Maple Leafs' Burke Playing With The Media on The Way to The Cup

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IJuly 24, 2009

BUFFALO, NY - MARCH 27:  Justin Pogge #1 of the Toronto Maple Leafs defends the net against the Buffalo Sabres on March 27, 2009 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)

Many years ago, and this statement had quite an impact on me, a General Manager, when being quizzed by Toronto media personnel about possible upcoming trades, replied that there was nothing pending but he would in fact consider any move if it improved and thus benefited the team, and presumably ensured a Cup, or at least a fighting chance in the process. 

I've always shown an unflabbable level of support for Leafs management and believed they knew what they were doing, year after year.  I wonder why in the midst of an interview in the Toronto media, GM Brian Burke would mention the 'no-trade' issue, and wonder if it's a simple red herring, yet one that needs to be stated no matter how close he is to doing a deal, that he is not considering any movement of Kaberle... because he's not allowed to, because of the no-trade clause.

Lately I've read about the cerebral Mike Gillis over in BC, and how Brian Burke decimated both the Canucks and Ducks prospects and draft picks to demonstrate immediate results.

Burke has brought to Toronto a few big men to patrol the Leafs defensive end.  I firmly believe they will make their physical presence known and knock opposing players off the puck, and because our young forwards have been trained defensively well, they will come back to get loose pucks. 

Going down the stretch last season, Leafs forwards enjoyed a pretty good, as in productive, finish.  Although a lack of demonstrable 'finish around the net' throughout the year, I was impressed by young Christian Hanson.  There's not been much attention directed at the Leafs' forward lines this summer, with the exception of mentioning Mr Colton Orr, and a possible excess of left wingers.

Looking down the road, notwithstanding any more trade action, John Mitchell is poised for a truly decent breakout year.  On that topic, Jiri Tlusty is primed to make the jump, and is likely expected to by the coaching staff and management.  He did have a good year, by all accounts, netting 25 goals for the Marlies.

On the Euro tip, and another player mentioned in possible trade rumours (possibly heading to Pittsburgh to be re-united with Malkin), is Nikolai Kulemin.  He popped 15 goals last year and is going to look much more comfortable this year.  But the one guy who I hope has a spectacular year is the rather feisty Mikhail Grabovski.  Both Kulemin and Grabovski don't shine in the defensive zone, given their +/- stats.

Well, call in the calvary and look what Burkey has done.  He has flatly stated, or should I say implied, Toronto will not have a problem in the defensive zone this year or next.  However, the team has depth, too much NHL-quality depth along the blue line.

By definition, Burke has now improved the team.  He can now rest on his laurels and wait to see what happens during camp.  He's done his job.  The sizzle on the steak, the announcement we desire, a feared sniper, won't happen until mid-season.  Until that time, "the job" is the players to lose.