Is Brian Burke Setting the Bar Too High for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
TSN recently did a status report on the Toronto Maple Leafs and how they’re coming along. Burke seemed to be very satisfied by what he sees in Toronto, maybe even too satisfied. In the status report, Burke said that he feels with all the transactions that have happened, the Maple Leafs are the seventh best team in the Eastern Conference. A very debatable statement, to say the least.
Granted, Toronto has seriously taken a turn for the better since the arrival of Burke. However, whether or not they are a playoff team is still up for debate.
When looking at the Eastern Conference, they’ve got some really good teams in there that are going to provide some big competition for the Maple Leafs. Teams like Washington, Pittsburgh, Boston, Philadelphia, New Jersey, and Buffalo seem like a lock for a postseason berth already. With that being said, that leaves two slots open to the remaining Eastern Conference teams.
The Ottawa Senators, Montreal Canadiens, Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers, and the Toronto Maple Leafs are all looking to one of the two remaining seeds. That’s five teams fighting for two spots; not good odds for Toronto, if you ask me. Throw in the fact that the Thrashers and Islanders could be thrown into the mix at any time, and you’ve got a serious brawl going on for the remaining spots.
Think that wraps up the bad news? Not at all. Looking at how much the Tampa Bay Lightning have improved, I think it’s almost a guarantee that they will lock up one of the two playoff spots. That leaves Montreal, Ottawa, New York, Toronto, and possibly Atlanta and the other New York fighting for one spot.
What place will the Leafs finish in?
And you know what? I’m not finished yet.
At this point in time, the Montreal Canadiens, Ottawa Senators, and New York Rangers all look more capable of placing eighth than Toronto.
Basically, when it’s all said and done, Burke could be setting Leafs fans up for yet another year of disappointment. If you look at all the things just mentioned, it looks like Toronto’s projected seed at this point would be 11th in the Eastern Conference, four down from where Burke sees them placing.
However, I’m not going to be a complete downer. I am a proud member of Leafs nation, after all, so I have to find some positives in the situation.
Burke is a man capable of pulling off a big deal at any point in the season if he feels it is necessary, and would help Toronto solidify the playoff berth. With that being said, I think you really have to look at improving the offense.
Burke said that you can never have too many defenseman, but at this point in time he has eight of them. Surely they can live without one or two. Throw in a great defensive prospect in Keith Aulie, and Burke has options on the blue line.
If Burke were to sacrifice two good defenders for one great forward, I don’t think we would mind too much. Hell, even one good defender for one forward would be a good move for the Leafs.
To be honest, we have one of the worst offenses in the entire National Hockey League and we are in desperate need of some help. If Burke can just fix that, he’ll be good to go.
Assuming Gustavsson develops into a solid starter for Toronto, thanks to mentoring from Giggy, you’ve got a great franchise goalie between the pipes. If the defense can stay healthy this year, you’ll no doubt have a very solid blue line. If Bozak, Kulemin and most importantly, Nazem Kadri can develop at the rate most expect them to, then you’ve got some great young guns on your offense.
I am going to once again shift back to the negatives, though. Keep in mind, Toronto is the youngest team in the league come the start of next season. Although some have made that work for them, Toronto is a different case.
They’re still looking to develop the young guys, unlike other teams who already had proven stars as their young guns on the team. An example would be the Blackhawks, who had Kane and Toews.
Youth, while a good thing, needs to be balanced out with some good veterans on the team. Again, a good example would be the Stanley Cup Champions, the Chicago Blackhawks (before post cup breakout).
So I’m going to wrap up by saying that Brian Burke has more work ahead of him than he may think he does. As a member of Leafs nation, I do hope he can live up to the hype he’s created and take Toronto into the playoffs, but as a hockey fan, I do have to be realistic about the situation.
I do believe Toronto is on the verge of becoming a playoff team for many years beyond, but it’s not a done deal just yet.
The Blackhawks recently broke their Stanley Cup drought, making Toronto the longest reigning cup drought. Not something you want to be tagged with for too long, but then again, we’ve been tagged with it since ’67. Hopefully Chicago won’t be the only team to end their Stanley Cup drought in this decade. But to become a champion means to be the best, and that is something we are not, at least not yet.
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