Friday, June 26, 2009

Brian Burke: The wait continues

Have you seen this man?
(Note to Puck Daddy readers: The "mic'd up" post is actually here.)

We're now seven months and counting into the Brian Burke Era.

When he didn't make a single significant move in his first four months on the job, everyone said not to worry because the best time to sell was at the deadline.

When he didn't do anything at the deadline other than a few minor deals with UFAs, everyone said not to worry because he was waiting for the draft.

Now the first round has come and gone, and Burke has drafted a solid prospect in Nazem Kadri but came up empty on his vow to move up and couldn't find a deal for Tomas Kaberle.

I guess now we're waiting until free agency.

I know this is a long process. I know it's not easy to trade in today's NHL. I know the best deal is sometimes the one you don't make.

But at some point, doesn't Brian Burke have to actually do something? You know, besides giving good soundbites?

Or am I just being one of those unreasonable Leaf fans?


  1. Well, he did sign Hanson, and Bozak. At worst 2 second round draft choices. And he did manage to trade Moore for a second pick. And he DIDN'T trade away Schenn. Kadri is gonna be a good player. And if he gets Gustavvson to sign, our BIGGEST problem gets a lot of help. He doesn't have a lot to work with and i commend him for not giving up any draft picks. The only thing he can do now is take on salary and deal kabs and kubina. He's done nothing spectaular but he's not done anything like trade a pylon for a bonafide prospect.

  2. Would you rather he made a panic trade or a crappy move to land a stiff who gets us nowhere and delays the rebuilding program even longer?

  3. @LeafFan...

    Sure. But I don't think MLSE made him the highest paid GM in league history just so he'd avoid trading for pylons.

  4. @JM...

    Of course not. But should avoiding a terrible move be all he needs to do to satisfy fans? That sounds like the bare minimum, not something to be applauded.

  5. I seem to recall most of what BB said was also qualified, at least in regards to the draft. Stuff along the lines of "I'll actively try to move up, but people have seen this show before."

    He had something he wanted to do, but he wasn't sure if it could be done. In the end it couldn't, and if you were listening you knew that might be the case.

    I figure that so far Burke's been on the job seven months and hasn't traded a single first round pick. As sad as it is for the Leafs, that's genuine progress.

    Like you've said DGB, this is a long process. I'm willing to give him more then seven months before I start questioning his methods or the time he spends in front of a camera.

  6. The issue, and I hope to write about it tomorrow, is that Burke seems to have screwed himself. He talked such a big game and was so eager to discuss his strategy that he seems to have scared teams away from him - if the Flyers were willing to pay that much for Pronger, why wasn't Burke in on this somehow? Also, being mic'd was an awful idea. If I was a rival GM, I'd be reluctant to talk to a notoriously savvy guy who's recording and potentially broadcasting his attempt to fleece me. Nobody wants to look stupid.

  7. At the risk of sounding smug, the draft isn't over. There are still some quality future NHLers to be had (see Zetterberg) and given Burke's increased focus on scouting, perhaps the Leafs will be able to find one, or dare I say, a few.

    The Leafs' future is a little brighter today than it was yesterday.

  8. The Leafs future would be brighter today no matter what, even if their GM was a boiled potato. The point, I think, that DGB is making is that Burke was decidedly impotent tonight.

  9. He signed some college FAs, wooed the Monster, set up his own front office, picked up picks during the year, changed minor league coaching staff, etc. A lot of small things, some newsworthy, but he has been busy and he has done a lot. He's doing a lot more behind the scenes than we know about.

    Free agency is less than a week away. He's got cap room and thinks that Kaberle for a healthy return once Jay Bo signs. So there is time for that big splash, and I can't wait for it either.

    But he may just end up doing a bunch of regular moves to tune up the lineup. He wants a competitive team on the ice. We may well have Kaberle and Kubina in the lineup in October because no one offered what Burke wanted.

  10. So far his tenure has been nothing short of underwhelming and his pledge to incorporate more violence and intimidation has left myself and others VERY cold.

  11. I think it's kind of telling that a lot of the "he's not as inactive as you think" side of the conversation ends up mentioning Gustavsson, who hasn't signed with anyone yet.

    I like the kinds of teams Burke builds, and I haven't lost confidence in him as the man for the job going forward, but I will say that I'd expected him to have done more by the time he'd been through a deadline and a draft (yes, I know the draft isn't over, but the part most of us know enough to comment on intelligently is). It may be time for those of us who have been screaming "fire sale" since we thought there was a chance Sundin would waive to make peace with the fact that Burke might have a subtler notion of rebuilding in mind than we'd hoped.

  12. Uh, let's take a step back and think about the roster he inherited. Jason Freakin' Blake was the Leafs' leading point producer last season. JASON BLAKE. Meanwhile, the "goalie of the future" proved that his future is in a beer league somewhere. He's trying to stockpile assets as best he can. Making a trade simply for the sake of making a trade - rather than following a plan - is exactly why the Leafs have missed the playoffs for four seasons in a row. Show me any GM who could turn this around in seven months.

  13. If we sign Gustavson (good chance?) and trade Kaberle before the start of the season ... Burke will have done the following:

    1. Drafted a high end Centre (big need)
    2. Signed a starting goaltender with great potential
    3. Picked up a good player, good prospect and good pick for Kaberle

    Not bad in my opinion!

  14. @cferneyh:

    Who's advocating "making a trade simply for the sake of making a trade?" There's a lot of room between where the team stands now and "turn this around in seven months." A lot of us expected Burke's plan to be a more aggressive one than what's gone into action so far. That's all.


    You're still giving him credit for things he hasn't done yet. Positioning for those things may prove worthwhile, but that doesn't address the main point that he's been quieter than expected up to now. And I think your prediction on what will come Leafward in exchange for Kaberle is a wee bit optimistic (unless Burke can make a deal with the Flyers before Holmgren recovers from his head injury).

  15. Definately being unreasonable Leaf fan. "Fans" need to stop expecting miracles when the facts are in front of them. The fact is Burke was clearly looking to move up but couldn't do it without parting with Schenn as was the asking price for a top pick. He picked the best player he thought was available when it got to our pick.

    The Kaberle issue is beyond stupid to bring up, if it weren't for the clusterfuck of the Boston misunderstanding nobody would have even been discussing Kaberle today. Burke stated publicly that he didn't want to shop him until JayBo landed somewhere which is the smart and prudent move. If he'd made a deal tonight and then a week later a team that misses out on JayBo is willing to pay a higher price everyone would be bitching that he jumped the gun.

    Burke has signed several coveted Free Agents, reportedly has the inside track on another one in Gustavsson, and has given up no assets to do it. Posts like these should be reserved for the end of the summer when we see what type of roster he actually builds.

  16. hey ryan

    your right about that .. I did give him credit for "future moves"

    but as long as Gusto doesnt sign with another team, and as long as kaberle doesnt play game of this coming season ... we have no choice but to wait right? Why do people want him to do SOMETHING, ANYTHING if its not worth it?

    If by game 1 we are status quo DGB, go crazy .. but until that time be patient (can't be too hard, we are after all Leaf fans lol)

  17. Was very much looking forward to the Schenn brothers leading the way for the next decade and a half as only good Saskatchewan boys can. Huge let-down, but LA clearly wanted him - I don't fault Burke for this. I'm in his camp as solidly as ever.

    Two things I picked up from watching TSN's clip a few times through:

    1) The conversation with Ottawa.
    Burke: What do you wanna do?
    Murray: Well, I'll flip you-
    Burke: Kadri's the kid we're gonna take. Is that the kid you want?

    Interesting that Burke didn't hear Murray out at that point, interrupting him outright. Probably because he was still fuming over not landing Schenn. I can't help but wonder what Ottawa was prepared to offer. Not like they have anything I even remotely covet.

    2) In Duthie's interview with Burke and Kadri, he poked Kadri about his lack of belligerence and truculence. Burke chimed in with a firm "We'll look for that later".

    Music to my ears. Come July 1st, this team is gonna look a whole lot meaner.

  18. In my opinion, if Cox can be trusted at all, there was only one serious move Burkie could have made, and, if true, the only "mistake" I think Burkie made-
    From The Spin-

    The Islanders, with the No. 1 overall pick, weren't interested in trading it to anyone.

    "The Islanders never gave us a chance to swing," said Burke.

    --The Lightning, with the No. 2 pick, were willing to give it up if the Leafs were offering defenceman Luke Schenn in return. Burke wasn't, and as it turned out, John Tavares, the apple of his eye, wouldn't have been there with the second overall pick anyway.

    "We'd be without Luke Schenn and I'd look like an idiot," said Burke.

    --The Avalanche, with the No. 3 selection, were under the leadership of greenhorn GM Greg Sherman, who had taken over only 23 days earlier. The Leafs were willing to take on difficult contracts like those owned by Ryan Smyth (three more years, $15.5 million) and Scott Hannan (two more years, $9 million) but Sherman was understandably not ready to wheel and deal.

    --The Thrashers, with the No. 4 pick, would have surrendered it for Tomas Kaberle and the No. 7 pick, paving the way for the Leafs to draft Brayden Schenn or Evander Kane. But Burke did not want to use Kaberle to move up in the draft, so that negotiation went nowhere.

    --The Kings, with the No. 5 pick, took Schenn and simply had no interest in what the Leafs were offering. If you look at the Leaf depth chart, it's not hard to figure out why."

    As I look through that (besides Cox's bitchy little aside about our depth), it's both the King's and the Av's GMs lack of foresight and confidence that was the problem. Kaberle (+ prospect if necessary) to switch #5 with #7 would have strengthened LA considerably.
    The mistake was over-valuing or reserving Kaberle re: the Atlanta deal. I think Burkie should have pulled that trigger. But what we can get for Kaberle, or anyone else for that matter, isn't over yet. Philly in particular is in deep sh-t with the cap next season and absolutely must move a serious amount of $ off the books. Jeff Carter anyone??? That would also bring justice to a deal that should have done a while ago.

    I think, if you look at it fairly, Burke has done close to all he COULD do, but it takes two to make a deal.

    As a last thought, I think there are GMs that are either terrified of a Burki-fied Leafs or will not deal with him out of petty spite or even envy. If true, they don't deserve to GM an NHL team.

  19. wow - best musings I have read on web in a while. testament to quality of blog i suppose

    the frustration felt today is simply a product of impatience. if the cupboard wasnt so empty we would be very satisified with Kadri.

    role of cba hasn't been discussed. new gms would be terrified of all transactions. trades are not the poker game they used to be. most organizations are primarily concerned about salary.

    kaberle's value is hard to define. i have always thought it would be highest at trade deadline. he could definetely put a team over the top w his powerplay skills.

    sadly at the pace the leafs are going we are two more years at least from contending. in todays nhl the trading partners dont exsist there isn't the same lucrative returns, far fewer buyers in the market.

    two years ago when i spoke doom and gloom about this team i suggested they need to make only correct or postive decisions for five years to contend. this is year three. if jfj and ntc did not exist two years would have sufficed.

    it is hard to believe but not trading draft picks is serious progress for the leafs front office. even last year you could argue we gave up too much to acquire schenn. no other team traded up this year.

    i know schenn is great but the key to long term sucess is drafting best in your position - detroit consistently finds the best player available.

    thank you dgb for making my leaf obsession bearable. i really hope a cup will set me free - i have come to loathe the team that much.

    3 belleville bulls in the first round

    gary nlyund
    jeff farkas
    landon wilson
    jeff jackson
    bob mcgill

    on draft day coming away with one
    useful piece is a huge sucess

    oh i forgot lucas cereda

  20. Hey guys... thanks for all the comments overnight. A few thoughts:

    Gustavsson - As others have mentioned, Burke hasn't closed the deal yet. This would be a nice addition, although it's worth remembering that we're talking about a backup goalie.

    @cferneyh - "Let's take a step back and think about the roster he inherited." Well, that's fairly easy to do given that it's 90% identical to the one he has today.

    Re: Kaberle/Bouwmeester - If waiting out JaBo is Burke's plan, that's fine. But Anaheim didn't wait, and they found a team willing to pay a ransom for Pronger, a much older player who needs a new (apparently massive) contract.

    @PalHal - I'm very curious to see if we hear any anonymous mumblings from GMs about Burke's PR blitz and whether it hurt him this weekend. I think it's safe to say it didn't help.

    Realistic expectations - A few people seem to be suggesting that Burke has done all he could. I don't buy that. Cliff Fletcher was far more aggressive in his time on the job than Burke has been, and he was only so supposed to be the caretaker. Not all of those moves look good in hindsight, of course, and maybe that's an argument for Burke being patient. But you can't say he hasn't had the chance. He's had a trade deadline and a draft, and so far nothing.

    One of the anonymous folks used the perfect word: "underwhelming". I don't think Burke has done a bad job or been a failure by any stretch. But he's been decidely underwhelming so far.

  21. Burke is nothing if not patient. When Brian Burke traded for the Sedins, and when he traded for Pronger, he'd been GM of the Canucks and Ducks respectively for over a year.

    You guys really need to come down.

  22. Having just seen this episode of the Simpsons, I look at it like the fight between the Mob and the Yakuza, and Burke is that little guy in the white suit. Like Homer says, "You know when he does something, it's going to be good."

    I'm not in a huge rush to bury him because for at least three of those seven months he's been in charge, the rosters have been frozen. Yet, he still managed to land Bozak & Hanson in that time, and seems to have positioned the Leafs as the front-runner for the Monster. I think it's a little bit disingenuous to suggest he's done nothing.

    The other part is that all those rumours we kept hearing.. well, who knows exactly who substantiated they were? There was at least four different versions of the Boston rumour.

    The way I read that awesome clip with Bryan Murray was that Burke knew Ottawa wanted Kadri, Murray was dithering about offering something to move up, Burke could tell he wasn't going to get what he wanted, and so he told Murray to save his breath.

  23. In answer to your question

    "am I being an unreasonable Leaf fan?"

    In this case, yes.

    You are usually a little more level headed. But nobody was able to move up to the top 10. So I guess that makes the other GM's just as boneheaded.

    There are no quick fixes here. He got a good player, he didnt give anything up. It is going to take more time to fix this thing.

    And that old saw about the first step to getting out of a hole is to stop digging....well Burke has done that. What he does over the next year or so is the getting out of the hole. And the Leafs wont emerge from the hole for at least 2years.

    Be prepared for them to miss the playoffs again this year, its a real possibility. But if their goaltending improves then Wilson can likely steer them into Round 1.

    I think the team the Leafs ice in OCtober will be dramaticall different from a year previous. I would guess at least half the forwards will not have been Leafs in 2008.

    JFJ, and the meddling owners, put the Leafs deep down. At this stage, not making mistakes is the best thing they can do.

  24. Sheesh, I feel like Cam Neely against Wendel Clark in here. Guys, give me a break. I'm pummeled out.

  25. This is what I noticed last night about Burke: He'll never be dissected in the media for his lack of moves because they love him too much.

    He allows himself to be miked.

    The TSN panel spends the first few minutes talking about Kaberle/Kessel (even saying, "we'll get to the Pronger trade in a minute." Since when is a rumoured trade bigger news than a breaking major trade?).

    Then, during the TSN interview with Kadri, they ask the kid one question, and then pretty much dismisses him with a "that's enough son, let the adults talk now," and then go on to ask Burke about six questions.


    Burke realizes this, so as long as he keeps the media happy, all is good.

  26. @Stephen...

    "But nobody was able to move up to the top 10. So I guess that makes the other GM's just as boneheaded."

    But the other GMs didn't spend two months telling everyone who'd listen that they wanted to move up.

    Burke clearly felt that trading up would be best for the Maple Leafs. When it didn't happen, he visibly sulked through the rest of the first round.

    If Burke can be disappointed in how things worked out, I don't see why it's unreasonable for Leaf fans to be too.

  27. "But the other GMs didn't spend two months telling everyone who'd listen that they wanted to move up."

    That's because other GMs don't have 20 reporters following them around 24/7 asking them what they are going to do every 5 seconds looking for at least ONE soundbite to publish in tomorrow's paper.

    Was it Burke over-hyping the draft or was it the media?

    Burke said what he would "like to do" and that didn't work out, so yes he can be disappointed and Leaf fans can be disappointed but to say he's done nothing since taking the job is typical Leaf fan hyperbole.

    It's been that type of pressure to "do something" that has dogged the Leafs for over 20 years and kept them trading away the future for past their prime names and keeping them from building a true contender.

    Everyone in the Leafs brass has said from the start that this will be a process and to be patient.

    Funny how those old Leaf fan tendencies still rear their ugly heads from time to time.

  28. @Dan...

    "Was it Burke over-hyping the draft or was it the media?"

    Every previous Leaf GM had to deal with the same media, and we never had it play out like this. So I'm going to go ahead and say it was Burke.

    Remember, he made his comments about Tavares at a press conference that he called. It's not like the media was hounding him on the way to his car every night.

  29. "1) The conversation with Ottawa.
    Burke: What do you wanna do?
    Murray: Well, I'll flip you-
    Burke: Kadri's the kid we're gonna take. Is that the kid you want?

    Interesting that Burke didn't hear Murray out at that point, interrupting him outright. Probably because he was still fuming over not landing Schenn. I can't help but wonder what Ottawa was prepared to offer. Not like they have anything I even remotely covet."

    1) The leafs always had Kadri as their 1st pick and they were no way they were gonna trade that pick because they really wanted him. All the deals Burke was trying to make never included the 7th, he said that in the interview but I guess many leafs fans were too busy bitching about the actual pick to hear that and every club wanted a pick back and Burke was not swapping picks. I think what he done was smart. In regards with cutting off Murray, I would be the same as in "look I know you want the kid, we want him, we are picking him", that's why you hear Murray tell Burke that he is in the driver's seat. If Burke was pissed off, it would be because he had so little to work with considering what he wanted to do. Imagine if he somehow acquired a top 5 pick and didn't lose that 7th pick or any 2nd rounders/future picks. You would of been singing a different tune because you know who huge that would of been. To me that means a lot and no, if you are happy, really happy with Kardi as your pick (and a heck of a pick too) you can and try to shoot for the stars in getting a top 5 pick and if it doesn't work out, you still land a great player. I don't know who Burke would of wanted to get if it was Schenn or not but who ever it was it would be with the idea that who ever it would of been the Leafs were still gonna pick Kadri regardless.

    "2) In Duthie's interview with Burke and Kadri, he poked Kadri about his lack of belligerence and truculence. Burke chimed in with a firm "We'll look for that later"."

    Duthie's a moron. Here's a refresher, top six - skill players, bottom six - "plumbers" ie belligerence and truculence hence Burke honestly said we'lll look for that later, as in the later rounds. Who looks for 3rd forth liners witth their 1st round pick in a draft as deep as this one?

    In terms of the over all day, I can only said I wish we could of picked up another 1st rounder and by that I mean in the lower picks (20-30 range) since our 2nd rounders are quite low and how many players dropped we could of had a nice player but in the end we drafted well all considering. Lets see what happens over the summer.

    Good job to Brian Burke and the Leafs!

  30. "very previous Leaf GM had to deal with the same media, and we never had it play out like this. So I'm going to go ahead and say it was Burke.

    Remember, he made his comments about Tavares at a press conference that he called. It's not like the media was hounding him on the way to his car every night."

    Because practically every previous Leaf GM made the bonehead move to appease the media and homer fans. And up until last year's draft, we've always had it play out with us on the losing end come playoff time with nothing left in the cupboard. I'm glad that tradition has ended.

    I wonder why he called a press conference? Could it have been because he was being hounded constantly about what he was going to do maybe, and because it was RIGHT BEFORE THE DRAFT LOTTERY?

    He never made any promises he'd be drafting Tavares during that press conference. Had he reacted to the media taking him saying "attempt" and making it into a promise, we'd be without Schenn today. No thanks.

    Sure he would have liked to draft him, but knew that was 99% not going to happen without moving Schenn which he has said ALL ALONG he isn't doing.

    Everyone seems to think Burke likes to make a splash, but forget that his biggest draft (the Sedins) involved drafting two players that were NOT the biggest names in that year's draft at the time.

  31. I'm not thrilled with what Burke has done, or rather hasn't done, but I think we need to contextualize it.

    He has little to nothing worth trading. Kaberle and Kubin have been trade eligible for all of 24 hours.

    The CBA and current cap environment have dramatically changed the way assets are valued.

    Draft picks used to be thrown around like pennies, this year only one first round pick changed hands at the trade deadline.

    With the cap levelling off and likely to fall, teams are finding it difficult to put together trades where talent and cap hits balance out. Case in point, Ottawa can't even get a nibble on a 50 goal scorer?

    If there were lots of trades going down, teams cracking into the top 10 at the draft and others dramatically re-shaping their rosters, I'd be concerned. But the silence out there is pretty strange: there were 45 deals at last years draft and likely single digits this year.

    I think the Leafs' re-building process is going to be one of little steps rather than huge sweeping changes. We may have to set our short-term expectations accordingly.

  32. Hey, he refused to deal our Luke and Saviour, plus took the guy the Sens wanted! I'd say full marks to Burkie for his draft performance.

  33. DGB is right, people.

    I'm relieved that Leaf management is showing a modicum of patience for the first time in my life, but presumably, being a good GM at some point involves more than the absence of bad.

    The wait continues.

  34. So how is it that the Ducks were able to absolutely rape Philly by trading their most marketable d-man? Sure, the Flyers have a man-crush on anybody Prongers' size and Kaberle is a tad undersized for their tastes, but seriously? That deal was precisely the kind of thing Leaf fans have been looking for out of Burke.

    Then, the Flames trade Leopold and a 3rd round pick to the Panthers for the rights to negotiate with Jay Bouwmeester until the FA period starts.

    That is also the type of deal Leaf fans have been looking for. Could Burke have parlayed Kubina or Kabs into Bouwmeester? I think so considering the Leafs have all sorts of cap room (more if we lose Kubina) while the Flames took a chance even though they have zero cap room and had to play with a short bench last year because of it. So, Leopold is more attractive to the Panthers than Kubina or Kaberle? I don't think so.

    Burke has done an excellent job of shaking the branches in the undervalued US College and European FA market. Don't get me wrong, signing Bozak and Hanson were excellent deals for the future of this team. I also think Kadri has the potential to be the second best offensive player in this draft. If Monster chooses Toronto, that will be a major coup for the Leafs.

    But, where is the creativity we thought Burke would bring to the trade table? Including the "WTF? Kolzig?" trade, there's been more head scratching than head nodding.