Leafs fans have had to endure several bad seasons that have been leading up to the coming seasons where success has finally been expected. All signs point to the Leafs having a strong chance of making the playoffs in this upcoming season with their assets.
The Leafs will not qualify for the playoffs only if they underachieve, as this team is talented enough to crack the top eight of the Eastern Conference. If they fail to qualify, Leafs fans should be calling for Brian Burke to go.
Burke took over the GM position of the Maple Leafs in the beginning of the 2008-09 season, so this July 1st will mark his third offseason with the team. In the first two offseasons, he has tried to build a strong young core for this team while unloading veterans. He has done this by finally unloading Tomas Kaberle in the middle of the year.
He raised some eyebrows by giving away prized draft picks to the Bruins for Phil Kessel, a deal that Boston seemed to have won. By unloading Kaberle to Boston, Burke made that trade more even. He got a top defenseman in Dion Phaneuf from Calgary while shedding more veterans like Niklas Hagman. Burke has made Maple Leafs fans wait for two seasons before they could expect a winner. While the Leafs were competitive last year, staying in the playoff picture until the end, the real focus was on the future.
This third year is always the key to a rebuilding franchise. That first year is expected to be difficult, with a lot of hardship and players who need experience and teaching. The second year is supposed to be better but expectations are still not too high. This third year is when the frustration and difficulty is supposed to pay off. Burke has built this team for right now. The hardship is out of the way, the framework is in place. Now is the time for the Leafs.
Everyone will have to see what happens with the free agents. Toronto does not look to be the frontrunner for Brad Richards, but they need a key number one center. Trading for Stamkos does not seem like a very good possibility considering his role on the Lightning.
The Leafs could trade for Stephen Weiss from Florida for a center. Burke will have to swing a deal in some way to make this happen. He will need to make a decision on Tyler Bozak and Clarke MacArthur as whether to sign or trade.
The Leafs are ready to make the playoffs. Burke has set them up for this moment. The fans are ready, the players are ready and the NHL is ready for playoff hockey to return to Toronto, where the fans have been patient and passionate through the bad times this franchise has recently endured. The question is, if the Leafs fail to qualify for the playoffs, will Brian Burke lose his job?
My answer to that question is yes. If he can not bring this team to the playoffs in three years as general manager, then he deserves to go. The Lightning went from out of the playoffs to in the final four in one year.
In a sport where over half the teams in the league make it to the postseason, three years is plenty of time to turn it around. Burke will fail to do that if his team underachieves, and he may be job hunting next summer if this happens.
Thanks for the read. Comments or arguments?