Why Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs are Screwed – Commentary by Jamie Gilcig – January 30, 2011 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – No confusion with the title of this piece, huh?    Yes, Brian Burke and the Leaf Nation are pretty much screwed.

The days of reloading a team the way Montreal did two years ago are pretty much over and the success of Montreal’s signings are still under consideration.  While the Habs had a great play off run some would suggest it had more to do with departed goalie Jaroslav Halak than the $5M, $6M, and $7M dollar men on the Montreal squad.

I get asked about my hockey pedigree so I thought I’d share a bit of it before I digress on the subject of this piece.

I essentially have been a life long lover of the game and my former home city, Montreal.     In the early 90’s I worked in Hockey running sports card shows and repping a few players for performances.   I traveled with Mark Verrault’s Greatest Hockey Legends team which I one day will write a book about.

I also worked for Score/Pinnacle Hockey Cards Canadian Distributor.  I was the one that suggested the run Alex Daigle(remember him) before Eric Lindros in one of their early factory sets as I thought Mr. Daigle would be a bust.

I also was one of the first creators of a Rotisserie style Hockey system here in Canada which was a lot of fun and ended up creating some Bill James type video scouting and stat tools which led to my employment with the Habs in the 95-96 season, my last in hockey since this year.

It’s funny; most of these tools still aren’t being used in the NHL even though they’ve finally moved out of the dark ages. (Try explaining spreadsheets to Jacques Lapierriere, Yvan Cournoyer, and Rejean Houle!)

The video scouting was essentially charting and quantifying players performances to uncover tendencies.   Montreal surprised the Cup winning Rangers by winning the first two games of the play offs that year; something I was really proud of as I’d hit them with numbers like Adam Graves taking 65% of his shots from the same area.

Montreal was able to use some of these tools, but like any great team the Rangers adapted and eventually overcame Montreal in six games.

My system also quantified skating, contact results, and all sorts of magical indicators of player effectiveness.  It was fun and exhausting, but great to see in effect.

The other tool was a set of filters that would allow you to quantify a players performance from any team in the world in any league to another.  An example was Steve Maltais who had scored over 50 goals with the Chicago Timberwolves, but if he had the same ice time on the Habs that year would only put up 19 goals which was why he was with the Timberwolves.

It did show a few gems and role players like Greg Hawgood who was picked up by the Canucks I believe.   These tools essentially were great support tools for a scouting department.   I was given a number of players to report on as well which were under trade consideration.

After the play offs I took my checque and headed to Los Angeles for my film career which also was a lot of fun and ended up with something I created being nominated for an Oscar (2003 Best Feature Doc Prisoner of Paradise)

Vision is very powerful in hockey which is a bit like a poker game with 30 sharks sitting around the table.    It’s funny how professional sports have changed since Rotisserie Baseball came out in the late 80’s.  Remarkably so.  I’d love to play a season with Brian Burke as he’s an emotional kind of guy.   I’d love to play poker with him too 😉

Mr. Burke made a big play for Phil Kessell, one which I’m sure many Leafs fans aren’t that thrilled with.   He then did some good moves grabbing strong talent as he could find it.  The thing is that he didn’t predict the shriveling of the free agent market and the demands for talent as parity takes effect.

In today’s NHL you have to build your team in 3 year cycles and need a balance of value without forgetting your future.   Mix in some low priced young talent that can play major roles with a core of solid citizens and a few value added deals on the end.   Detroit has the league watching with its use of low dollars spent on Goal tending which is pretty darn smart.

You’re seeing veteran’s salaries go down and goalies too.   The premiums are on the few rare gems when a team needs that one piece of the puzzle which is where you want to be as a GM.

Looking to next season Toronto doesn’t have any major draft picks after trading their number one to Boston in the Kessell deal.   They don’t have any real assets to move which will net them an impact player.   Their only real help is finding over priced talent that teams need to eject for salary.   The minors are starting to fill up with Wade Reddens and Sheldon Sourays.      Teams want to move their big money contracts if they can and probably will pay to do so,but does that help your long term future?

Teams in today’s NHL have to be careful about dumping draft picks and about dumping value.   Scott Gomez at $3.5M is worth a lot more than at $7M.

Looking at the Leafs as of press time for next year they are an interesting mess.

Phil Kessel at $5.4 M isn’t that much of a bargain without a Centre to play with.

Versteeg is the subject of trade rumours and as much as I like Colby Armstrong can you really afford to spend $3M for his grit?  He’s not really a top 6.  If you’re the  Leafs you can today or if you want a needed cup run part.

Grabovoski at 2.9 is actually pretty good.   The Leafs like many teams are missing that BIG centre; of course the Leafs are also missing a number 1 centre too and the wings are looking pretty barren.

Defense?   Kaberle will most likely be gone.   They’re trying to shop Komiserak from what I’ve been reading; Jeff Finger is in the minors; Captain Phaneuf at $6.5 is pretty price; Beachemin at $3.8 is being peddled, but if I’m the Leafs I better make sure I get something good for Frank.    Schenn is due a raise and is the player that they were hoping Komisarik would be.

In goal I actually like the Monster and Reimer combo for now and there’s always someone available.  So you can really see no fabric to Toronto and how many good free agents will there be?  Sadly the best strategy for the Leafs is the slower build for the next two years.   The Pantry is not full enough to make big trades.    If I’m Brian Burke I try and grab value in the market; players I can trade for draft picks or key pieces and build my core.

Of course Mr. Burke is under the gun, but he’s a tough man and Toronto loves a guy like Brian Burke and by taking value from teams while taking their bad contracts he’ll put some talent on the ice, but the only way this team makes it to the play offs, never mind Cup contention is by taking some bitter medicine and having the patience to heal from its spiritual concussion.

Of course his most tradable commodity is Phil Kessell, but it would take an awful big does of humility for Mr. Burke to trade his top goal scorer and face of the team.

What do you think Leaf Nation?  You can post your comments below.

Choose Cornwall


  1. I hope Burke leaves after this, might not happen even if we end up 29th. Hopefully when he leaves we can start a real rebuild and clean his mess.

    Burke made some good moves but his bad moves basically chained the team to failure. Kessel is a team low-19, which shows that he is not even trying. On other teams he would get benches a few games but because of Burke he won’t get benched, goes to show how accountability went down the drain under Burkes managment.

  2. The only thing you forgot was( fire the coach).Wilson has to be the first one to go.The players hate him all though they won,t say it.Lets see what the next half brings.Go Leafs Go

  3. Right now I will give the benefit of doubt to burke. He needs to fire moron wilson ASAP. If a new coach changes everything then burke made the righ deals, if not then burke needs to go as well. Moron wilson has to be fired

  4. Brainstorming Time! R V Ready! Defensive ratings in the NHL as of all star break, Kessels demise.
    (91st)Phanuef 1G10A=11PTS,(92nd)Beanchemin1G10A=11PTS,Kommi(111th)1G8A=9 -O.K That’s a total of 31pts between all three. This for a total of 16m for this year alone. Here are the logistic’s- for a $4.25m this year for Kaberle, you got (15th)2G28A=30, 1pt less then the other three. So who are the Leafs trying to trade? Kaberle! Y NOT THE OTHER 3? NOBODY WANT’S THEIR SALARY! I would send the high priced under achieving player/s to the minor’s. Have you seen anyone of them block a shot? NO! If they get claimed via waivers so be it! Open up some cap room and get a center. We have Aulie, Grysbers, Mikus, Kadri, d’migo that can come up and grow with the team to contend without being rediculed. Oh that can only be done if Burke Fires the most “HATED TO PLAY FOR COACH” IN THE NHL! BY THE PLAYERS THEMSELVES IN THE NHLPA. Burke what r u waiting for?

  5. Author

    lucky when a team is playing this badly does it really matter if they hate the coach? Was Scotty Bowman beloved? I remember chatting with Pete Mahovlich on the Old Timer’s bus and his later recollections of the greatest coach in NHL history were much fonder than while he was playing for him.

    Again, dime falls on the GM for the pool of talent he gives his coach to play with. No, Mr. Burke has to populate his very rich team with other GM’s mistakes while he rebuilds. It’s going to take 2-4 years in today’s market and he has to be aggressive like Paul Holmgren was with the Flyers a few years ago although Mr. Holmgren had a better market to work in.

  6. nobody cares about the hogtown hackers. the laff fans ARE useless, pathetic spoiled babies.

  7. Hey Henry69, you’re a Sens fan aren’t you. You can always tell a Sens fan. They have nothing to say about their own team so they attack other teams to draw attention away from their own bush league bunch of heartless hackers. (If I thought you were a Habs fan I would never have given my real name. I can’t afford to have my car set on fire right now.)

  8. First of all I love how this guy gives his list of “credentials” which include selling hockey cards; c’mon man really? So the validity of what this clown says is slim to none; however, what people think about the Leafs is mostly true. They are in a bad spot but the part that gets me is that when Burke came in everyone said the Leafs fans think they’re saved and yet aren’t even considering the fact that it will take 3-5 years to rebuild a team. Now we are just over two years in since Burke came on board and the same people who said it would take 4 years (let’s split the difference) are now saying “see I told you Burke couldn’t do anything with this team.” Contradictory to say the least.

    I am always amazed at the number of comments from Leaf haters on each of these articles. You guys literally look up Leafs news, read it, and then take the time to comment on it. Do you realize how strong this evidence is to support the fact that the Leafs are the centre of the hockey universe? you are supposed to hate them and you still can’t resist being as up-to-date as possible on the team. Do you know how many articles non-Habs, Bruins, Rangers, etc etc fans read about those teams? None because nobody cares.

    The Leafs are at least another year from making the playoffs (I would have hoped they had a team good enough to squeek in this year but that is certainly not going to happen) and are probably at least three seasons from a team that can go deep in the playoffs (they will need to land at least two top players for this to happen) but I am not ready to slit my wrists just yet. The Leafs have 23 million in cap space to work with next year and the rebuilding process is just that a pocess.

    Mr Gilcig I have a Jagr rookie card maybe you can tell me what that’s worth. Focus on speaking about things you are qualified to speak about and leave the real work to the adults.

  9. Oh and another thing. Do you really think it makes sense to take the word of a Habs fan writing an article about the Leafs?

  10. Author

    Welcome to the Cornwall Free News Uncle buzz. I suggest one of the price guides or ebay for the value of your cards. I’ve been out of that biz for quite awhile. 😉 It treated me well and was a lot of fun, and it was a ladder up to working in the NHL, and with some amazing athletes; some of which were Leafs believe it or not. Hockey players are amazing people. They give so much to try and attain those moments of glory that live so very briefly.

    If you look in our archives you can listen to my interview with Johnny Bower.

  11. admin.I hope it wasn,t the article on the leafs wanting to bring back Johnny Bower and Carl Brewer.
    That was just shameful glad it didn,t happen.My brother teased the hell out of me that time.lol

  12. it is shameful that habs fans feel it nesessary to lip off about something they no nothing about

  13. Suresh hit the nail on the head. Suresh for coach/gm and we can save the ridiculous salaries of Burke & Wilson to boot.

  14. Suresh has it right – they traded the wrong defenseman. Unfortunately trading the right defenseman would have required Burke to admit that he’d made a mistake in bringing in Phaneuf, which would never happen. http://www.keepburke.com/blog/?p=38

Leave a Reply