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Leafs officially eliminated from playoffs, but Burke might keep his job

Mar 28, 2012, 12:34 AM EDT

Brian Burke AP

With a 3-0 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the seemingly inevitable became official: the Toronto Maple Leafs have been eliminated from the playoffs.

Now the obvious question for the free-falling Leafs is: what’s next? If you believe Dave Shoalts’ unnamed sources, embattled (and profoundly entertaining) GM Brian Burke will be there to shape the team in 2012-13.

Efficient may not be a popular word right now when it comes to the Maple Leafs and their general manager, Brian Burke, but the board has no plans to fire him.

The MLSE insider, who did not want to be identified because he is not authorized to speak on behalf of the company, also does not expect this to change when BCE Inc., and Rogers Communications Inc., officially become the owners of 75 per cent of MLSE some time this summer. He can’t say that for sure, of course, but he also said he has no reason to think either communications giant will demand Burke’s head before his contract expires at the end of the 2013-14 NHL season.

Shoalts goes on to detail some of the wins and losses of Burke’s tenure, although I must play the devil’s advocate on the Phil Kessel deal to some extent. Yes, Dougie Hamilton could be a good-to-great NHL defenseman and Tyler Seguin is beginning to show his promise with 61 points this season, but Kessel was absolutely outstanding for most of this season. (Yes, Kessel might have his flaws, yet it might be time to downgrade that trade from the “awful” category.)

There is one “benefit” from the Maple Leafs plummeting ways (whether Burke is there to take advantage or not): Toronto is tanking its way to a possible lottery pick. NHL Network provided this helpful look at the lottery situation, which I’ll share in text form:

Tank watch

Anaheim: 6 games left, 75 points
Islanders: 6 games left, 75 points

Lottery Teams as of this writing
Toronto: 5, 75 (8.1 percent chance for the top pick)
Minnesota: 6, 72 (10.7 percent)
Montreal: 6, 72 (14.2 percent)
Edmonton: 6, 71 (18.8 percent)
Columbus: 6, 55 (48.2 percent )

(Boy, the Islanders must feel great about smiting the Pittsburgh Penguins, right?)

The Maple Leafs haven’t made the playoffs in the post-lockout era, so “wait til next year” is the sort of phrase that likely sends Toronto fans to the nearest pub, but the team should be able to add a nice prospect to try to turn things around.

It just remains to be seen if Burke will get another year or two to try to steer that ship.

  1. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:00 AM

    Good. I guess Damien Cox et. al. don’t have much sway with their bosses. Also a good thing.

    I’m sure I’ll take some heat for this, especially given the general opinion on the Kessel deal, but whatever:

    I’d rather see Burke deal some of these picks for a Nash/Getzlaf/other top 6 scorer. The top 2 guys in this year’s draft are Russians who seem to have some of Kovalev’s less desirable qualities. No thanks. The rest of the draft class just doesn’t seem to be very deep and doesn’t offer a lot to fill any of the Leafs’ needs.

    Basically he won’t be giving up another Seguin or Hamilton or both, not that I think the Kessel trade is the complete distater everyone else thinks it is.

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:24 AM

      Typical Leaf fan, and you will probably get what you foolishly want.

      And when you get a Nash or Getz, the Leafs will still not contend for a cup, have a few seasons of being a 6th ranked seed winning nothing, and then all of a sudden 2 years have passed and Kessel and Phaneuf are UFA.

      You want the Sundin plan huh? Spin those wheels for another decade, refusing to rebuild and never being a contender.

      Perfect, the rest of the league hopes this happens too.

      You Leaf fans keep on ignoring how the Wings have done it for 20 years
      Ignore how the Hawks built themselves into a Cup and a contender
      Ignore how the Pens have a ring and have built themselves.
      Ignore how a expansion team like the Preds have built themselves FAR beyond the Leafs

      Only in Foolish Leaf Fan Land does this stuff make sense

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:33 AM

        We were a solid team pre-lockout with Sundin, say whatever you want.

        This is simply not a deep draft class. I can’t see any of these kids bringing what the Leafs need. There’s certainly no Toews, Kane, Malkin, Crosby, Weber, or Suter there. It’s easy to point to those teams when they were able to know exactly what they were getting when they drafted.

        Bring in Nash or Getz, take the ‘C’ from Phaneuf and give it to one of them. That WILL make a difference.This Leafs team is not atrocious like all you people seem to think. It’s not a total teardown.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:46 AM

        “I can’t see any of these kids bringing what the Leafs need.”

        No kidding, because you like most Leaf fans are clueless, you are looking for a quick fix always so you can what? Still not win a Cup? Be a lil bit better than last year and hope to get lucky and win a playoffs series before getting bounced.

        You want another bandaid to end up in the same position in 2 seasons
        You do understand that Kessel has TWO, Count em One – Two, Seasons before he is GONE right?
        You think Phil Kessel is sticking around in Toronto?

        LEAFS SUCK
        They need to rebuild
        They need to get rid of Kessel, Dion and most importantly Burke

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:54 AM

        Oh this is where Leaf fan says something to the effect that they should build around Kessel, and never trade him.

        They want Sundin’s career all over again

        “We will suck so bad without Kessel”

        Oh ya? You suck with him too, and he’s nearly out the door

        Id rather have Gabe Landsekog right now than Phil Kessel if I were a Leaf fan, someone you can build around because you know where he will be for the next 6-7 seasons.
        Who is an actual leader, Who actually plays both ends of the ice.

        Oh course most Leaf fans would balk at the idea, but that’s why they are Leaf fans and mocked nation wide

    • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:37 AM


      Say whatever I want? Like what? The TRUTH?

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:19 AM

        Wow dude, you need to calm down. I’m sure it’s fun cheering for a team that always wins whether you’re from that city or not. It can’t be as fun mocking loyal fans of other teams though but for some reason you seem to get a kick out of it. Easily amused?

        I’ve read the scouting reports and looked at the pre-draft rankings enough to know these picks are probably just as valuable in a trade as if they were used. I don’t want a lazy selfish Russian who the Toronto media would just eat alive. The other guys don’t seem to offer anything we need or don’t already have

        Neither you or me knows for sure what’s going to happen with Kessel. This is probably how his situation’s going to play out though: if the team improves over those two years he’s more likely to be back than if they’re in full rebuild mode. Either way I’m fine. We keep Kessel or sell him as a rental player.

        I wanted Landeskog from the first time I saw him play for Kitchener. Two goals and obviously a cut above everyone else on the ice. But just how exactly would Burke have gone about getting him? You seem to be the master of what the Leafs should be doing so please enlighten me.

        And to answer your question we’ve won 9 playoff series. Have fun mocking that, just try not to shoot in your pants this time. Also, if you;re going to insist on doing this and you’re not from Michigan or Windsor you’re truly pathetic.

      • alecitrullo10 - Mar 30, 2012 at 6:02 PM

        they actually went to the conference finals 3 times since 1993…

  2. elguapo12 - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:27 AM

    What did Nash and Getzlaf ever do to you?

  3. firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:36 AM

    Most people are stupid and trade to look at the trade based on how good Kessel is vs what they gave up for him, and it’s only part of the context.

    The problem with the trade was and is, that you only do that trade to put your team over the top to contend for a Cup.
    The Leafs were Never in that position.

    They should have been rebuilding, and instead the Ego of Brian Burke figured he didn’t have to rebuild, he could win championship with his shrewd signings of hot garbage for millions of dollars.

    So instead of sucking and having Seguin under team control for 5-6 more seasons and Hamilton for 6-7 years
    They still suck and have Phil Kessel for 2 more years.

    And STILL you have foolish Leaf fans lie the one above yammering for more.

    Give those Leaf fans more of the same they have been getting for 20 years
    They deserve it

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:22 AM

      Alright, you have my two, three, and four cents. Have fun ripping it to shreds. You obviously need the self-esteem boost a lot more than I do.

  4. jimw81 - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:51 AM

    Words from TML’s PR Department: “Thank You Fans!”

  5. seaner44 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:15 AM

    Nobody has said anything yet this guy keeps yammering on. Geeze

  6. bcisleman - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:45 AM

    The comments on this thread point to the reason Toronto has never been a serious contender for the Cup since expansion. Leaf fans are forever looking for a Kessel or a Nash or a Tavares that they can grab from some other team and shortcut their team’s development. And unfortunately for the franchise, management has never had the guts to say no and develop the team the right way.

    The Kessel deal is the perfect case in point. O’Brien leaves Knight out of the equation as many do, but he is developing into a very nice role player already. Seguin will likely put up numbers as good or better than Kessel in his career. And there is every reason to believe Hamilton will be a very good or even great defenseman. And all three have the character and leadership qualities Kessel manifestly lacks.

    The Kessel trade was a big miss. Thing is that Toronto will continue to miss like that until the culture changes. Don’t see that happening anytime soon though.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:58 AM

      Good point. That’s the way it was when I was a kid. Make a couple of moves at the deadline, finish as a middle seed, win a playoff series or two. Obviously I and everybody else wants a Cup but at this point people would be content with a return to the early 2000s.

      Another part of the problem is a lot of people like myself have just giving up on being emotionally invested in this team. Losing has become the norm so nobody is surprised or seems to really care when it happens. Without any incentive to build a better team it’s going to be quite a while before this team is a contender again.

      I’m personally not sold on Hamilton or Knight. We were told Schenn would be our #1 shutdown defenseman for years to come and it hasn’t exactly worked out. Dougie’s a Toronto kid and having known him I’m not sure how well he’d handle being a cornerstone for the Leafs. Knight I don’t know much about but based on size and OHL stats Kadri should be better than him but look at how he’s doing.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 9:33 AM

        Toronto fans figure that since they….
        Can’t draft NHL talent
        Can’t develop NHL talent

        That you give up on the idea of it

        Rather than firing the whole front office and bringing in people who does those things well.

        I remember saying “the Leafs should do whatever they can to get Jim Nill from the Wings”

        Ohhh how the Leaf fans laughed, they have Brian Burke, the man who won once with a team that Brian Murray built. The same Brian Murray that helped build the Red Wings and Sens from nothingness.

        Well Jim Nill still is assistant GM in Motown with his 4 rings and his ego in check unlike the over-rated and arrogant Brian Burke.

        Toronto would only be so lucky to get a class act and talent evaluator like Jim Nill.
        He’s too good for the Leafs

    • nothanksimdriving123 - Mar 28, 2012 at 3:02 AM

      bcisle: I don’t disagree with your trade assessment, but I must take issue with “Toronto has never been a serious contender for the Cup since expansion”. I recall the Leafs were one blown penalty call from the 1993 Finals. Had the ref called the penalty against Gretzky late in Game 6, it would have been Toronto facing a very beatable Montreal that year.

      • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Mar 28, 2012 at 3:10 AM

        Yeah. The 70s were promising, then Ballard set the team back a decade with his buffoonery. Fletcher built it back into a contender (largely through a blockbuster trade of all things!) in the early 90s when we got ripped off, then there were a few more Conference Finals after that.

      • firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 9:38 AM

        he is talking prolly talking about the expansion in 1997.

        1993…..20 years isn’t a long enough drought?

  7. kitshky - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:46 AM

    It is true that the Kessel trade wasn’t a bad trade …to put a contender over the top. The guys clearly worked up but outside of jus pure opinion (Leafs suck …ect) he’s right.

    No other market over values their own talent more, call it loyalty all you want but the does stand …if you keep doing the same thing over and over again …well we can all see how that ends.

  8. iamanidiotfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 4:19 AM

    I think if you’re going to evaluate what Burke has done, that its useful to compare him to what the Oilers have done. The Oilers made a nice run to the Finals, and were a Roloson injury away from winning the Cup. They then overvalued their players, and when they lost Pronger, they went in the toilet. They kept trying to hit home runs in free agency, and thought their team was better than it was. They finally decided to start over (or were forced to, thanks to injuries). It doesn’t really matter, because at the end of the day, they committed to a full rebuilding mode.

    They didn’t rush Eberle, they sent him back to WHL. They bottomed out and drafted Hall. They suckered LA – Penner for a 1st rounder . They bottomed out again and drafted Nuge and Klefbom. They left Klefbom in Europe to develop. They’re in the bottom five guaranteed this year and should have another decent pick. They’re building up their team in OKC.

    They’ve played some pretty awful games this year, but they also have had a few magical games like Gagner’s 8 point night, or watching Nuge win (probably) the rookie scoring title. Quick-fixes and an over-reliance on free agency has left the Leafs where they’re at now. Bottoming out and building through the draft and focusing on minor league development has the Oilers where they are at. As a fan, would you rather have the Leafs team or the Oilers team for the next five years?

  9. iamanidiotfan - Mar 28, 2012 at 4:25 AM

    PS I am neither an Oilers or a Leafs fan, I just think it’s a good comparison, since they both bottomed out the same year, when the choice was Taylor or Tyler.

  10. brockohol - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:41 AM

    so can Leafs articles “officially” stop populating this website 15 times a day now?

  11. firstandonlywarning - Mar 28, 2012 at 9:44 AM

    Brian Burke is the WORST thing to happen to the Toronto Maple Leafs, since hiring Gordon Stuckless and John Paul Roby as ushers.

    And that is an undeniable fact. Any GM who put the team ahead of his ego would have been better than the clueless Burke.

    Brian Burke has NO CLUE how to evaluate hockey players.
    He is one of the worst GM’s in the 4 major sports.

    Deny these facts Leaf fans
    Does anyone want to go over his draft choices and free agent signings?

    Wake up to the reality that Burke is garbage

  12. govtminion - Mar 28, 2012 at 10:19 AM

    Someone didn’t take their morning Valium!

    Look, Kessel trade… bad idea. Not as bad as it looked at the time, since Kessel has been pretty good really, but Hamilton and Seguin would have been a better way to go for the Leafs. But hey, look at it this way- Burke DID even things up with Boston by fleecing them for Kaberle last year, so… that has to count for something, right?

    I wouldn’t give Burke another chance, if it were me. But I also think the team is in much better shape than people give credit for. They’re like the Islanders right now- a little wonky in the front office, surprisingly talented in the roster, just… not able to translate it into wins yet. For the Leafs, that starts in net. Reimer didn’t end up being what they wanted him to become this season (let’s not go into the long-ago Rask trade). Until that situation gets fixed, Toronto will continue to struggle.

    I guess I’m a glass half-full person, but to me this team isn’t far from being a playoff contender. There’s some fixes that need to be made, and to me the big one is Burke, but the next GM may not have to do a whole lot to turn things around in Toronto.

  13. ralphwilsonisrich - Mar 28, 2012 at 10:21 AM

    Go leafs go! Nice season leafs!

  14. habsman - Mar 28, 2012 at 12:36 PM

    The Kessel trade was bad for two reasons.

    First they aquired a one dimensional, minus player, whose next body check will be his first, for what ended up being a possible star two-way centre in Seguin, a potential top six forward in Jarred Knight, and a stud defensive prospect in D. Hamilton (who I believe is better than ANY dman in the Leafs organization right now).

    Second, Burke has basically “set-up” a divisional rival for the next ten years by providing them the opportunity to draft these guys. So going forward, the Leafs will be competing for playoff spots against young stars that should be in their lineup. Nice. And lets not forget, the Leafs fixed the Bruin goaltending situation as well. Thanks.

    Look, if your want to keep Burkie and continue on the path of futility while doing so, I’m fine with that. But please, please stop trading with the Bruins. There are other teams in the conference that are actually trying to win.

  15. habsman - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:04 PM

    Brian Burke press conference.

  16. jimhockey - Mar 28, 2012 at 1:49 PM

    I’m a Devils fan but I’ve been wondering for about 2 decades how any team with the assets of the Leafs could be so bad for so long. It’s almost impossible. Original 6 teams in rich markets are not only supposed to be perennial contenders but occasional Cup winners, or even frequent winners like Detroit.

    Even teams with a fraction of the attendance, television revenue, and the largest hockey market in Canada have outperformed yours – some of them for decades. You haven’t even had the occasional temporary surges that make people (at least, outside Toronto) say about a team “They’re the next young, scarily talented team that might dominate for a while”. Whether or not your team ever again contends for the Cup in your lifetimes, it has to be unacceptable that you frequently cannot even make the playoffs despite your limitless ability to spend for talent.

    When a cash-strapped team succeeds, the credit always goes to management that got the most talent for the buck. When a rich team fails for as long as the Leafs, it’s always management’s fault because they picked the talent that didn’t cohere into a winning team. Trust me that Brian Burke would not still be leading any other organization in hockey.

    As a hockey fan rather than just a Devils fan, there should be something more impressive about playing in Toronto than playing in Nashville.

  17. haterzgonahate - Mar 28, 2012 at 2:29 PM

    yes yes.. everyone loves to poop on the Leafs . Brian Burke is not the problem.. letting him go would be a mistake. your not going to find a Ken Holland to replace him. the problem with Leaf nation is impatience.. it’s understandable yes, but seriously.. calm down a little and let Burke have a couple more drafts.. the guy is not an idiot. pompous prick maybe.. but not an idiot.

  18. ralphwilsonisrich - Mar 28, 2012 at 7:53 PM

    50 Mission Cap

    bill barilko disappeared that summer, he was on a fishing trip the last goal he ever scored won the leafs the cup they didn’t win
    another until 1962.

    • habsman - Mar 28, 2012 at 9:05 PM

      Love the Hip.

      • ralphwilsonisrich - Mar 28, 2012 at 11:39 PM

        The Best thing from Ontario! Joking of course.

Top 10 NHL Player Searches
  1. P. Kessel (1450)
  2. P. Kane (1303)
  3. S. Matthias (1208)
  4. M. Zuccarello (1125)
  5. D. Carcillo (1102)