafs in 2008-09 after spending a season in Switzerland.

Now: Allowed to walk as a free agent in 2009 and has become a solid regular on the Carolina blue line.

Martin Gerber, goaltender

Then: Claimed off waivers from Ottawa on March 4. Won six of 12 games with Leafs, thereby earning wrath of Leafs Nation, who figured he screwed the team out of a better draft pick.

Now: Playing in Sweden.

Curtis Joseph, goaltender

Then: Played 21 games for Toronto in his final NHL season.

Now: Retired.

Vesa Toskala, goaltender

Then: Was the No. 1 guy and won five more games in regulation than he lost that season, but otherwise, his numbers were not good. Played 26 games the next year, during which he was not an apt pupil of Francois Allaire, and was traded to Anaheim in January 2010.

Now: Playing in Finland.

ALL OF BURKE’S MOVES

Brian Burke has made scores of player moves since taking over as general manager of the Maple Leafs on Nov. 29, 2008, but still does not have a single playoff game to show for it. Here’s a glance at the major acquisitions, both in management and on the roster, as well as most of the minor ones, since Burke was given reins of the organization almost 3 1/2 years ago (transactions are coded by colour: blue — trade; red — signing/waivers; green — draft; and orange — front office).

2008

Dec. 6 — Hired David Nonis as senior vice-president of hockey operations

2009

Jan. 7 — Acquired F Brad May from Anaheim for a conditional pick in 2010 draft

Jan. 21 — Acquired F Ryan Hamilton from Minnesota for F Robbie Earl

March 4 — Claimed G Martin Gerber off waivers from Ottawa

* Claimed D Erik Reitz off waivers from N.Y. Rangers

* Acquired a second-round pick (F Kenny Ryan) and a conditional pick in the 2009 entry draft from the N.Y. Rangers for C Nik Antropov

* Acquired Carolina’s second-round pick (D Jesse Blacker) in the 2009 entry draft from Buffalo for C Dominic Moore

* Acquired G Olaf Kolzig, D Jamie Heward, D Andy Rogers and a fourth-round pick (forfeited) in the 2009 entry draft from Tampa Bay for D Richard Petiot

March 5 — Signed RW Jeff Hamilton as a free agent

March 14 — Signed C Chris DiDomenico to a three-year entry level contract

March 19 — Signed RW Alex Berry to a two-year entry level contract

March 27 — Signed D Jay Harrison as a free agent

March 31 — Signed F Christian Hanson as a free agent

April 3 — Signed C Tyler Bozak as a free agent

April 14 — Signed LW Robert Slaney as a free agent

* Signed LW Viktor Stalberg to a two-year entry level contract (red)

June 11 — Hired Francois Allaire as goaltending consultant

June 26-27 — Selected F Nazem Kadri, F Kenny Ryan, D Jesse Blacker, F Jamie Devane, D Eric Knodel, F Jerry D’Amigo, D Barron Smith in the 2009 entry draft

July 1 — Signed D Mike Komisarek as a free agent to a five-year contract

* Signed RW Colton Orr as a free agent to a four-year contract

* Acquired D Garnet Exelby and F Colin Stuart from Atlanta for D Pavel Kubina and F Tim Stapleton

July 2 — Re-signed restricted free agent C Mikhail Grabovski to a three-year contract

* Signed D Carl Gunnarsson (red)

* Signed D Juraj Mikus to a three-year entry level contract

July 6 — Signed D Francois Beauchemin as a free agent to a three-year contract

* Signed C Tim Brent as a free agent

* Signed F Nazem Kadri to a three-year entry level contract

* Signed LW Jay Rosehill as a free agent to a two-year contract

* Signed F Richard Greenop as a free agent

July 7 — Signed G Jonas Gustavsson as a free agent

July 10 — Signed F Rickard Wallin as a free agent

July 23 — Hired Dave Poulin as vice-president of hockey operations

July 27 — Acquired C Wayne Primeau and a second-round pick in the 2011 entry draft from Calgary for D Anton Stralman, F Colin Stuart and a seventh-round pick in 2012

Aug. 10 — Acquired a conditional draft pick in 2011 from Anaheim for G Justin Pogge

* Signed G Joey MacDonald

Sept. 12 — Hired Steve Kasper and Rob Cowie as professional scouts; hired Scott Carter, John McMorrow, Frank Neal, Pierre Rioux, Roy Stasiuk, Dave Starman and Joe Gibbs as amateur scouts; promoted Jim Hughes to director of player development; signed senior advisor Cliff Fletcher to a three-year extension

Sept. 18 — Acquired RW Phil Kessel from Boston for a first-round pick (C Tyler Seguin) in the 2010 entry draft, a second-round pick (RW Jared Knight) in the 2010 entry draft and a first-round pick (D Dougie Hamilton) in the 2011 entry draft

* Signed Kessel to a five-year contract

Dec. 3 — Acquired F Philippe Paradis from Carolina for LW Jiri Tlusty

2010

Jan. 31 — Acquired D Dion Phaneuf, LW Fredrik Sjostrom and D Keith Aulie from Calgary for C Niklas Hagman, C Matt Stajan, RW Jamal Mayers and D Ian White; acquired G Jean-Sebastien Giguere from Anaheim for LW Jason Blake and G Vesa Toskala

Feb. 13 — Claimed C Jamie Lundmark off waivers from Calgary

March 2 — Acquired LW Luca Caputi and D Martin Skoula from Pittsburgh for LW Alexei Ponikarovsky

March 3 — Acquired a fifth-round pick (C Sam Carrick) in the 2010 entry draft from New Jersey for D Martin Skoula

* Acquired D Matt Jones, a fourth-round pick (later traded to Washington) and a seventh-round pick (later traded to Edmonton) from Phoenix for LW Lee Stempniak

* Acquired a seventh-round pick in the 2011 entry draft from Anaheim for G Joey MacDonald

* Acquired D Chris Peluso from Pittsburgh for a sixth-round pick (D Joe Rogalski) in the 2010 entry draft

March 10 — Signed D Simon Gysbers as a free agent

March 18 — Signed D Jesse Blacker to a three-year entry level contract

March 29 — Signed F Brayden Irwin as a free agent

April 23 — Signed G Jussi Rynnas as a free agent

April 28 — Signed G Ben Scrivens as a free agent

June 1 — Hired Claude Loiselle as assistant general manager

June 26 — Acquired RW Mike Brown from Anaheim for a fifth-round pick (F Chris Wagner) in the 2010 entry draft

* Selected F Brad Ross, F Greg McKegg, F Sondre Olden, D Petter Granberg, F Sam Carrick, F Daniel Brodin, F Josh Nicholls in the 2010 entry draft

June 30 — Acquired RW Kris Versteeg and LW Bill Sweatt from Chicago for LW Viktor Stalberg, C Chris DiDomenico and F Philippe Paradis

July 1 — Signed RW Colby Armstrong as a free agent to a three-year contract

* Signed RW Joey Crabb as a free agent

* Signed D Danny Richmond as a free agent

July 3 — Signed C Mike Zigomanis as a free agent

July 6 — Signed D Brett Lebda as a free agent

July 14 — Signed LW Marcel Mueller as a free agent

Aug. 27 — Acquired D Matt Lashoff from Tampa Bay for RW Alex Berry and LW Stefano Giliati

Aug. 28 — Signed LW Clarke MacArthur as a free agent to a one-year contract

Sept. 24 — Signed C Andrew Crescenzi as a free agent

2011

Feb. 9 — Acquired LW Joffrey Lupul, D Jake Gardiner and a conditional fourth-round draft pick in the 2013 entry draft from Anaheim for D Francois Beauchemin

Feb. 14 — Acquired a first-round pick (D Stuart Percy) and a third-round pick (LW Josh Leivo) in the 2011 entry draft from Philadelphia for RW Kris Versteeg

Feb. 15 — Acquired RW Aaron Voros from Anaheim for a conditional seventh-round pick in the 2011 entry draft

Feb. 18 — Acquired C Joe Colborne, a first-round pick (RW Tyler Biggs) in the 2011 entry draft and a conditional second-round pick in the 2012 entry draft from Boston for D Tomas Kaberle

Feb. 28 — Acquired a seventh-round pick in the 2012 entry draft from the New York Rangers for C John Mitchell

March 15 — Signed D Jake Gardiner to a three-year entry level contract

March 21 — Signed D Tyler Brenner as a free agent

April 8 — Signed F Matt Frattin to a two-year entry level contract

April 28 — Signed G Mark Owuya as a free agent

June 9 — Signed G James Reimer to a three-year contract

June 20 — Hired Greg Cronin and Scott Gordon as assistant coaches; fired assistant coaches Keith Acton and Tim Hunter

June 24 — Hired Rick Dudley as director of player personnel

* Acquired D John-Michael Liles from Colorado for Boston’s second-round pick in the 2012 entry draft

June 24-25 — Selected F Tyler Biggs, D Stuart Percy, F Josh Leivo, D Tom Nilsson, F Tony Cameranesi, F David Broll, D Dennis Robertson, G Garret Sparks, D Max Everson in the 2011 entry draft

July 2 — Signed C Tim Connolly as a free agent to a two-year contract

July 3 — Acquired D Cody Franson and C Matthew Lombardi from Nashville for D Brett Lebda and LW Robert Slaney

July 5 — Re-signed LW Clarke MacArthur to a two-year contract

July 6 — Re-signed C Tyler Bozak to a two-year contract

July 7 — Signed C Philippe Dupuis as a free agent

July 12 — Signed C Mike Zigomanis

July 14 — Signed LW Darryl Boyce

July 19 — Signed RW Joey Crabb

Oct. 4 — Acquired C David Steckel from New Jersey for a fourth-round pick in the 2012 entry draft

2012

Jan. 25 — Signed D John-Michael Liles to a four-year contract extension

Feb. 25 — Lost LW Darryl Boyce to Columbus on waivers

Feb. 27 — Acquired LW Carter Ashton from Tampa Bay for D Keith Aulie

March 2 — Fired coach Ron Wilson; hired Randy Carlyle as new coach; re-assigned assistant coach Rob Zettler

March 4 — Hired assistant coach Dave Farrish

March 6 — Signed C Mikhail Grabovski to five-year contract extension

March 28 — Signed Spencer Abbott to one-year contract


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