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general manager

In the final part of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at the Maple Leafs chances of getting back to postseason hockey this year.

May 4th, 2004.

Both teams, tired and weary from what had already been a long, arduous road, a journey that had left both teams battered and bruised.  The teams went back and forth, showing tremendous heart and determination, showing what it takes to win hockey games at this time of year.

Up the ice they went, rewarded with a good scoring chance, but stopped by a goaltender who was up to the task.  Then down the ice the other way, another good chance, this time for the other team.  The goalie in this net, equally up to the task of making the save and preserving life, for at least another moment.

Quickly, and in a whirlwind of emotion, it was over.

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In part 11 of his 12 Burning Questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at one of the hottest topics in Leafs Nation today: just how long of a leash does Ron Wilson have?

In the summer of 2008, the Toronto Maple Leafs were in the midst of a major overhaul.  Much maligned general manager John Ferguson, Jr. had been relieved of his duties with the organization, and as nice a man as JFJ was when I met him at the Leafs rookie and orientation camp a year prior, there is no solid argument that can be made for him as a good GM.

Ferguson Jr, to his credit, can take solace in the fact that a few of his draft picks are now cracking the Leafs as legitimate players, Kulemin and Gunnarsson among them, although even that fact can be debated  - how much was scouting and how much was general managing?

In a word, John Ferguson Jr. left the Toronto Maple Leafs in shambles, and some of the moves he made, continually sacrificing youth for a quick fix solution (or at least something he thought was a quick fix) have very well set the Maple Leafs back at least an additional few years in the rebuilding process.

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Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager, Brian Burke should have uttered one phrase to explain the situation, one simple little phrase to envelope the reasoning for the Phil Kessel trade;

“Our picks in our vision of where we ended up are overvalued in accordance to the available crop of prospects.”

But in Toronto, to admit that in what’s deemed as a ‘rebuild’ would have been a PR disaster.

Despite popular opinion, he wasn’t wrong.

The world is no longer flat, it’s round .. like a full-cirle

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In part one of his 12 burning questions series, Derek Harmsworth takes a look at whether the Maple Leafs new captain can return to form.

January 31st will forever be a day that will have historical significance for the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise, and all its fans.  How large of a significance it will have in the grand scheme of things has yet to be determined, but in many ways, it could be argued that it was the day the franchise turned the corner.

$12.99, 128 pages, no ads, all Leafs.

The Maple Street Press Maple Leafs Annual is back for it’s second edition, jam packed with even more Leafs coverage, analysis and inside access than the year before. Preorders will ship on August 17 and include a $5.00 shipping charge. Yes, Kaberle remained a Leaf by the final deadline, because apparently it was just SO out of the way for Burke to deal him at our convenience. It matters not, just read some of these highlights:

  • Detailed player by player scouting information, advanced statistics and innovative statistical graphics for the 2010-11 roster

  • An interview with GM Brian Burke on change and the outlook for 2010-11

  • A look at the controversial legacy of 1960s Leafs head coach Punch Imlach, with reflections from Leaf greats Johnny Bower, Red Kelly, Dick Duff, Larry Hillman & more

  • A position by position look at the 2010-11 Leafs roster

  • The inside scoop on the Leafs’ 2010 off-season additions, organizational philosophy and evaluation with Leafs Vice President of Hockey Operations Dave Poulin

  • A review of the 2010 draft with the perspective of Leafs head scout Dave Morrison

  • Statistical analysis of the importance of first round picks: can the Leafs go their own way?

  • Analysis of the Leafs’ cap situation with looks at the constitution of past Cup winners

  • A Nazem Kadri feature (including thoughts from Morrison and director of player development Jim Hughes) & list of the Leafs’ Top Prospects in Fall 2010 & Darkhorses

  • An interview with potential sixth round steal Jerry D’Amigo

  • An in-depth look at the Marlies’ season that was and will be with thoughts from head coach Dallas Eakins, Poulin, Jay Rosehill and Tim Brent
  • Projections for the Leafs offense and defense
  • An in-depth, goalie-by-goalie scouting evaluation of Leaf netminders (Gustavsson, Giguere, Scrivens, Reimer, Rynnas) with The Goalie Guild’s Justin Goldman
  • Takes on how new media is changing coverage of the team with thoughts from MLSE social media strategist Jonathan Sinden

Ensure yourself a copy of the Maple Leafs Annual here. Take the jump for a full list of authors – the best of the best from across the Barilkosphere and beyond.

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According to CBC Sports, the San Jose Sharks are on the verge of signing free agent grinder Jamal Mayers. The Sharks announced on their website their plans for the veteran forward. “Jamal is a fast, physical, team-first player who brings the ingredients we were looking for to this role,” said Sharks general manager Doug Wilson. “He is an extremely fit athlete who can kill penalties and we think he will mesh well with our group of forwards.”

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Just a month ago, the Chicago Blackhawks were the envy of the National Hockey League.  Having finished off the Philadelphia Flyers in six games courtesy of a Patrick Kane overtime goal, the Hawks had climbed to the top of the mountain, and had risen out of what could once have been considered obscurity years earlier, to build a winning team, and break the Stanley Cup drought that loomed over the franchise for so long.

And while many general managers stood in jealousy and envy of Stan Bowman and his management team for the feat they had just accomplished, not one GM was going to envying Bowman in the days following.

For the Chicago Blackhawks, winning the Stanley Cup came at a price, and it was rather large.

Since they won the Stanley Cup, the Blackhawks have made many moves, tearing down their roster that brought them their once elusive championship.  Fan favourites were shipped out in favour of draft picks and younger players, on cheaper contracts.

One of those trades involved Kris Versteeg, a trade Brian Burke was all too happy to accommodate.

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Even with news breaking this afternoon of Ilya Kovalchuk’s new $60 million contract extension (potentially) with the New Jersey Devils, this 2010 free agency period has been one of the most uneventful and slow-developing offseasons in recent memory. The reason being? Despite a mediocre at best free agent group, there simply isn’t enough money to pay these guys what they’re probably worth. As one unnamed NHL General Manager put it last week: “The teams with cap don’t have cash and the teams with cash don’t have cap”. The Maple Leafs however, are fortunate enough to have both, and have the opportunity to exploit the market to their advantage.

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Somewhat surprisingly, there has been a fair amount of debate over yesterday’s signing of Colby Armstrong.

I find this interesting because  much of the criticism seems to revolve around the notion of $3m equating to more than a 15 goal career average, even though Armstrong wasn’t exactly acquired for his offensive prowess.   The main criticism seems to be, why would the team be willing to make a $9 million investment over 3 years, when similar production can likely be found at a cheaper rate?

Now, it seems most decided to stop at that point and take the easy road; that being negativity for the sake of negativity (a known idiosyncrasy of Canadian hockey fans).  But instead of screaming “WHY did they sign him?”, I propose a different question:  Why DID they sign him?

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The Toronto Star continues to shine a light on the Kaberle front. According to Brian Burke, he has “four concrete offers” on the table and seems to be rather confident he can land a first round pick. That said, the Toronto Sun suggest that of the six teams interested in Kaberle’s services, the Ducks have expressed the strongest interest.

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It’s not every day the Maple Leafs name a new captain. In fact, it’s not every decade. Sundin was named in 1997, 13 years prior to the Leafs appointment of Phaneuf. And with the announcement being made in front of a room of roughly 100 media personnel, the message was relayed to the world using every different angle imaginable.

Instead of weighing the pros and cons, balancing the collective good choices of Burke and Wilson against the bad, MLHS is going to bring you into the event. Thousands of writers have provided their opinion but little time has been spent enabling the reader to form their own. So please, if you will, grab your notepad and follow us past the security and the media media check-in, and into the press conference that will see Dion Phaneuf named the 18th captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

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It will be confirmed during a 3PM press conference, but the Tampa Bay Lightning will announce their newest general manager as Steve Yzerman today. Yzerman will replace Brian Lawton who was fired last month. Yzerman worked for four seasons as Vice President and Alternate Governor for the Detroit Red Wings after retiring as a player in 2006.

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JESSE BLACKER (#21) – D
Date of Birth: April 19, 1991
Hometown: Toronto, ON
Height: 6'2" | Weight: 190lbs | Shoots: Right
Drafted: Toronto's 3rd Choice, 58th Overall, in 2009
Price Tag: AHL $67,500 | NHL $640,000
Signed Through: 2013

Career Notes:

  • Won the Memorial Cup with the Windsor Spitfires in 2009
  • Lead all Owen Sound defensemen during 09/10 in goals (6), assists (24) and points (30)
  • Made his AHL debut on March 20th 2010 vs. Hamilton
  • Registered one assist and a plus-two rating in first AHL appearance

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When Brian Burke became the new general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Leafs Nation embarked on a new journey.  A new beginning.  With Burke at the helm, the Leafs organization finally had a general manager who had credentials.  Who had a winning pedigree.  Who had the exact type of attitude the Toronto market needed.

A man who wouldn’t take any nonsense from anyone, and a man who wasn’t afraid to pull the trigger on a big move that may set the team up for the better in the long term, a characteristic it seemed so many Leafs GM’s lacked in between the time of Fletcher’s first run, and Burke being christened as the new head of the front office.

Finally, Leafs fans were able to legitimately talk about the “Big O”, and they weren’t faking it either.

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    After tonight’s snoozer, let’s move on to a bigger and better subject.

    Some of you may have watched a surprising Norway side battle Switzerland to the bitter end for a quarterfinal birth in their final preliminary game at the Olympics; if so, try to recall a 5’7, 160-pound speedster working a stick as tall as the man himself.

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    From USA Today - 3/1/2007:

    Anaheim Ducks general manager Brian Burke has always been among the NHL’s most colorful wheeler dealers. In 2005-06, he overhauled his team midseason and made a strong playoff run. Last summer, he made a major swap to land franchise defenseman Chris Pronger. Heading into Tuesday’s trade deadline, Burke hoped to make a major splash. He was able to make one deal, but he was unable to land one of the premium forwards. This is his diary of his efforts to make the major deadline deal:

    Wednesday, Feb. 7

    We’re interested in Peter Forsberg, but when Philadelphia general manager Paul Holmgren calls I tell him we aren’t trading (first-round pick) Bobby Ryan. We go through a package and I reject several names, including Corey Perry. I say, “No.” Homer and I are fishing buddies, and he jokingly says he wants to help us win the Stanley Cup by trading me Forsberg. I say, “We’re out,” and Homer says he wants me to stay in.

    Thursday, Feb. 8

    Homer and I talk again on Forsberg and this time he talks about Perry again. He tells me that he has a better offer on the table than Perry and a high pick. I say Perry isn’t going anywhere. We discuss multiple names to go with the high pick and they ask for specific players (Perry, Ilya Bryzgalov, Chris Kunitz). I like Homer and want him to succeed, but I’m thinking we would be better off looking at Todd Bertuzzi and the possibility of landing another defenseman. But (Florida GM/coach) Jacques Martin isn’t shopping Bertuzzi yet. We are looking at defensemen around the league who could end up being available —Brent Sopel, Brad Stuart and Sami Salo. But I think Vancouver is trying to re-sign Salo.

    Friday, Feb. 9

    I speak to Los Angeles about Sopel. Trying to trade is like playing musical chairs. You are always afraid you aren’t going to have a chair at the end. You worry that if you say no on one deal, you may not get any. Also, there is a “keeping up with the Joneses mentality,” particularly in the Western Conference. Players, coaches and fans want you to add. The allure of making the right trade draws you in. Remember last season when Edmonton was on the verge of missing the playoffs, made some deals, including getting goalie Dwayne Roloson, and they go to the Finals. It’s the most pressure you face all year, and it’s also the most fun you have.

    Saturday, Feb. 10

    Phoenix offered me Ladislav Nagy for a first-round pick. I call Doug MacLean about the possibility of acquiring Fredrik Modin. He says he’s trying to re-sign him. One of my problems in trying to make a deal is that I don’t have a first-round pick. I’m thinking I could move defenseman Shane O’Brien to get a first-round pick.

    Sunday, Feb. 11

    I think Tampa Bay’s (GM) Jay Feaster is interested in O’Brien. Homer calls and tells me that two teams are offering two first-round picks and a player for Forsberg, and another team is offering a first, second and another pick. To me, this is too rich for our blood. I think it’s too high of a price for a rental player.

    Tuesday, Feb. 13

    Feaster tells me he is interested only in hockey deals, not rentals. I have a long talk with St. Louis Blues President John Davidson about Keith Tkachuk. They want Bobby Ryan in a package.

    Wednesday, Feb. 14

    Officially turn down the Blues. Vancouver GM Dave Non-is, my former assistant, tells me he is going to re-sign Salo. New York Rangers GM Glen Sather tells me he’s not a seller, at least not yet.

    Thursday, Feb. 15

    Forsberg goes to Nashville. Homer was frustrated with me. He said I didn’t know the marketplace. But I have to give him a lot of credit. He really helped the Flyers with that deal. Tampa Bay offers goalie Gerald Coleman and a second for O’Brien. We want a first- round pick.

    Saturday, Feb. 17

    I talk to Florida assistant GM Randy Sexton about Todd Bertuzzi, and he tells me “the guy we like is Perry.” I offer him profanity. If you are offended by profanity, it’s difficult to make a trade in the NHL. If you are going to try to rob me, at least wear a mask. We talk to Philadelphia about Kyle Calder.

    Monday, Feb. 19

    At the general managers meetings in Naples, Fla., Feaster sweetened his offer to a first-round pick and Coleman and he wants a third to go with O’Brien. I call Sather to see if he can better that offer for O’Brien.

    Tuesday, Feb. 20

    Sather talks to me about O’Brien, and Pleau asks if I want to revisit the Tkachuk deal and make it bigger. We decide it’s not going to work, but we are interested in Bill Guerin. Sather tells me he’s got a good offer for Aaron Ward from another team.

    Wednesday, Feb. 21

    I call Montreal’s (GM) Bob Gainey and push him about whether he’s going to move any of his defensemen. Gainey says he’s unsure if he’s selling. Timing is beginning to be a problem. I decide to push on this, but I don’t get anywhere.

    Sunday, Feb. 25

    Tkachuk is finally traded to Atlanta for Glen Metropolit and first-, second- and third-round picks, plus another first-rounder if the Thrashers re-sign him. Davidson and GM Larry Pleau hit it out of the park on that one. We decide to trade O’Brien to Tampa Bay. We need the first-round pick to get into the card game. We felt comfortable making the deal because of the way Kent Huskins had played when he was called up. Oilers GM Kevin Lowe thinks he could have trouble re-signing Ryan Smyth. Would I be interested? He said he would want a “Tkachuk style package.” I say we can’t do it. Craig Rivet is traded to San Jose by Montreal, and I call and whine to Gainey about not calling me back and telling me he was available. He tells me that I was late to that party, and he had been talking to Doug Wilson for three weeks. Fair enough.

    Monday, Feb. 26

    Modin re-signs. While at a game in San Jose, I initiate a deal for Brad May via e-mail. I know him well and like his toughness.

    Tuesday, Feb. 27

    We were in on several trades. We offered a first and a fourth for Bill Guerin, but the Blues liked the Sharks’ deal better. (Los Angeles GM) Dean Lombardi talked to me about how Mattias Norstrom wanted to stay in southern California and I offered him a first-, second- and third-round pick, but I now believe he never intended to trade him to us. The Anaheim-Los Angeles rivalry is real. We looked at Bertuzzi, but the price was too high. I wanted to make a deal, but I stuck to draft picks. I told our younger players that I wouldn’t trade them and I kept my word. But I did get May. He’s a great character guy with a sunny disposition.

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      Setting up a goal for the Leafs in lieu of a playoff spot, making up seven points to get out of the NHL basement is a good start .. but just how difficult will it be?

      Let’s find out together.