Comparing Burkified New-Look Leafs Among Northeast on Way to The Cup

Graeme BoyceCorrespondent IAugust 17, 2010

MONTREAL- APRIL 10:  Christian Hanson #20 of the Toronto Maple Leafs celebrates his game tying goal during the NHL game against the Montreal Canadiens on April 10, 2010 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Quebec, Canada.  The Maple Leafs the Canadiens 4-3 in overtime.  (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)
Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images

As Brian Burke weighs options to continually improve the Toronto Maple Leafs and ensure his new-look team not only contends in the Northeast, minimally, but that they also aggressively compete for The Cup, and while fans debate who'd look better in the blue and white, his rival GMs are trying their best to improve and deliver winning teams.  Try as they might, only one team wins The Cup each year.

These days, this all has to be done with an eye to winning in the short-term; not because BB is operating under a Ballardesque dictatorship, imposed by Richard Peddie and the board, but because of the good ol' cap system - meant to ensure profitability as well as sustainability - notwithstanding the greater issue of delivering an excellent product on the ice night after night.

The pressure is on to win now, and anything can happen once a team gels and finds that winning formula sitting unhindered in their locker room.  We all recall how it looked like it was going to be an all-Canadian World Series, until the Blue Jays and Expos winning seasons were at once and finally interrupted by a strike. 

All of this illustrious wheeling and dealing over the past summer, given said cap restraints, has brought front-end loaded contracts, such as Boston's Marc Savard, under legal scrutiny, and will take the NHL down the road toward another show-down with players and, if so, surely yet another strike and/or lockout.

Despite obtaining free agent winger Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg and several other 3rd and 4th liners, who are sure to deliver more punch up front, via trades, the team by leading with John Mitchell at centre will not intimidate the Boston Bruins down the middle - even with Tuuka Rask between the pipes.  Interestingly, the other teams in the Northeast are not looking too fierce, as contenders for The Cup, either.

Once, after winning Cups with Detroit, the Maple Leafs converted Red Kelly from a defenseman into a centreman, and he then continually and rather successfully fed Frank Maholich passes, which turns into goals and victories and championships.  So, perhaps Burke is indeed talking to Wilson about converting Tomas Kaberle as well, keeping in mind one of the Leafs' best players ever, Wendel Clark, was drafted as a defenseman.

Thus, while Burke will continue to tweak his team before the puck drops in camp, Habs fans must be cringing at the thought of their GMs next move.  Speaking of goalies, they just dealt for Karri Ramo, swapping Cedrick Desjardins in the process, but Ramo will remain with the KHL for another season.  If building out from the goal line is the mantra, then Carey Price had better be signed soon.

The Habs goalie situation, and lack of depth (after all, next in line is Alex Auld) makes me wonder if Tim Thomas is on the block, quite seriously, and whether Pierre Gauthier has plans for a blockbuster lined up, especially since his enforcer left to join the Green Party in Canada, rather than play hockey in Montreal.

Boston got clobbered by Philadelphia in the playoffs.  So, changes were made, and the team has added Nathan Horton, Gregory Campbell and Tyler Seguin.  The latter is expected to play alongside David Krejci and Marc Savard.  Unless, of course, Savard ends up playing for another team... who can afford his services.  I`m surprised Michael Ryder is still on the team, frankly.  Moreso, Beantown still needs a puck moving defensemen in the wake of trading Dennis Wideman.

I, for one, am looking forward to seeing Marcel Mueller flying down the wing, only to be met by Zdano Chara.  Be assured, there`ll be no more outback-style McCabe-flinging this time around.

Ottawa GM Bryan Murray has decided to stick with Jason Spezza and Daniel Alfredson to lead his team and their charge to the top.  In other news, he also re-signed Chris Campoli (recalling he was obtained after trading Dean Mcammond and their top draft pick) and Peter Regin this summer, and added a few decent bodies, like Sergei Gonchar.  But they will certainly have weighty issues in the locker room, and the burden of winning will fall on either Brian Elliott or Pascal Laclaire.

In the tough guy department, once again the stand-up stars of the evening, will be the anticipated Colton Orr versus Matt Carkner bout(s), when the Buds face off and stare down the Sens this year. 

Buffalo re-signed Cody McCormick and Mike Grier before free agency, and then lost underperforming Henrik Tallindar and Toni Lydman.  On the back-end, newcomer puck moving Jordan Leopold brings some scoring prowess to the team, and then upfront they added added Rob Niedermayer, an aging veteran at best.  Patrick Lalime will backstop Ryan Miller.  But buying out local boy Tim Kennedy wasn't the most prudent move, although he definitely lost the confidence of management during their first round exit last year.  They rely on Tyler Ennis to bring the spark.

The Sabres hope Shaon Morrisonn will bring the beef, as a stay-at-home blueliner, who provided the Capitals with some hitting - notwithstanding the Ovie highlights.

I think there will be shakeups coming down the pipe within the Northeast.  Although the team needs to address the concerns of centre ice, the best of the bunch are The Leafs at the moment.