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Leafs VP Poulin preaches patience

Mar 9, 2012, 1:12 PM EDT

Sad Leafs fan

Soon after Brian Burke was hired on Nov. 29, 2008, Leafs fans were promised they wouldn’t have to suffer through an all-out rebuild. The new general manager would be active in the trade and free-agent markets while also stocking the organization with prospects. It would be a rebuild on the fly, not a tank for the future. Making the playoffs was the goal right off the bat. Contending for the Stanley Cup would start, well, right about now.

Burke was still preaching the same message in April of 2010 after watching his team miss the playoffs for the second time.

“As I said to you guys a year ago, I wasn’t interested, and I’m still not, in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done,” he said. “Maybe because of my age, maybe just because I know it doesn’t have to be five years, because it wasn’t in Anaheim.”

Now, with Toronto on the verge of missing the playoffs for the fourth time with Burke looking on from up high, patience is understandably wearing thin with fans.

With that in mind, you have to wonder how Leafs Nation feels about the club’s V.P. of Hockey Operations, Dave Poulin, saying it’s going to take time.

“We’re making the product better, but it’s not all going to show today,” Poulin told NHL.com. “When I was 12, I wanted to be 13. When I was 15, I wanted so badly to drive. I couldn’t. I had to wait. Certain things just take time.”

Except it’s already taken time. Over 1,000 days have passed since Burke was hired. The 12-year-old kid that wanted to be 13 will be off to college soon.

“You’d love to say we’re going to start something three and a half years ago, but you have to undo before you can do,” said Poulin. “It’s not as simple as saying, ‘OK guys, clean slate, let’s go.’ [Burke] had to undo contracts, roster spots, a lot of things. That was a much more complicated piece than you would think.”

But is it any less complicated now? Maybe a bit, but there are still bad contracts on the books – Mike Komisarek, Colby Armstrong, Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi comprise $15.75 million in cap space. Plus there’s still no top-line center or goalie that can be trusted. And while the prospect pool is deeper, is there a franchise player among it?

Patience, Leafs fans.

Patience.

  1. terminalcityhockey - Mar 9, 2012 at 1:21 PM

    “As I said to you guys a year ago, I wasn’t interested, and I’m still not, in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done,” he said. “Maybe because of my age, maybe just because I know it doesn’t have to be five years, because it wasn’t in Anaheim.”

    –VP of the team that hasn’t made the playoffs in 8 years.

  2. chiadam - Mar 9, 2012 at 1:36 PM

    Well, that one lady is definitely patient. And maybe a little lonely.

    • sknut - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:16 PM

      Judging by the picture she could probably get a better seat by moving up.

  3. danphipps01 - Mar 9, 2012 at 1:44 PM

    When I was 13, I wanted the Leafs to make the playoffs. I’m 21. Still waiting. Don’t try to pretend like it’s just been three years of Burke fans are disappointed in, Poulin. The five years before that didn’t just vanish when Burke got hired (ostensibly) to fix things. It’s eight in total, the fans have been waiting the whole damn time, no-one’s forgotten the first half-decade and most of them are thoroughly unimpressed with the last three, too. How many more excuses and deflections are left before Burke actually has to be held accountable for his failures?

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:45 PM

      Remember how pathetic this team was the year before Burke came in? He hasn’t done the best job possible, but I don’t think he’s done the worst job possible either. The Kessel trade wasn’t great but I’m fine with it. Other than that I’m not sure what he could have done differently. Recent draft classes and free agent markets have not been very strong.

  4. babar61 - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:16 PM

    What’s with all the recent leaf articles? Did Burke phone NBC sports and complain you guys didn’t write enough articles on the leafs?

  5. 4twistedlogic - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:19 PM

    About one more year of excuses. Burkes smart, he knows will be fired next off season if he misses them again.

    Should be an interesting draft…

  6. bcisleman - Mar 9, 2012 at 2:32 PM

    Burke rode into town as the great hero who would save the day. He was the ggreat GM who had huffed and puffed and brought both Sedins to Vancouver and then wheeled and dealed Anaheim to a Cup win.

    Well, the fact is that the wheeling and dealing in both cases was with assets that previous GMs had acquired and Anaheim already had a pretty good core of players and prospects that Burke had nothing to do with acquiring either.

    There really is no way to build a long term contender without the pain of a rebuild. Burke tried to huff and puff his way to getting Garth Snow to trade away the #1 pick in 2009 so that he could draft Johnny T. When that didn’t work, Burke made the infamous Kessel trade. Seguin, Knight, and Hamilton could have been a very good core, along with Schenn and Kadri, to build a champion around. Kessel has talent and will put up numbers, but he is a one dimensional player who is certainly not the kind of core guy Toronto needs.

    Burke has already blown Toronto’s one chance for a rapid rebuild. He is not tempermentally suited to a real rebuild. The Leafs need to fire him and look to organizations like rival Boston, Chicago, and Pittsburgh which have managed successful rebuilds for a potential replacement. If Toronto sinks far enough in the standings, it may get in the lottery for the #1 pick and will surely get a prospect such as Murray or Grigorenko that it can rebuild around.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:43 PM

      I’m in favour of the Pittsburgh approach. It’s not a very difficult one. Put an awful team on the ice for a few years, draft in the top 3 every year, then win a Cup. I’d be happy to see the Leafs finish in dead last for 5 years if afterwords it meant we would be as good as the Pens are now.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 9, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        Also, in case you haven’t notice, building around Schenn and Kadri hasn’t worked out so great. I’d love to have Seguin but I don’t think having him instead of Kessel, all else being equal, would make things that much more promising. Seguin is putting up awesome numbers on an awesome team, I’m not so sure he’d be putting up the same numbers on this Leafs team.

      • bcisleman - Mar 9, 2012 at 5:49 PM

        Seguin seems likely to put up as good or better numbers over his career and–as if not more importantly–he is more of a team guy than Kessel. But also, as CanuckinAmerica ointed out, Seguin wasn’t all Burke lost. Hamilton and Knight promise to be real studs as well. If you ADD Schenn and Kadri to those three, you have a pretty good beginning to a contending core.

        The Pittsburgh model is a little problematic. You are not likely to get another Sid. In fact, it would be a mistake to focus solely on the top pick. Great scouting can get solid or even great NHLers from later round picks. Toronto has a built in advantage here in that they have the money to invest heavily in scouting. They also have a ton of talent right in their backyard and many of those kids dream of playing for the blue and white. The right GM and staff can get a program going in the right direction. But, as the saying goes, the greatest waste of time is the waste of time in getting started.

  7. canuckinamerica - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:00 PM

    And which of the 22 VP’s is Poulin?

  8. canuckinamerica - Mar 9, 2012 at 4:05 PM

    1943…..just remember…..Sequin was ONLY one part of the trade to the Bruins. Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight are, according to the experts, great bets to be very good players in the NHL. Think Blustering Burkie would like that one back?

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