As people are well aware, Brian Burke's goal for the Toronto Maple Leafs at the beginning of this season was to make the playoffs. Well the playoffs are finally here, but the Leafs are nowhere in sight.
During the Maple Leafs offseason address, Burke shed light on his plans for the offseason, as well as what his expectations are for next season. Burke expects the Leafs to be a real playoff contender. He also stated that even though the team is rebuilding, he does not expect it to take five years.
"I'm not interested...in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done," said Burke. "Maybe because of my age, maybe just because I know it doesn't have to be five years because it wasn't in Anaheim."
Burke doesn't like losing.
If he could have his way (which I am more than happy to support) he wants to build a young, contending team without affecting its future at all. With the changes that Burke has already made—mainly the addition of Dion Phaneuf and J.S. Giguere—the team is heading in the right direction.
When asked about the captain situation—and most people will remember Ron Wilson all but naming Dion Phaneuf the next captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs—Burke said that decision alone lies with the coaching staff of the team.
He said that it is there decision to put the team on the ice and it is their decision to reward players for their contributions to the success of the team. So all Leafs fans out there, you can expect to see Dion Phaneuf wear the C at the beginning of next season.
Burke also made it clear to us that the team would be aggressively pursuing trades in the offseason due to the weak crop of free agents. When asked about the whole situation with Tomas Kaberle, Burke had this to say:
"We're going to listen."
In my opinion this means that he has already got a deal in place for Kaberle. Burke has been known for doing the unpredictable, but in this case his answer shows us that he is not intent on making his intentions known to media. Just wait and then come draft time you will see Tomas Kaberle on his way out of Toronto.
When asked about what re-signings to expect in Toronto, Burke only really mentioned two names that he is actively trying to bring back next year: Jonas Gustavsson and Nikolai Kulemin.
Although the Leafs also have two more restricted free agents in John Mitchell and Christian Hanson, they were not mentioned among the players he is looking to re-sign.
As said previously, Burke will be aggressively pursuing trades this offseason. So, it is not out of the question to see Burke pull together a deal that could have Hanson or Mitchell or maybe even both leave in a trade with Kaberle for a top six forward in return. Both Hanson and Mitchell have a lot of talent that most teams would love to have in their system.
With Burke as the general manager nothing is out of the question anymore.
Another reason why either Hanson or Mitchell could be on the move is that Burke names two junior prospects that Leafs fans showed look for next year instead of one.
The first being Nazem Kadri (who Burke also mentioned isn't a lock to make the team just yet) as well as surprise Philippe Paradis (who was acquired in the Jiri Tlusty trade from Carolina).
If you look at the type of game that Paradis plays, you will see that it is very similar to Hanson and Mitchell's game. He is fast, responsible defensively, not afraid to play physically, has a great shot, and has the grit that Burke looks for in his players. If either Hanson or Mitchell does not return next season, look for Paradis right on the door step.
Even though this season may be over, the true test for Brian Burke is about to begin. Can he mold this team into a playoff contender come October? Only time will tell, but Burke has my full support as I hope to see my team finally able to contend once again.
Looking forward to reading your comments and hearing what you have to say on the subject.
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