Stockpiled Defense Offers More Questions for Burke

Bleacher Report Correspondent IJuly 7, 2009

DENVER - FEBRUARY 12:  Francois Beauchemin #23 of the Anaheim Ducks skates against the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on February 12, 2008 in Denver, Colorado. The Ducks defeated the Avalanche 2-1.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Toss Francois Beauchemin into the newly assembled core of defensemen, which will be on display next season.

Except Tomas Kaberle may not be a part of it come training camp.

The signing of the 29-year-old Quebec native from the Anaheim Ducks, with whom he won a Stanley Cup under the managerial direction of Brian Burke in 2007, holds nothing new in the way one would perceive the reconstruction of the Leafs.

Burke’s preference for players who have a gritty exterior is reflected in the acquisition of Beauchemin, and coincides with the theme of signings already completed since the free agency window opened on Jul. 1.

However, the Leafs now own 10-plus potential defensemen all capable of or determined to crack the final roster—all of whom are cast-iron fixtures behind the blue line, but possess no penchant for generating offense.

Of course, the latter statement would insinuate the departure of Kaberle via trade in order to restock the Leafs’ current makeup of forwards.

The possible swap for Boston Bruins sophomore Phil Kessel is pending, but it nonetheless demonstrates the kind of return that would have to be proposed.

A player of Kessel’s standards would undoubtedly enhance the Leafs’ plane of offense, especially if the player that is received for Kaberle in fact is a centre—a position in which the Leafs’ are in dire need.

But it would remove the only mobile defenseman within the roster as the lining of coarse skin that will surround Vesa Toskala, or maybe even Jonas Gustavsson, if he so chooses to make a lot of starved fans a bit more optimistic and Burke a securer man.

And they don’t boast particularly great vision nor the ability to send out a two-line pass idiosyncratic to Kaberle’s game.

The moves made by Burke alone are not exciting in the loosest definition of the word, and perhaps, at this point, it shouldn’t create the buzz and enthusiasm that Hedo Turkoglu has for the Air Canada Centre’s other primary tenant.

It is phase one, ground zero—call it what you will.

The time allotted for this project gave the franchise some buffer room and dampened short-term expectations.

Yet adding layers of ferocity may only suggest more minutes will be spent developing or toiling in the practice of penalty-killing scenarios.

Goal scoring, as it appears in the team that took a skate today for the first time since the end of the season, is a notion that has been totally neglected in Burke’s endeavour to lure the aforementioned Swedish netminder and build a steady fortress around the crease.

The Leafs lost 147 points of man power on the Mar. 4 trade deadline in conjunction with the trade involving Pavel Kubina to the Atlanta Thrashers, suggesting that the abundance of defensemen owned by the Leafs will at least be put to the test.

The rookies are coming through the system and may fill the spectre of the Leafs’ lost point getters. They too, however, aren’t of A-list and assured quality, considering the collegiate merits of Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson.

So the excitement, it seems, may simply belong to the plausible dismay of the Leafs’ next season in the form of a heightened draft position, of course.

Like the fact that the name of a Francophone will finally adorn the backside of a Leaf jersey, the equivocal direction of the Leafs’ rebuilding process isn’t being fully realized.

Consulting Beauchemin’s term of contract, the three-year signing suggests a time span much shorter than that afforded for attaining the status of a contender.

Or will he not be part of the equation when the Stanley Cup is a viable thought?

And the irony of all this haziness is that Burke, out of candour or swagger, has been more vocal than any other GM in the last month.


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