Off The Post: Burke likely to purge Leafs of familiar bodies

Burke likely to purge Leafs of familiar bodies

The NHL’s worst-kept secret was officially revealed on Saturday with the announcement of the hiring of Brian Burke as the 13th general manager in Maple Leafs history. Burke, a former teammate of Leafs coach Ron Wilson at Providence College, inked a deal in the neighbourhood of $3 million per season that carries through to the end of the 2013-14 season.

Burke wasted no time in defining the standards by which his every day lineup will be iced. “Pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence” are the pillars of foundation, according to the man whose intimidating Anaheim Ducks team claimed the 2007 Stanley Cup. The Leafs wasted no time in heeding the call of their new front man, handling Philadelphia 4-2 on the same night, in a game in which both Jamal Mayers and Andre Deveaux engaged in fisticuffs against their Flyers opponents.

It was made clear from Saturday’s announcement that Mats Sundin no longer figures in the Maple Leafs’ future plans, and vice versa. “I don’t think we fit his profile as a team,” said Burke. Citing the two-year, $20 million offer made by the Vancouver Canucks that Sundin has yet to accept, Burke observed “It’s not about the money. He has got $2 less than God.” By the same token, Burke has not only historically refused to engage in bidding wars for players’ services, but has been quite outspoken against fellow general managers for inflationary transactions. Bobby Holik and Dustin Penner are two glaring examples of signings that Burke has considered to be fiscally irresponsible. Sundin has about as much chance of re-signing in Toronto as Kevin Lowe does of receiving a Christmas card from Burke.

While Burke will use the Leafs forthcoming road trip to begin evaluations of his team, and likely wait until the end of the December roster freeze to make any moves, changes are inevitable. Forwards such as Alexei Ponikarovksy and Nik Antropov appear to be prime candidates to be put on the trading block. Neither forward has taken full advantage of his physical size when battling opponents, yet each player could return either a prospect or high-draft pick on the market.

Defenceman Tomas Kaberle, a fine puck-moving blueliner whose game lacks a physical edge may also find himself out of the mould of Burke’s team. Assuming that the 31-year-old can be persuaded to waive his no-movement clause, Kaberle could be a hot commodity, particularly during the period leading up to the trade deadline when his value would increase.

In the front office, outgoing interim general manager Cliff Fletcher will remain in a special consultant’s role while Burke is expected to ask permission of his former team the Ducks to speak with Dave Nonis. Burke’s right-hand man in Vancouver, Nonis reportedly has a 48-hour window in which he can leave Anaheim, and would be suited to serve as Burke’s assistant.

Upon his introduction to Toronto, Burke made reference to the “good, but not great” Leafs teams, which found themselves in a perpetual cycle of never being good enough to be championship contenders, but never bad enough to obtain a high draft pick.

Burke is the man to break that cycle.

Leafs fans can expect to see fewer long-time veterans, and greater potential for the long-term future, by the time the trade deadline rolls around.


Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, a regular column at TMLfans.ca

2 comments

  1. mapleaforever

    Why do you and others keep piling on Antropov and Ponikarovsky? Year after year they are amoung the team leaders in +/-. This is because they are physical on the forecheck and responsible in their own zone. Antropov, particularly, engages physical contact on a shift by shift basis. Do you simnply regurgetate the same old tried and true stereotypes about these two large men? Try something new for a change.

    Ponikarovsky may be inconsistent offensively, not taking advantage of his great “practice” shot, while burying it into the opposing goaler’s midsection. However, he is not injury prone, has great wheels and is an ideal 2nd or 3rd liner in todays game.

    Antropov is a 1st or 2nd liner on any team with outstanding centre ice depth.

    Maybe one or both are overpaid but that’s another story.

  2. RobDM

    |Author

    Actually I wouldn’t consider my anaysis as regurgitating stereotypes, I’m merely sharing my observations based on covering 90% of this team’s home games for the past several years. And in my opinion, neither player uses his size to his full advantage. That doesn’t mean that either player isn’t a useful 2nd/3rd line player. However i don’t think either player fits in the long-term agenda of what Brian Burke expects from his players.

    Note that I said either player could get something of value in return if he was traded. In other words, they could be valuable assets to other teams, in a different mould.

    If I was “piling it on” for the sake of disrespecting the players, I would have said “either players could return nothing more than a bag of pucks on the market.”

    Thanks for writing.

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