April 10, 2012
Earth to Burke: You've little to trade
By Steve Buffery, QMI AGENCY
Brian Burke called this season “agonizing” and says he hasn’t slept in a month. Months even. Perhaps that explains why he’s delusional.
One of the major points from Burke’s end-of-the-season media conference on Tuesday morning is his assertion that he has enough assets to upgrade this current Maple Leafs roster via the trade route.
“I intend to address the positional needs the old fashioned way, which is through trades,” Burke said. “Not through free agency. Looking at the (free agency) pool, I can’t see a lot of impact there.”
Okay, Burke said his two priorities going forward are goaltending (again) and a No.1 centre (Tim Connolly, last season’s big signing to address the No.1 centre position was a washout).
To get a top goaltender in support of James Reimer, whom Big Burkie apparently still believes in, and a No.1 centre — not to mention more overall size and some depth on the third and fourth lines — Burke is going to have to give up some assets. The problem is, the other GM’s in the NHL aren’t idiots. And despite what Burke was squawking on Tuesday, he has very little to trade. In fact, with the Leafs taking a step backwards this season, Burke has less to work with now than he did 12 months ago. Many players who were on this roster a year ago have probably dropped in value — guys like Connolly, Reimer, Clarke MacArthur, Nikolai Kulemin, Luke Schenn, Colby Armstrong and even Nazem Kadri.
Yet Burke maintains that he has enough assets to address his team’s (many) needs by making trades. But what exactly does this organization have that would entice another team to give up a No.1 centre or quality goaltender?
Burke mentioned Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner and Dion Phaneuf as “the building blocks.” That may be true, but is he going to trade any of those guys to upgrade a roster that desperately needs upgrading? Surely he’s not going to trade Kessel. Doing so would essentially be admitting he made a mistake in giving up two first-round draft picks and a No. 2 pick to get the one-dimensional scorer.
And there’s no way, if he keeps Kessel, he’s going to give up Lupul.
Gardiner? Nope. He’s the best commodity the Leafs have going forward.
Phaneuf? Well, there’s a reason he’s been voted the most overrated player in the league. Not sure if any other GMs value the Leafs’ captain the way the Toronto front office does.
So where does that leave Burke in terms of being able to make a trade to upgrade his roster?
Burke doesn’t like trading first round picks. And he shouldn’t.
So, if you’re another GM and you have a No. 1-type centre and a quality goaltender, or some size, who would you consider taking from the Leafs in return? I can’t see any right-minded GM giving up a valuable asset like a No. 1 centre and good goalie for much of anything the Leafs possess.
One big-shot radio insider said on Monday he heard Burke is going to go hard to get Columbus Blue Jackets forward Rick Nash.
That’s incredible, because, again, what exactly does this roster have that the Jackets would want? Perhaps a package including Gardiner, a first round pick, Lupul, Kadri and Carl Gunnarsson or Cody Franson. But that would defeat the purpose, wouldn’t it? You’d have one great player and very little depth.
Burke mentioned Matt Frattin and Carter Ashton as great young building blocks. Maybe. Maybe not. It’s too early to suggest that these guys are going to be stars. Same for Joe Colborne.
As for Kadri, Burke told the media hordes on Tuesday that he never said Kadri was going to be a star in the NHL. But there’s no way Burke, when he drafted Kadri seventh overall in 2009, thought he’d still be playing the majority of his games in the minors three years after being drafted.
“I’m not a patient person,” said Burke. “I was born impatient and I’m going to die impatient. I don’t like what’s happened here. I don’t like our lack of progress. Obviously I’m driving the bus, I’m ultimately responsible. I’m not happy where we are today.”
He shouldn’t be.
Burke keeps saying he’s not going to trade away the future just to squeak into the playoffs. But it’s been four years already under his watch and this team appears to be going nowhere. How many years is it going to take for this outfit to make some real progress? It says here that if not for his track record and force of personality, and the fact that he has some key allies (one in particular) in the media, Burke would already be gone.