Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke's Plan Is Finally Making Strides

Darcy FullerCorrespondent IFebruary 26, 2011

GLENDALE, AZ - JANUARY 13:  Goaltender James Reimer #34 of the Toronto Maple Leafs before the NHL game against the Phoenix Coyotes at Arena on January 13, 2011 in Glendale, Arizona.  The Coyotes defeated the Maple Leafs 5-1.  (Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images)
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

As a true Leaf fan, I've had to endure some pretty hard times the last six years. When the Leafs don't make the playoffs, it drives me nuts, and I turn on NHL 11 to at least pretend they are winning.

Being only 21 years old, I know I haven't had it as bad as some 40-year-old Leaf fans who have yet to see a cup in this great city. However, it looks like there may be a light at the end of the tunnel.

When Brian Burke first took office, he set a few goals and promised Leaf Nation two things: He would change the culture of this team and also make them competitive, and if any of the players did not want to compete, then they knew they better start packing their bags.

The wheels on this hockey club have been constantly spinning, and the doors are continuously revolving—players come and go as Burke tries to find the right "youthful combination" of players with grit, skill and heart.

As far as we can see, the management team is still working on making this a winning team both now and in the future. Burke showed a lot of guts admitting he was wrong about shipping off Francois Beauchemin and Kris Versteeg for "Future's Packages." (Smart idea Burkie!)

One has to admit the youth Burke has brought in is simply amazing, not because of the talent alone but because of the mix of talent and picks he recruited in just TWO YEARS!  At least we have an exciting GM.

I don't need to get into every player and pick he has brought in because most B/R readers have read it many times. Simply put, the most notable players include: Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie and prospects Jake Gardiner and Joe Colborne.

All along the only thing Leafs Nation had to do was be patient. I know it's hard being patient when you're not winning, and I'll admit I sometimes scream for trades when we should be letting our players develop. In fact, I am pretty sure every Leaf fan has done that.

The 2009/2010 season was horrific—a huge disappointment. Nobody pegged the Maple Leafs to be 29th overall. It was an extremely sad time.

At this point last season the Leafs' record was 19-30-12 for a overall 50 points. Who expected that? Now, this season is a whole different story.

Sure there have been ups and downs. There has been trade after trade, and Wilson has been up to his usual antics, calling players out in the media.

Now we're in late February and the team is playing great! It truly is fun to watch the amazing run of rookie goaltender James Reimer. We now find ourselves six points back of the final playoff spot with 21 more games to go. Not to mention we also have a game in hand which may be helpful.

Our overall record as of the moment is 27-27-7, which is an 11-point improvement from last season. Even though we've traded away two top four D-men and a speedy offensive winger, we have still managed to win. The Leafs have been 4-1-2 since trading Beauchemin.

If you're not getting excited about what's going on with the Leafs, then you're not a true fan. The prospect pool is much deeper than I have ever seen it in all my life, and for once management is being patient with their prospects. And for the first time in what seems like forever, there is genuine hope.

I truly do not know if the Leafs will be able to squeeze into the playoffs or what Burke has up his sleeve in terms of his next trade, but I do have hope. I'm not saying it for the sake of saying it—this time it's not a empty word.

In closing I would like to ask the B/R community and Leafs Nation:

Will Burke land another big trade before the deadline to help out our blue line?

Will the Toronto Maple Leafs finally make it back to respectability this year?

What say you, ladies and gentlemen?