Yeah, I know, everyone is qualified to be an NHL G.M. (Armchair Division); even a few sportswriters. So my musings are to be accorded as much weight as the landscape permits. Just for the record, I’m a Brian Burke fan of the first order. I like the guy’s style, particularly his trenchant interview approach. But I think he’s made a few colossal strategic blunders; two of which were entirely avoidable, but neither of which the Leafs are going to recover from anytime soon.
For starters, he eschewed the basic principle that rebuilding “takes time”. He went on record with being “not interested in 5-year rebuilding plans”. He accorded the Pittsburgh approach to building a Stanley Cup winner no more credit than being the ‘lucky’ recipient of the Sidney Crosby lottery pick. Good sound bite; too bad wordplay doesn’t win hockey games. Hypothetically, do you think if he managed to trade Tomas Kaberle for Sid the Kid tomorrow, we’d be having a Stanley Cup parade next June? Me, neither.
Second, there was the spectacular backfire of the Phil Kessel trade. Not only is Kessel an uninspiring lump of a person, the mortgage on the Leafs’ future (in the form of draft picks) is nothing short of staggering. Kessel’s 30 to 35 goals per season and “me first” attitude will come nowhere near making up for the loss of potentially two “franchise” players.
Burke’s problem was essentially what he started with: Few trade-worthy veterans, not much on the farm and a team with a track record that can’t attract today’s championship-minded free agents. That made Burke’s version of scorched earth kind of a futile exercise. In all likelihood, it put the timetable for competitiveness even farther down the road. Being in a hurry doesn’t necessarily permit you to get there fast.