In the summer, I praised Brian Burke's IQ in his "Kaberle Affair". The more I analyze his hockey moves, the more respect I have for him. Even to this day, I will stand by Burke 100% in his acquisition of Phil Kessel.
Here, I will analyze Burke's rebuilding method, as opposed to rebuilding through the draft.
When Toronto goes on a losing skid, criticism of Brian Burke comes out faster than Usain Bolt exploding off the block. People criticize Burke as if they knew the "real way" to rebuild, which always seems to come back to "build through the draft, look at Pittsburgh."
Let's take a look at all the notable 1st rounders who were drafted by the Penguins within the last decade as part of this "proper" rebuild.
Staal 2nd - 2006
Crosby 1st - 2005
Malkin 2nd - 2004
Fleury 1st - 2003
Kunitz (Whitney 5th - 2002)
Pittsburgh tanked for five seasons, then it took another three years to become legitimate contenders—making eight years in total.
Or we can look at Washington, as some say.
Carlson 27th - 2008
Backstrom 4th - 2006
Varmalov 23rd - 2006
Ovechkin 1st - 2004
Schultz 27th - 2004
Green 29th - 2004
Semin 13th - 2002
Washington became a contender in 2008, six years after drafting Semin.
Do I hear Chicago?
Kane 1st - 2007
Toews 3rd - 2006
Barker 3rd - 2004
Seabrook 14th - 2003
Took them seven years to become a contender.
Top NHL players take about three years to develop, and it takes those teams about seven years to become consistent contenders.
Now let's look at the Leafs:
Kadri 7th - 2009
Schenn 5th - 2008
Had the Leafs taken Seguin second in 2010 and whoever it will be in 2011, starting the clock from Schenn in 2008, the Leafs would be expected to become contenders in 2015, and win a cup somewhere between 2016 and 2020.
Let me ask you Leafs fans: would you wait that long?
Or would you take a chance with Brian Burke? This is what the Leafs look like after Burke.
Kadri 7th - 2009
Schenn 5th - 2008
Kessel 5th - 2006
Lashoff 22nd - 2005
Phaneuf 9th - 2003
Komisarek 7th - 2001
Sjostrom 11th - 2001
Armstrong 21st - 2001
While at the same time, the Columbus Blue Jackets have had top 10 picks in every draft in the past decade except 2009—and they are nowhere close to being a contender.
Based on this list, one cannot say that the Leafs would be better off rebuilding through the draft. What this list alone tells you is this: the Leafs are one key piece away from becoming a winning team.
On top of these former first rounders, Burke brought in the following players: Bozak, Gustavsson, Rynnas, Scrivens, Aulie, Versteeg, McKegg, Ross, Mueller, Blacker, Gunnarson, Mikus, and D'Amigo, among others.
How many first round picks would you trade to acquire these players?
If your answer is one or more, then Burke is definitely doing the right things for Toronto.
These players aren't high draft picks, so give them some more time to develop in the minors. These young guns who are in their late teens to early twenties may need five years in the minors instead of three—which still puts them ahead of the teams who took seven years to build through the draft. All we need to hope for is that we have one or two "steals" among these players who turn out to be a Thomas Kaberle or a Doug Gilmour.
The truth is that Crosby, Ovechkin, and Stamkos have dramatically changed our concept of the first round pick. Look at all the notable forwards around the NHL, like the Sedins, Bobby Ryan, Getzlaf, Richards; they were just average to good hockey players until their third season. Even then, they're still considerably behind the talents of Crosby and Ovechkin (and perhaps Stamkos).
Let's give our young guns a bit of patience. I believe with Burke's IQ, we will have many years of great hockey to come.