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Brian Burke

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How dare he!?

A fairly big portion of Leafs Nation is freaking out about Burke doing “nothing” in free agency. First of all, this is an insult to Jay McClement and Mike Kostka because I don’t think they consider themselves – nothing.

Then there’s the notion that we should have overspent on players like Brandon Prust, Jordin Tootoo etc. because nothing will solve our team needs more than overpaid fourth liners. Leafs’ biggest needs are goaltending and top six talent (preferably size and skill at the C position) so naturally they fit the bill. The amount of sheer irrationality is staggering.

I want to make something perfectly clear, simply because this writer doesn’t realize how it’s not perfectly clear already. We’re at the beginning of hockey’s summer and the Leafs roster looks like it needs re-tooling/is set up to be re-tooled.

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Brian Burke Fired

Brian Burke spoke to reporters out East at the P.E.I. Special Olympics Festival Luncheon on Wednesday.

“With the salary cap and the new collective bargaining agreement that’s coming up, I don’t know what our plans are for filling out our roster,” Burke told the large gathering at Credit Union Place.

“Free agency starts on July 1, it’s a really thin group.

“Teams are locking all these quality players up now, so the group that is getting to the market is thin, it’s shallow. There are really two high-end players and that’s about it, (Nashville defenceman) Ryan Suter and (New Jersey forward) Zach Parise.

“I don’t think we are going to be in on either one of them.”

Burke continued:

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“There’s a chance we make a positional pick here but I don’t think so.”

Sounds like Burke will be sticking with the best-athlete available-philosophy and, as reported earlier, the Leafs GM says there’s a “good chance” it’s a defenceman based on his reading of the first four picks. Of course, the reading could be different than what plays out or a trade could impact the order.

Both Burke and Dave Nonis were quite clear about just how little is going on with trade activity at the moment.

After the jump is Dave Nonis’ interview from yesterday and today’s Leafs Nation Google+ live chat with Dallas Eakins. Be sure to look out for MLHS’ own Mislav Jantoljak, who asks Dallas a few questions.

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From Paul Hendrick:

Brian burke tells me that there’s a good chance they’ll pick a defenceman at 5th overall. Little movement possibility as of now.#tmltalk

Meanwhile, an RDS reporter has suggested the Montreal Canadiens may go with Finnish center Teuvo Teräväinen, who has been doing the reverse-Grigorenko in the rankings the past few weeks, with the third overall pick. If true, that would shake up the order of the top 5.

How do you feel about using the fifth on a defenceman (Morgan Rielly), especially if say, Filip Forsberg, is still around?

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Photo: Getty Images

So here we are… Draft week. Five days away from our reward for being fans of what can only be considered a pretty crappy hockey team. Of course this is also a pretty stressful time. The main reason being that, no matter what he does over the course of the next few days, Burke is essentially going to be considered wrong. Not by all fans and pundits, but no matter what the decision is, it’s a guaranteed lock that majority of people watching the Leafs will label him as wrong. He now has left the “In Burke We Trust” stage of his tenure, and now he’s residing in his own personal Kobayashi Maru.

Justin Schultz

Photo: Elsa/Getty Images

Saying I have very little knowledge about Justin Schultz is quite the understatement. I have never seen him play, until this post I had never looked at a single one of his stats, and ultimately this whole situation seemed reminiscent of teams fighting for the services of Matt Gilroy a few seasons ago (Gilroy was statistically not as good.) The only thing I really knew for sure is that he was Jake Gardiner’s defensive partner at the University of Wisconsin, and based on Gardiner’s performance Wisconsin does alright in the offensive defensemen development department.

On Friday, Bob McKenzie was the first to report that Justin Schultz was officially leaving school:

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The Montreal Canadiens officially announced that Rick Dudley will be joining the organization as Assistant General Manager. Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke, negotiated that Dudley will join the Canadiens after the entry draft (June 22–23, 2012 at the Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh, PA). Upon leaving, Dudley had yet more kind words for the direction in which the Maple Leafs are headed.

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Photo: Associated Press

It’s 46 days until the draft, 55 until Free Agency, but it’s also 131 days from the expiration of the CBA.

What a terrible summer to rebuild a bad team. An expiring Collective Bargaining Agreement there hasn’t been any negotiations on is a pretty big elephant in the room for teams looking to scratch and claw their way out of the basement.

Enter the Toronto Maple Leafs, a team that failed to recognize the new direction after the last CBA. A team that has remained devoted to spending to the salary cap and a team that has no foreseeable long term planning beyond the acknowledgement that younger players are the best option when you’re not yet ready to seriously contend for a Stanley Cup.

The next CBA could potentially provide even greater challenges as the league is more focused on closing cap loopholes than allowing any form of free spending ways. Below are ten possible scenarios that could come up in the CBA and how the potential fallout could affect the Leafs.

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Photo: Blog TO

Squeak into the playoffs this year or keep building towards a cup?  I’ll take build towards a cup, please and thank you. And they’re closer than you think.

Rick Dudley is widely considered one of the best judges of talent in hockey.

He’s certainly able to provide a balanced view after building championship teams twice this decade, with two different clubs (Tampa Bay, 2004 – Chicago, 2009). Here’s his take on the Leafs, after less than one year on the job.

A précis of the interview can be taken from two fairly potent statements:

“I am one of the people uniquely qualified to comment on it.”

“I think this team becomes an elite team. Simple.”

Whether that’s damage control, or whether that’s his opinion, I’ll let you be the judge.

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While Brian Burke deserves much of the blame for the recent woes of the Toronto Maple Leafs, it’s also fair to point out that he didn’t exactly inherit a powerhouse.  The Leafs roster was in terrible shape when the big Irishman accepted the unsavory role of Maple Leafs president and general manager.

Unfair expectations were placed on this current regime and miracles were expected overnight as he was quickly dubbed the ‘saviour of the franchise’.  Unfortunately, in the new cap-era NHL, a quick fix is nearly impossible and instead patience, money management and shrewd decision making is even more imperative.

Is the “Fire Burkie” rhetoric that has been spewed from Leafs Nation coast-to-coast justified?

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Photo: Getty Images

Of course, the acquisition of Jeff Carter by the Los Angeles Kings couldn’t simply put to bed the rumours surrounding one potential Leaf trade target, it sprung to life another. Word broke yesterday that, in wake of the Carter acquisition, Kings GM Dean Lombardi could be open to moving power forward and captain Dustin Brown if the price is right.

Now, every name that hits the rumour mill gets dressed in an imaginary Leafs uniform, but a name like Dustin Brown strikes me (and surely Burke) with considerable intrigue. At 27, signed for two more seasons at 3.175 million, the possibility of Brown’s availability must make Burke’s eyes light up. A member of his Team USA silver medal winning 2010 Olympic team, Brown brings experience, leadership, a physical presence for the top six (2nd in the NHL in hits, and he hits hard), and could add a new dimension to the Leaf attack. Not to put too much value or significance into any one player, Brown poses an attractive solution, or at least part solution, to many of the Leafs deficiencies in the forward ranks with his skill and toughness package. It’s no wonder there’s consensus among the insiders that Burke would have a major interest in the 27-year-old if available.

The tie's coming undone.

This is part one of a preview series on potential trade deadline targets for the Leafs. Important to keep in mind is the framework in which I’m analyzing these trade options in this series: Brian Burke will be weighing the future against the present. Burke’s only going to be dealing for immediate help if it equally benefits the team long term. There will be no selling out for this season; as much as Burke is feeling the pressure to make the playoffs in his fourth season as Leafs czar, more patience is needed as his team simply isn’t at that stage of the competition yet.

Evgeni Nabokov:

The attraction to the 37-year-old pending UFA is one, how well he’s fared in front of a porous Islanders defense since his return to the NHL, and two, his history of success under head coach Ron Wilson in San Jose.

The Islanders have struggled to find consistent reliability in net as much as the Leafs have in recent seasons, so dealing Nabokov as opposed to signing him seems unlikely at this point barring an inability to come to terms in contract negotiations.

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Burke Burke, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

Burke Burke, GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

It’s starting to finally feel like hockey season. The NHL has been holding their R&D camp at the Leafs’ Mastercard Centre Practice Facility as GMs, scouts and hockey media descended on Etobicoke to review new ideas being tabled for the NHL season’s to come. With that comes lots more NHL news. While Brendan Shanahan has indicated that none of the major changes they were looking at will see the light of day for a while, a shallower net will be brought in as early as this year.

Also coinciding with the NHL’s R&D camp were informal workouts with a handful of Maple Leafs, including Phil Kessel, Nazem Kadri and Colby Armstrong, as reported yesterday. More workouts will be taking place in the coming days and there is sure to be more interviews and news coming out of the Leafs camp once the NHL R&D camp ends.

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Photo: Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images

The 2011 Maple Leafs Annual is 99% complete, and we should have preordering information available for you all soon. Remember, if you have read any of our teasers or interview excerpts, you are morally obligated to purchase this magazine. Don’t be a bad person. The Annual can be yours for a mere $9.99 this time around, so no excuses.

The Burke interview for Annual, conducted by torontosportsmedia, went extraordinarily well. The final product is a must read, as Burke touches on a wide variety of topics including but not limited to the failures of past seasons, the offseason moves, the media, the status of Ron Wilson, and expectations for the season ahead. In the course of conversation, Burke touched on a number of the topics our reader questions inquired about. After the jump, I’ll glean a few small excerpts for your enjoyment.

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Don't waste my time MLHS.

The big man, Brian Burke, and we will be taking a few reader questions.

This one comes with a few caveats. Only the top 5 questions (as selected by me) will be entered into the question queue, and these will only be included if time permits.

For the full interview, again you will have to patiently await the 2011 Maple Leafs Annual, available for preorder soon. I’m cruel, I’m a tease, whatever… just buy it.

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According to the Toronto Star’s Damien Cox, the Leafs are expected to sign 24 year old forward prospect Leo Komarov to an entry-level contract at some point in the near future. The Maple Leafs hold Komarov’s NHL rights as a 6th round selection, 180th overall back in 2006. Komarov was born in Estonia, but grew up playing hockey in Finland where currently holds a duel-citizenship along with Russia. He has spent the last two years playing in the KHL, earning himself an all-star appearance this past season. In 52 games played for OHK Dynamo Moskva, he recorded 14 goals and 12 assists, in addition to 70 penalty minutes. Komarov also impressed during a brief playoff run, scoring 4 times and adding 2 helpers in just 6 games.

After what seemed like a lifetime of waiting for fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the new look squad hit the ice Thursday night for their home opener against the arch rival Montreal Canadiens, and with it marked the true dawning of a new age in Leafs Nation.

While it’s true the hiring of Ron Wilson and Brian Burke will go down as the day the team began to turn the page on years of management misfortune, and the Dion Phaneuf day could very well end up being the trade that sparks the team forward much like the Doug Gilmour trade before it, Thursday night’s season premiere was really the first time since all this has taken place that it was truly a different roster.

Gone were the incumbents of past regimes, It was finally Brian Burke’s team.  Having flipped the entire roster (sans Tomas Kaberle and Jeff Finger) Burke’s vision of the team could finally be implemented, his stamp beginning to form.

And it was, for one game at least, as advertised.

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It is by no means the end of his career, strictly the next step.

On Monday, Nazem Kadri, 7th overall selection in the 2009 draft, was assigned to the Toronto Marlies. The player in whom a whole city had welcomed, became enamoured with and inked into their own starting lineup will not appear at ACC at all… at least not yet. It will prove to be a powerful lesson for the 19 year old, if not the whole city of Toronto; the Toronto Maple Leafs are about winning hockey games, not necessarily selling tickets.