Takin' a T/O With BT: Brian Burke is Kneeling and Praying Nik Antropov is Wanted

xx yySenior Writer IFebruary 11, 2009

Flying the nest is hard to do, no matter how old you are.

Whether you're fresh out of high school and looking for a job, a new graduate with a shiny degree starting out the next stage of life, or moving in with your significant other in hopes of starting your own household, we all move on, out, and upwards at some point.

In life, you're allowed to look back. In sports? Not very often, if at all.

Once you're traded there's no "I'll be in town so I'll stay at my parent's place for a bit". There's no one to fall back on, no one to call to loan you five dollars, and nowhere to go if things at your new place don't work out.

Well, unless you're Sean Avery, but at this point even that's far from a sure thing with the New York Rangers.

As the trade deadline quickly approaches though, this is the reality that many players are faced with. Some may be leaving teams they've spent their entire careers with, while others have spent just a few seasons in a new environment, and are eyeing another change of scenery.

Some at least get a say in when, where, or if they go, but more often than not, the entrants are blind to wherever they end up.

Welcome to the world of Nik Antropov.

Since 1999/2000, Antropov has been a Toronto Maple Leaf, and he's arguably one of the most experienced players on the roster.

Yes Brad May has 977 games to his credit and he's one of two Leafs with Stanley Cup rings (the other being Pavel Kubina), but neither have been with Toronto for an extended length of time.

Both Antropov and Tomas Kaberle (another player embroiled in controversy) have been there and done that in Toronto.

They were around to see the team go the farthest it's been in years (Kaberle played in both Conference championships while Antropov missed the first in 1998 and was injured during 2002). They learned from one of the biggest stars in the franchise's recent memory in Mats Sundin and they've been through the heartbreak of the recent playoff drought.

That drought has left fans thirsty for a competitive team though, and of course competition comes at a price—familiar faces.

While some are entrenched in the belief that Tomas Kaberle should (and hopefully will) be a Leaf past the trade deadline, with Brian Burke's recent comments regarding Nik Antropov, it seems like the most successful Kazhakstanian player in NHL history will be looking for a new address.

His play this season "hasn't merited a contract extension" according to Burke. Apparently coming in second on this team in points and goals-scored (If not for a recent surge by Jason Blake he'd be first) has earned Nik nothing except the right for a bit of public ridicule.

He's given everything to this franchise (including his knees), been appreciative of their patience, and comitted himself to the cause.

After finally turning it around and winning back the fans, 'Little Nikky's' own drought has the blustering GM and the fans pondering his worth with his recent struggles.

Sixteen games without a goal or not, it's hard to perform consistently when the rest of the roster is inexperienced youngsters, middling third and fourth line players, or streaky cases themselves.

Sidenote: I've never understood the whole "degrade the player through the media and hope his performance picks up" thing. All it does is embarrass the player, create friction between himself and his coach/management, and give the public far too much knowledge/insight into what's going on in the life of said team.

It's almost like if you're failing high school math and your parents come over the PA system during announcements and say "If you don't start passing math we're sending you to live with Uncle Herman the Cabbage Farmer".

I hated highschool.

But much like last year, the team's premiere forward is on the trading block. Granted Nik is more than a few steps down from Mats Sundin calibre, but the mail slot to the MLSE offices is open awaiting offers.

With Burke announcing his public willingness to trade Antropov though, is it fair to expect any offer to blow the Leafs right out of the water and into (eventually) a playoff picture?

Not likely.

With his proclamation, Burke has cable-tied his own hands: Not only did Antropov's slump hurt his value, but why would a team with any interest (reports prior to the comments indicated those were few and far between) in Nik want to offer up anything detrimental to their organization's future for a player Burke doesn't want?

Seems like an awefully strange way of going about your business Brian Burke.

But as the days, hours, and minutes tick down to the end of the season, I guess there's only one thing that's for sure: Baring a change of heart, Nik Antropov is done as a Maple Leaf whether Brian Burke gets anything in return for him (trade) or not (free agency).

If Antropov walks via free agency it would be kind of ironic; After all it'd be those knees that caused so many headaches that'd be taking him to his fresh start.

Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you wanted to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile and you can also check out all of his previous work in his archives.


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