Among Other Things, GM Brian Burke and Co. Bring Maple Leafs Credibility

Derek HarmsworthSenior Writer IApril 3, 2009

Within the last four days, the Maple Leafs have added what they feel is like "two free first round draft picks" by signing College free agents Christian Hanson and Tyler Bozak.

And Leafs Nation is overjoyed this dreary Friday afternoon, as the prospect cupboards just got two, shiny new pieces.

And while it remains to be seen whether or not Hanson or Bozak can make the jump in this league and become bona-fide NHL players, the fact remains the Leafs have two more prospects today than they did this time last week.  

And the price couldn't have been better, as the cost of acquiring the services for these young talents is strictly money, which we all know MLSE has more than enough of.

But aside from the different faces that have come into the club under Brian Burke's watch, both on and off the ice, there is something else the Leafs GM and his motley crew have brought to this organization, something it hasn't had in a very long time.


We are truly seeing a changing of the guard under Brian Burke and Co.  The words that were spoken at a press conference upon his arrival are finally coming to fruition.

There are detractors that said-and still do-that Brian Burke is a tinkerer. That Brian Burke doesn't build NHL teams, he simply adds to them to put them over the top.

And to be honest, if that is the case, well that's just fine.

Because what most people do not realize is that very few GM's are great at everything. Most are simply really good at a bunch of stuff.

Even if Brian Burke is a tinker type GM, it perhaps may not really matter.  It may not matter because he has done something to curb the fact that he may not be a big builder.

He has brought in people who are.

Even Detroit's Ken Holland, widely regarded as the league's top GM, doesn't have much of a hand at scouting at all.

Despite getting most all the credit for guys like Datsyuk and Zetterberg, the truth of the matter is, Holland had little to do with it.

It was his scouting staff, led by assistant GM Jim Nill and Hakan Anderson, that cultivated all of these late draft gems. Holland confirmed as much in an article written for the Hockey News last summer.

The following is an excerpt of the article Holland himself penned for The Hockey News.

When I became GM in 1997, our scouts might have worried I'd stick my nose in too much. That didn't happen. You either watch 150 games or don't get involved. I choose to let others do the majority of the legwork.

Jim Nill runs our amateur draft with help from (director of European scouting) Hakan Andersson and (director of amateur scouting) Joe McDonnell. They are the key decision-makers and run the draft. When I go to see amateur games or world junior games, I may write a note and give it to Jim, mentioning what I thought about a player or two, but he knows if he wants to, he can throw my note in the garbage.

I point out what I have seen and what my opinion is, just like a scout would, but ultimately it comes down to what our scouts think.

You see, it doesn't really matter that Brian Burke may not be the best draft GM, or the best builder.  All that matters is that he hires the proper people who do know how to do that, and it looks like he has.

Dave Nonis, Jeff Jackson, and Joe Nieuwendyk are three bright young minds, and appear to be Burke's go to guy when it comes to scouting and drafting.  

You see, when Brian Burke came to this town, he promised a few things.  Among them were the words that he would get a group together off the ice that fans could be proud of.  A group fans could feel comfortable with, and confident in.

Mission accomplished.

He also said he would then try to change the culture, and move out bodies and bring in new players.

Mission half accomplished.

He also said he would make Toronto a place where free agents would want to come to.  A place where people who have as many as 25 teams to choose from,lean toward.

With the signings of Hanson and Bozak, it looks like mission accomplished, though the free agent period will truly define this.

You see, a lot of people are critical that Brian Burke isn't a builder.  Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't.

But hey, he isn't doing this thing alone.

He has a management group full of bright, intelligent minds, and that is shining bright throughout the past week as Brian Burke and company begin to already shape next year's Maple Leafs team.

New players, new culture, and a new sense of credibility.  Something they haven't had in years.  

There is still lots of work to do, but hey, there is no question that the Leafs are a better team than they were a week ago this time.

And it's all thanks to Burke and Company dispensing the C word.


Just updating this at noon hour as it as been announced that Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson has been named the head coach of the US mens Olympic team for 2010.