Monday, March 2, 2009

Burke can't lose his nerve now

With less than 48 hours to go until the most important trade deadline in recent Leafs history, some of us are getting cold feet. There's a lot of talk out there about keeping this guy or that guy, about players who may have earned the right to stay, and about not expecting all that many deals after all.

Stop it.

We knew this day was coming. We knew the deadline would spell the end of this team as we know it. This is no time to be losing our nerve and talking ourselves out of what needs to be done.

Here's what we know: The Leafs are a bad team this year. All signs point to them being just as bad next year, if not worse. With a little luck, the team could be good in 2010-11, if you consider contending for a playoff spot to be "good". Some people would call even that view incredibly optimistic, and it is, but it's the best-case scenario right now.

So that means that there are two, and only, reasons not to trade any player on this roster right now:

  1. The player could be an important contributor to a winning team in 2010. Not just a spare part, but a critical piece of a winner.
    - or -
  2. The player could have significantly more value in a trade some time between now and then
That's it. If a guy doesn't belong in one of those two categories, then Burke should be burning up the phone lines trying to trade him.

And it won't come as any great shock to hear that most of the current roster doesn't fit into either of those two slots.

Tomas Kaberle fits into both categories. He's an elite player on a very good long-term contract, and Burke seems to be playing his cards perfectly. If a team is willing to overpay, make the move. If not, hold onto him until somebody will, or until the team is good enough to win with him.

There are a handful of other guys in category #1. Luke Schenn is the obvious one. I'd put Pogge and Kulemin there too, and probably Grabovski although I'm still not sold on him. Beyond that, maybe Hagman's solid production and long-term deal makes him a keeper.

The only player I see fitting into category #2 is Vesa Toskala. While Toskala has had some success in the NHL, he's been lousy this year and his value is nearing zero. Hold onto him, and hope he turns it around in time to be traded at next year's deadline.

That's it, as far as I can see. Burke should be shopping everyone else. Aggressively.

Nik Antropov has to go, of course, unless Burke was bluffing about not resigning him. Pavel Kubina should go too, although it sounds like that will happen in the summer. And if anybody so much as starts to make an offer for Jason Blake, Burke should have the paperwork faxed into the NHL before they finish their sentence.

Mayers, Ponikarovsky, Stajan... all nice players, all solid contributors, none worth holding on to if a decent offer comes along. Same goes for Ian White, moustache and all, if Burke can get an offer he likes.

Which brings us to Dominic Moore.

Moore sounds like a nice guy and he seems to desperately want to continue his career in Toronto. That's wonderful. Burke should be in touch when free agency opens on July 1.

But Moore's trade value is as high now as it will ever be. Punch his ticket. And as many of his teammates as possible right along with him.

Now none of this means that we should expect a dozen trades on Wednesday. And it doesn't mean Burke shouldn't demand fair value, and walk away from any deal where he can't get it. Not every guy I mention will be dealt -- you still need to ice a team.

But it does mean that it's not unrealistic to expect four or five deals between now and the deadline. Anything less will leave fans demanding answers, no matter how hard Burke seems to be working to lower expectations leading up to the big day.

Steve at hockeyanalysis is on the same page, and he worries that Burke may be getting sucked in by the recent win streak. The GM's (seemingly endless) recent media appearances seem to support that. I think it's an act. I hope it's an act.

Remember: This is a bad team, and a short win streak doesn't change that.

"Stay the course" is no course at all. Pull the pin, Burkie. Fire in the hole.


  1. I sure hope he does stay the course. If he dosn't break this team up i'll be buy a Habs shirt next week. I can't take any more. 43 years is enough.

  2. @James -- That is without question a new DGB record for fastest comment on a new post.

  3. I wouldn't be surprised if Antro is the only body shipped out of town.

    Rather than a loss of nerve, with so many teams up against the cap, and the cap all but certain to constrict over the next few seasons, it's going to be difficult for Burke to find trade partners.

  4. I'm a little disappointed that White wasn't shipped out for that late 2nd, if it was in fact true. White is an ok player, but we do have some numbers on D, and a 45-60 pick could produce some real quality. To me, White is another one whose value is quite high, and the trigger probably should have been pulled.

  5. Looks like Mr. Brown has finally given up his "keep Blake" bull doody idear and seen the light. If we can trade anyone of these "players" away Burke should. Its a lot easier to build a team through picks, prospects and free agents nowadays

  6. @MF37... But haven't we been hearing that since the lockout? And yet every year, we end up seeing a record number of deals.

    Maybe the economy throws a wrench in everything this year. If so, Burke can only do so much. But if the rest of the league stays active then he should be leading the way.

  7. @Anonymous: Just to be clear, I never said we should keep Blake. I just flip-flopped from "there's no way we could ever get rid of him" all the way over to "we might be able to get something good for him".

  8. Blake rules.

    And not trading White for a late 2nd rounder is a great move on Burke's part. White's clearly proven that he can play. He's young. He makes little money. Yet people in this town want to deal him for a chance to draft some kid. I mean, how is it that our drafting resume has not deterred fans from feeling this way?

    I don't get it.


  9. DGB - we may have been hearing about the cap limiting trades for years, but I think the economic downturn is the catalyst that will finally make this prognostication a reality.

    There could still be 25+ trades on deadline day, but I think it will be almost exclusively spare parts and pending UFAs that change jerseys.

    Of course, I also thought Dallas was going to be the team to beat this year...

  10. I wonder if Burke has gone too far in his comments lately.

    He has been widely quoted as saying that NHL GM's are stupid around the trade deadline because they overpay for players that don't help them.

    Then he pretty much says he has turned down every trade offered to him because he wasn't offered enough.

    So Burke's message to the rest of his GM bretheren is basically this: I am going to squeeze you for every last drop because you are all idiots.

    Now any other GM who makes a deal with the Leafs knows that he will be overpaying if he chooses to make a deal with Burke.

    At the same time if Burke decides to wait till the summer he knows he won't be able to get as much as he could at the trade deadline. If he doesn't make deals by tomorrow he will find himself getting worse offers thane he is getting now.

    High stakes poker if you ask me. He better hope the other guy blinks.

  11. I hope the Devils expose the Leafs defensively tonight and absolutely crush them and this ridiculous winning streak. This is a bad team....don't drink the kool-aid Burke.

    While I don't expect a dozen trades I'd like to see a half dozen bodies moved.

  12. People tend to forget how quickly teams can go from being completely crappy to competing for the cup.
    Look at Montreal, Buffalo, Boston, Carolina, Chicago and so on.
    Basically you have a few years where you suck but your players are developing, then you have a year where everyone gets better and you end up fighting for a playoff spot, then the next year you have 5-7 players make significant improvements, the team realizes that they're actually good and all of the sudden they can compete with anyone.
    It may happen soon for Toronto or it might not but all they need is good goaltending for a season or two, some sudden development from Schenn, Grabovski, Hagman, Kulumenin...
    If they don't screw it up and get a touch of luck they could be competing for the cup in two years.

  13. I too am concerned about the direction that he may take.

    I remember the Leafs winning the cup. I have lived through the Ballard years and all of the stupidity that was prevalent at the time.

    I was a rabid Leaf fan, an 82 gamer. I would jump up from the couch and cheer every goal. I would refuse to watch any Ottawa game not involving the Leafs for fear that it would somehow help them. I missed the finals against Anaheim because the mere sight of those turds would make me nauseous.

    And then Richard Peddie and JFJ came along and clubbed me like a baby seal. They made me no longer care.

    A team that took no crap from anyone morphed into a submissive collection of misfits. A team that did more flybys than the Snowbirds. If I had to watch one more Alex Steen backwards ass check I would have screamed.

    But I digress.

    It has come to this. I need hope. I need someone to come along and remake this team. We had a real opportunity to get the first or second overall pick this year and we are blowing it. Blake should have been sent to the minors for "conditioning" as soon as he got hot, Cujo should be in net every night.

    I am tired of everyone on this team not named Schenn or Moore. Do what is necessary and if we have to ice the Louisiana friggin' Mud Bugs on Thursday then so be it. Change is long overdue. I want to be excited again.

  14. Paul Hunter in the Sun is saying that Burke & Moore are still $1 mill apart and that Moore could get $3 mill on the open market this summer.
    Bye, bye Dominic.
    Aside from him, I think Antropov will go, but after that I'll be very surprised if there's much other movement. I agree that Kubina looks like he'll be a goner in the summer, but there just doesn't seem to be a market out there for what the Leafs can offer.

  15. Great post, love the framework, this is eatly how to think about these things.

    re Moore: Thats my only disagreement, with a number of caveats. I actually think his success has come from buying into the Wilson system, work ethic and actually believing in the Bue and White, and not just mouthing the words.

    So I think he is "culturally" part of the future...he is still a third line guy, but a real good one under Wilson and in Toronto.

    Now he is NOT worth 3 mill a year or even 2 mill a year. So if he is demanding those numbers then I think a trade is fine, he can sign again when his contract is up after a stint with another team and a drop in production.

    White, has played well...but a 2nd rounder might be too little for him. Tough call, I think the locker room intangibles will make the call, does he buy into the system, is his work ethic great, can he be a positive example, unlike some Leafs who are no longer here...Tucker, McCabe, Raycroft....