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, itâ€™s a guaranteed lock that majority of people watching the Leafs will label him as wrong. He now has left the â€œIn Burke We Trustâ€ stage of his tenure, and now heâ€™s residing in his own personal Kobayashi Maru.
Some of you might need a bit of a definition on the Kobayashi Maru. Picture this: youâ€™re the Captain of a starship and you receive a distress call from a contested region of space; for lack of better name, letâ€™s call it the Neutral Zone. You have made the bold decision to enter this contested space and rescue your people stranded on a ship ready to explode. Unfortunately, you are now faced with an Armada of enemy ships. Game Over. Of course you could never enter the neutral zone to begin with. Your people stranded in space die. Of course you could defeat the Armada. In the time it takes you to defeat them, the ship you are trying to evacuate explodes. It is a no win scenario, much like any attempt to please all Toronto fans.
Looking at the transaction that is most essential to the week – the first round pick – Burke is faced with numerous options. Try to trade up, try to trade down, draft at fifth overall, or move the pick for an asset that can play on the Leafs next season.
The idea of trading up is interesting in that anything in the top three nets you one of Yakupov, Forsberg, or Galchenyuk, easily the three safest bets in the draft. You can see where there is some value in doing that. However, is the Leafs roster so deep that you can sacrifice a worthwhile roster player for the chance at a better player when you are still guaranteed to have Ryan Murray or Mikhail Grigorenko available at 5th? Is it worth throwing in the Leafs 2nd round pick to leapfrog someone in the draft, and not pick again until the 5th round? Outisde of Yakupov, is there really that much difference between the second tier of prospects? If Burke feels the answer is yes, heâ€™ll go for it, and good for him. Of course, the majority of us are set to scream overpayment, and piss and moan that he didnâ€™t take the player we deemed worth moving up for.
Personally, I see no reason to move down in the draft, so Iâ€™m already committed to throwing my laptop down the stairs in the event that the Leafs move down, but Iâ€™ll acknowledge that many of you think this is a great idea. While Iâ€™ll never understand why you want more depth prospects or are willing to gamble on someone who is presently held in lower regard by experts (who have viewed these kids numerous times, and not just read through Bob McKenzieâ€™s Mock Draft and the Hockey News prospects issue), I respect that being a fan is about having your own opinion on what is right for the team. Clearly I do that too. That being said, hereâ€™s another opportunity for a great divide, especially if Burke doesnâ€™t go after Faksa, Gaunce, or Wilson, the three players that â€œTeam Trade Downâ€ seem to be enamoured with.
Of course, trading away the pick is the perhaps the most contentious idea of them all. Finally, after years of garbage hockey the Leafs take their rightful place at the top of the draft order, and the pick is lost in exchange for Jordan Staal (who will ultimately flee as an unrestricted free agent next season in my opinion) or as a piece for Rick Nash (God Help Us) or for the disgruntled Evander Kane (I might be okay with this, Iâ€™m somewhat conflicted.) No matter what, odds are the player acquired isnâ€™t as young, the contract will likely create an issue, and of course they all get the benefit of being compared to Zach Parise who could have been had on July 1st without giving up an asset.
Finally Burke could just keep and use the fifth overall pick. What could go wrong there?
-Ryan Murray: we donâ€™t need another defenseman
-Alex Galchenyuk: too injury prone
-Filip Forsberg: not enough offensive upside
-Nial Yakupov: if he fell to fifth overall thereâ€™s something seriously wrong with him
-Mikhail Grigorenko: â€œdraft expertâ€ Craig Button ranked him at 20
-Matthew Dumba: we donâ€™t need another Phaneuf
-Radek Faksa: too much of a project for his 2nd line center upside
-Scoots McPuppysmiles: doesnâ€™t actually exist
Essentially no matter what happens, Burke is screwed and he has lost the faith of the majority of his audience. This is before even getting into the pending goaltending and first line center issues which could also be dealt with in the next couple of weeks.
For me personally, I see the next 15 days as Burkeâ€™s final test for my support (not that he cares, but it is on the line.) If he can convince me that he can move away from overrated expensive free agents, and crap shoot goalie tandems, and redirect this team towards sustainably good hockey, I will be on Team Burke for life. Unfortunately itâ€™s a pretty tall order to fix everything that is wrong with the Leafs, and as I write this – barring a couple of trades where the opposition is fleeced – there is no reason to have expectations for the playoffs next season. Essentially, Burke is in a no win for my support as well, though Iâ€™ll give the benefit of doubt to him if there is actually some clear direction, and I can take comfort in how he faced the test.
For the next two weeks Iâ€™ll be watching, waiting, and enjoying the craziness that goes along with potential pick swaps and noted names circulating through the trade mill. We have but two weeks left to enjoy the hockey offseason before all conversation sharply turns towards labour negotiations and we enter the league’s Kobayashi Maru test.
MONDAY MORNING LINKS:
The Wildcard Hope in the Big Smoke takes a look at the possibility of Marc-Andre Fleury joining the Leafs. While Fleury certainly meets the league average goaltending requirement the Leafs are looking for, I donâ€™t doubt that he would carry a top five in the league asking price.
The Redline Report Mock Draft– Hooray we get Forsberg! Of course I still think Iâ€™d prefer Grigorenko to him, but I wouldnâ€™t complain about this outcome. This draft also follows the recent trend of dropping Brendan Gaunce to the second round. I canâ€™t say Iâ€™m surprised by that, and Iâ€™m sure Gaunce being available at 35 is Brian Burke wet dream.
Your Daily Nash Update: Rangers Still Targeting Nash– He kind of makes sense for New York, so let them have him at the inflated price tag. As far as the Leafs and Nash goes I have to believe they were never as close as people claimed. I donâ€™t see Brian Burke as the bidding war type unless heâ€™s the one holding the auction.
Here are the Maple Leafs who could be gone in two weeks–Michael at Vintage Leaf Memories looks at who could be on their way out. With the high level of suck on this team last season I was hoping for a longer list.