Changes Coming: Maple Leafs Must Show No Quarter On The Way to Cup

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IDecember 12, 2009

MONTREAL- DECEMBER 1:  Francois Beauchemin #22 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates with Joey MacDonald #29 after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 3-0 during the NHL game on December 1, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Canadiens 3-0.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

These are the moments that Toronto Maple Leafs GM Burke will decide whether Ian White fits his big team model, or Luke Schenn.  These too are the moments when Burke is weighing the futures of his UFAs.  The team iced today is not the one that will be iced next year, win or lose.

Size matters.  He said so after dealing Tlusty.

Brian Burke needs to deliver a contending team.  That's his mandate: to craft a hockey team that will contend for The Cup.  From the broadcasters, we hear that goalies win games, and defense wins games.  Winning teams can be crafted, says Burkie, and signed aboard The Monster and dealt with the blue line. 

This crafting takes time, we hear.  Toskala is hangin' in there, I have to admit with a pretty wicked glove hand, which brings us to the forwards.

No player is immune to inspection, with one possible exception: Schenn.  He was grounded against Washington in order to allow Toronto to showcase its excess of talent along the blueline, including, of course, White. 

The Leafs are playing well these days.  They are.  But Phil Kessel is not.  He's not scoring.  But neither are Hagman or Poni.  Points yes, but not exactly lighting it up lately.  We need their goals.  Yet it is in these defining moments that Burke is able to make his decisions.  These are gut decisions, and solely his to make.

He's likely to enjoy a plethora of advice from numerous legals under the employ of MLSE.  I'd still like to see him swing Lacavalier.  Take a look at Tampa's site, they don't need Lacavalier.  Stamkos is the future for them. 

So, how about Kaberle, who is underpaid, and Blake, who is overpaid, for  Lacavalier, who surely appreciates the extra $6 mil he'd make in endorsements and sponsorships playing in the Toronto market.

Toronto plays without a consistent spark these days, and it has shown with a lack of finish with the man advantage in particular.  When Kessel spanks the net with the puck, he inspires his linemates.  It's nice to see him connect on the powerplay. 

Even professional players need motivation; yes, they need the rah-rah to provide that needed squirt of adrenalin, to move faster, hit harder and score with authority.  Kessel will benefit from line changes deployed by Coach Wilson.  After his failure to demonstrate any killer instinct, despite his pillow fight in between, Kessel will have inspired himself after the effort against Washington. 

I wonder, in this vein, about young John Mitchell, when he returns.  After all, Matt Stajan has truly contributed to victories lately.  Hagman is expendable, as is Stempniak, and with decent contributions in a whole-game way recently, have added to their value.

Primeau looks like a big grinding centreman Toronto sorely needs, which leaves Wallin on the bubble, notwithstanding Grabovski, who in Burke's mind doesn't fit the big team model.  Kulemin is checking well, and scoring occasionally, and truly learning to play a solid defensive game, which seems to me like an investment paying off.

Decisions are coming.  Players will move.  Not during this festive season, but as we lead up the The Olympics, when Burke will surely impose another trade moratorium.  Among these: Marlies who will become Leafs in 2010. 

I'm looking forward to seeing the trucalent Brian Burke, when he truly starts wheeling and dealing on our behalf, crafting for the future, admitting that this is not the year the team he is mandated to make a contender will in fact not contend, and needs change.

Orr out.  Rosehill in.