Leafs hold diminished assets

STEVE BUFFERY, TORONTO SUN

, Last Updated: 8:39 AM ET

It says something about the state of affairs at the Air Canada Centre when Boyd Devereaux, a journeyman centre who hasn't played a minute in the NHL this season, strolled into the Maple Leafs dressing room yesterday morning and instantly was surrounded by a salivating horde of media types.

OK, salivating may be going a bit far. Drooling is probably the better word.

It was obviously a slow news day. Neither general manager Brian Burke nor head coach Ron Wilson had thrown any of the regular Maple Leafs under the bus for at least 24 hours and the Leafs still were 12 hours away from beating an astonishingly bad Pittsburgh Penguins team, 6-2.

So Devereaux was the sacrificial lamb, if you will.

The 30-year-old was placed on re-entry waivers a couple of days earlier, along with fellow veteran farmhand Bates Battaglia, and, guess what, not one of the other 29 teams took the plunge. Nor was anyone interested in younger farmhand Jeremy Williams, who also was placed on a waivers, which speaks volumes about depth of the organization (although to be fair, the Washington Capitals did snatch defenceman Staffan Kronwall a week ago when he was placed on waivers by the Leafs).

Deluded members of Leafs Nation still are waiting for Mr. Happy (Burke) to start working his magic. Burke has years to reshape the broken down organization, although he only has a couple of weeks or so this season to do anything, with the March 4 trade deadline approaching.

Burke has pledged to do what he can. But, really, the deeper the regular season progresses, the more obvious it becomes that not only are Burke's hands tied, there's a rope around his neck.

The man will have to work magic to get pretty well anything decent in a trade.

His best shot is trading either veteran defencemen Tomas Kaberle and Pavel Kubina, that is if they are serious about waiving their no-trade clauses.

And only Kaberle, who currently is out with a broken hand, likely would bring a first-round pick back to Toronto.

Kubina is one player who, for whatever reason, hasn't been thrown under the bus this year, but his play may be the most disappointing of anyone, save for the Floundering Finn, Vesa Toskala.

The 31-year-old Czech is doing all right offensively, with 27 points in 56 games, but he's a minus-9, after being a plus player with the Leafs over the previous two seasons. Part of the problem is his speed.

Never a quick player to begin with, Kubina looks like a quarterhorse in the Preakness Stakes on some nights.

NOT TOO QUICK

Throw in the fact that the 6-foot-4, 244-pounder doesn't hit much, and you've got a former all-star who wouldn't attract more than a second-round pick. And if Burke gets more than that, well, the Leafs should hire a guy to throw petals in his path.

The reality is, there are four, maybe five, players currently on the squad you'd want on the team in a couple years. Without a doubt, Luke Schenn and Niklas Hagman. Mikhail Grabovski could be an excellent everyday NHLer. Dominic Moore and maybe, just maybe, Nikolai Kulemin are keepers.

The rest Burke probably would trade in a heartbeat. But for what? And that, of course is the problem. Leading scorer Jason Blake still is owed roughly $10.5-million US over the next three seasons, meaning that it's almost certain nobody would want him.

Second leading scorer Nik Antropov? Maybe a second-round pick. Matt Stajan and Alexei Ponikarovsky? If Burke can get a second-round pick for either, God bless him.

Other than those guys, nothing better than a third-round pick.

And here's the thing. Despite being anointed The Saviour, there's no guarantee that any of Burke's draft picks will become stars.

As the great Rodney Dangerfield used to say: "I tell ya, it's rough".

STEVE.BUFFERY@SUNMEDIA.CA


Videos

Photos