I didn't want to write one of these, but the Kaberle saga has chewed me up and spit my opinion out. At least I made it until the 14th of August.
It isn't rooted in American bias that I believe in Brian Burke's plan for the Toronto Maple Leafs, rather, the root of this faith is found in Burke's credentials. Love him, hate him, steal his newspaper, or mow his lawn, Brian Burke has a successful formula for constructing hockey teams.
A Stanley Cup ring and Olympic Silver is nothing to balk at. I have always found it shallow to analyze the quantity in which these things occur for someone in professional sports. That said, Brian Burke is a professional.
His handling of the Tomas Kaberle situation has offered nothing short of that observation, at least since July 1st. He handled it professionally before then, but as the only NHL news seems to be related to either Ilya Kovalchuk or Tomas Kaberle, he has continued to act with poise.
As a Leafs fan, I am with everyone else in that I do not value Kaberle for what he is. Perhaps if the team were more successful as he made his consecutive All-Star appearances (including a win in the accuracy contest), then the appreciation for Kaberle would be what it should.
Maybe if he shot more we'd love him more, but there has always been something else to Kaberle's game. Kaberle's on-ice vision is wide and exceptionally clear. His decision making is prototypical of the professional athletes for whom the game slows down from time to time.
Whatever his shortcomings are, and he has them (as do all players), Tomas Kaberle is an asset to any of the 30 teams in the National Hockey League.
Brian Burke knows this, and it's why he has to play this situation perfectly. Perfectly. There's a bit more at stake with the Kaberle situation, though the media and fans do have a good grasp of it.
This is more to Burke than a return for the Maple Leafs organization and it's more than his credibility, this is Brian Burke's livelihood at stake. What he does for a living. What he has made sacrifices in his life for. What he has pursued as a professional and built his life around.
It may not be the most difficult decision he'll ever have to make, but still, this is what Burke does. This is what he chose to pursue in life, and not handling a situation as delicately as said situation calls for, pulls into question all of the aforementioned facets of the decision yet to be made.
The reason why the Kaberle situation is so important is because this is likely the last chance that the organization itself has to rebound from the Muskoka Five, when the returns for Mats Sundin, Darcy Tucker, Bryan McCabe, Kaberle, and Pavel Kubina would likely have pushed Toronto back into the playoffs by now.
Burke is at the helm now, and he's got to show that he has the integrity and the stones to do a job that would challenge any GM. He's got to prove this to himself as much as the organization and fans. And, once again, Burke is proving himself.
If the best offers are yet to come, then the Toronto GM has to wait. He needs the biggest return on Kaberle that he can get whether it's before his no-trade kicks back in, or the 2011 trade-deadline.
Kaberle is one hell of a player, but Burke does need to send him packing. MLSE has to do something to stop the bleeding from the '08 trade deadline and recover from the John Ferguson Jr. era. This is the only chance at redemption that they'll ever have.
If Tomas Kaberle was almost traded for Jeff Carter, than Burke needs a return on par with what that deal would be translated to today—sort of like adjusting for inflation. As I typically do not, I won't start speculating on who the best deal would bring back to Toronto, but what it has to be, is offensively proven, or a prospect that's a sure fire thing.
The "Kessel Deal" was a risk for Burke, but I feel that the Kaberle situation will resonate much longer. If Toronto does get back someone who can score 40 goals, Leafs Nation will probably see it as a steal, but for Brian Burke it may always be remembered as an even deal.
The Kessel deal is a win for now, and whoever made the slideshow showing Kessel versus every No. 2 pick since 1990 put that on display for all to see (even though he suggested that in the end it was about equal). Getting Phaneuf was a treat, who would have thought? And shipping out Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala in the same deal? That's Hall of Fame stuff there (exaggerating).
Burke has proven that he can swing things for the best overall return, but there come times where it is absolutely crucial to come out on top of a trade, and this is one of those situations. Whether the news breaks as we're jumping into a lake or skating on one, Burke's gotta win this one.