Monday Morning Musings with Me the Big E: Burke Makes Cuts, No Real Surprises

Eric WarrenCorrespondent IISeptember 27, 2010

LONDON, CANADA - SEPTEMBER 11:  Jerry D'Amigo #71 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a game against the Chicago Black Hawks during the NHL Rookie Tournament on September 11,2010 at the John Labatt Centre in London,Ontario. The Leafs defeated the Hawks 6-3. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke announces no fewer than 17 cuts on the weekend and in those cuts there were few, if any, surprises.

Goaltenders Jussi Rynnas and Ben Scrivens were equally impressive in terms of over all talent. Rynnas got a longer look appearing in three games versus the one that Scrivens appeared in.

Their stats are pretty well where they should be in their limited exposure and development, and though largely unimpressive, it is just the preseason and they were not going to be a factor in the regular season no matter how well they played.

Defensemen Keith Aulie, Jesse Blacker (junior), Korbinian Holzer, Mike Brennan, Simon Gysbers, Juraj Mikus, were also cut from the roster over the weekend and here is where a couple of people may start to get a little surprised.

While they all played fairly well, especially Aulie and Gysbers, they were all victims of the very deep defense that already exists.

One of the greatest things that Burke has done to date is to add a great deal of depth from the blue line back. While none of the above-mentioned defensemen are likely to crack the NHL lineup in the foreseeable future, it should be exciting for most fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs to know that for the next several years the team looks to be pretty solid in both the defensive and goal positions.

Forwards Jerry D'Amigo, Wayne Primeau (released from tryout), Brad Ross (sent to junior), Brayden Irwin, Robert Slaney, Marcel Mueller, Sam Carrick (junior), Andrew Crescenzi (junior), and Greg Scott were also cut from the big club.

Many people (read: fans) had mixed reactions to the cutting of Jerry D'Amigo, Marcel Mueller, and Wayne Primeau.

Jerry D'Amigo

Though on the smallish side, big things are expected of this 19-year-old. D'Amigo played very well in the recent rookie tournament and easily stood out among his peers as a solid playmaker and constant scoring threat.

The trouble is, when playing against other NHL-caliber prospects and players in the two preseason games he played in, he wasn't the same player; in fact, he wasn't even close.

In those two games, he managed two shots on goal and was an overall minus-3. The message is pretty clear, he simply isn't ready to compete at this level.

Wayne Primeau

Strangely enough, there were more people surprised that he got an invite to camp than were surprised he was cut. In the one game he appeared in, he had an assist, had five shots on goal, and was an overall plus-1.

A solid center in the faceoff category and pretty good penalty killer, he should have gotten a longer look, however salary cap considerations may have had somewhat of a role in this decision.

Marcel Mueller

Mueller had just come off of a season in which he scored 60 points in 65 games while splitting time between three different teams. The consensus on Mueller is that he is big, strong player with good speed and above average puck control.

Given a year in the Marlies to fine-tune his game to a more North American style, there is every reason in the world to be excited about this potential 30-plus-goal scorer, but he needs time to adapt.

All in all, the Toronto Maple Leafs have looked a little more than ordinary to date in this preseason. It is admittedly very tough to gauge a team's potential so early in the year but with just four games to go before the start of regular season play, it will become easier.

Still perhaps the biggest question mark remains Nazem Kadri and the fact that he has done nothing to earn a spot on this roster to date.

He has appeared in three preseason games so far (not including the rookie tournament), has posted five shots, no points, and is a minus-3 overall.

While there are many theories as to the reasons for his struggles, one thing is for certain, Burke will cut him before the start of the regular season and won't lose a second's sleep over it if he doesn't think he's ready.

Speaking of Brian Burke, in a recent interview with Adam Proteau of The Hockey News, Burke found himself on the defensive when asked about the suggestion that he is too interested in spending free-agent money on veteran NHLers and doesn’t care enough about draft picks. And, as he is known to do, the Leafs president-GM went on the counter-attack.

"That question disregards what we’ve done here in terms of adding assets outside of the draft," Burke said. "People talk about us not having a first (round pick this season), but tell me what would people give (in a trade) for Jonas Gustavsson?

What would people give me for Tyler Bozak? What would people give me for Christian Hanson or Jussi Rynnas? What would people give me for the (NHL) free agents we’ve signed – Colton Orr, (Francois) Beauchemin, Komisarek, Colby Armstrong? Ultimately, we’ve replaced about a dozen guys without costing us a penny or a player."

"It’s no different than buying vegetables. There’s hothouse vegetables, there’s farm-raised vegetables and there’s imported vegetablesmeaning that you can get players a lot of different ways. So if people are going to hammer me for not having draft picks, then at least acknowledge we’ve done a better job of adding assets – without expending corporate assetsthan just about anybody.”

Next week's headline: "Leafs GM Compares Current Roster to Vegetables!"

However, Burke does make a valid point, all the while adding more depth than has been seen in the Maple Leafs organization in a number of years.

There are still a great many critics of Brian Burke in the hockey universe, but it isn't fair to judge ones body of work until it's been completed.

To say that Burke is a bad GM because he's made to many mistakes in the past is to presume that he hasn't learned anything from them.

I would have thought he was smarter than that.


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