Takin a T/O with BT—Brian Burke's Mystery Clouds the Toronto Maple Leafs
The fandom of the Toronto Maple Leafs are stuck in a very unfamiliar position after less than one week of the free agent market being open.
Much like an ostrich, the residents of Leafs Nation have had their heads forced under the sand, oblivious to what's going on around them.
After suffering under the dysfunctional tyranny of the John Ferguson Jr. era and openly complaining about it; floating the ever reoccurring suspicions that management doesn't, in fact, care about winning and only the dollars and cents; and the long-winded ridicule of the NHL's other fan-bases about being old, inept, yet full of themselves, Leafs fans were used to having all the details and almost expecting what was coming next.
Trading a draft pick at the trade deadline for veteran help that wasn't needed because they'd finished out of the playoffs? No one was surprised. Releasing or trading away a player because he didn't perform as advertised only to watch him flourish somewhere else? Yup, that's Toronto's luck. Giving big-money, long-term, no-movement clause contracts to veterans who were either unproven, undeserving or both? Come on people, this is the 2000's...where have you been?
Now, while Leafs fans have been seeing part of the picture, they still don't have it in full focus.
Going back as recently as the build-up to the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, the talk surrounded Brian Burke. We knew he wanted to move up, we knew—or thought we knew—that he was targeting one of two players: John Tavares or Brayden Schenn.
As Leafs fans, we were completely on board.
But then, a funny thing happened on the way to our picture perfect end to June...
The plan didn't pan out. Tavares went first, Schenn went fifth, and Burke (unable to move up) was stationed at seventh overall, exposing Leafs fans to their first big question: If option A and option B don't work out, then what happens?
The answer to that question—an answer none saw coming—was Nazem Kadri.
As the few days between the draft and the beginning of free agency wore away, the questions started to come: Who was coming to Toronto? How active was Burke going to be? What about the futures of the tradeables, the Kaberles and Kubinas?
Right away the last question was answered, as Pavel Kubina was shipped off to Atlanta (along with Tim Stapleton) for Garnet Exelby and Colin Stuart.
While neither player offered scoring help, Exelby brought back the much-needed sandpaper the defense lacked last year, along with a short-term deal and salary flexibility.
In the meantime, Burke signed another tough guy—former New York Ranger Colton Orr—to bolster the forward groupings while he bided his time waiting for the big fish.
That fish eventually floated his way in the form of Mike Komisarek, another big, burly defenseman who played the "Brian Burke style" of the game.
After a quiet weekend devoid of any heavy activity, the Leafs added another fish to the pond in the form of Francois Beauchemin.
With all the sandpaper, the Leafs needed that shot from the point and another offensive mind.
In all the excitement, though, with the new additions, another question keeps coming to my mind. Hopefully, I'm not alone.
Of course, this is the unknown that we talked about earlier in that, with twelve NHL-capable defensemen, something should happen right?
I mean, unless Burke is planning on building the Toronto Marlies' AHL defense while he's at it, there's no way that Luke Schenn, Tomas Kaberle, Francois Beauchemin, Mike Komisarek, Ian White, Anton Stralman, Jeff Finger, Garnet Exelby, Jonas Frögren, Jamie Sifers, Phil Oreskovic and Mike Van Ryn can all feasibly split NHL minutes (Well, unless Mike Van Ryn starts the season in the NHL and then gets hurt again...that kind of opens up space).
So now, Leafs fans have to sit, wait and speculate.
I feel fairly certain in saying that Schenn, Beauchemin, Komisarek and Exelby will be with Toronto come September (although stranger things have happened) while Sifers, Oreskovic, Stralman and Frögren could very well see more AHL time than NHL time this year.
After that, you're left with Finger, Van Ryn, Kaberle and White, who are carry-overs from the past regime that could net the Leafs a much-needed forward in return.
The odds-on favorites to be traded are Kaberle (for obvious reasons) and White, who is a 25-point defender that costs less than $1 million (due to make $950k), but even that is still just here-say.
The biggest question that's going to be asked is "who stays and who goes" as we get closer to the season, while many will also wonder who'll be coming back the other way.
Unfortunately though, there are no leads to go on and no trends to follow. Leafs Nation just has to wait and see on this one.
Bryan Thiel is a Senior Writer and an NHL Community Leader for Bleacher Report. If you want to get in contact with Bryan you can do so through his profile or you can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You can also check out his previous work in his archives.
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