Brian Burke is Rocky: NHL Trade Deadline 2009

The 2009 NHL trade deadline came and went at 3 p.m. today.  You can find a complete recap and analysis here;  briefly, out the door go Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore (in return for draft choices).  In the door comes former Sens goalie Martin Gerber, who was claimed on waivers as a stopgap measure as it was revealed this morning that goaltender Vesa Toskala has been playing injured and will undergo season-ending surgery on his hip and groin tomorrow.  Judging by the general reaction (check this one out) of many of the folks in the Pension Plan Puppets discussion threads, there is a sense of disappointment out there.

I confess that I am having some difficulty understanding that sense of being so tremendously let down;  to me, it seems like people have missed the point of the Leafs’ participation in this exercise. It’s a little like being upset that Rocky didn’t knock out Apollo Creed in the first movie of that series.  The Italian Stallion was never going to actually beat the Champ in that first fight;  he wasn’t a legitimate contender, he was a tomato can whose stated goal was to simply go the distance.  When he achieved this goal, it was a victory for him in the sense that he achieved his goal.   It was a victory for us because it made possible Rocky II and its beach training scenes set to Survivor’s Eye of the Tiger.

So it was with the Leafs today; Brian Burke didn’t swing a trade to bring John Tavares straight from the OHL into Maple Leaf Blue & White.  He didn’t use some Creole voodoo spell to raise Syl Apps from the dead and bring the Leafs their first zombie captain since Rob Ramage.  He didn’t knock out Apollo Creed today.

“A couple of second rounders and a fourth?” some say, peering at the results like Charlie Brown into his Hallowe’en trick-or-treat bag, “We [Leaf fans] got screwed.”  Burke didn’t revitalize the franchise with a single trade today, but if you expected that result, you were deluding yourself all along.  Prepare yourself for a lifetime of disappointment, because Doug Risebrough is probably not going to be allowed to trade Doug Gilmour again anytime soon.

This is just step one of the process.  Rocky wanted to make it to the end of the fight;  Brian Burke’s goal today was simply to re-stock the draft pick cupboard as capably as he could.  Judging by the trade of Ales Kotalik to Edmonton, (for which Buffalo received a second-round pick) the return Burke got was market value or better;  the Rangers gave up a 2nd rounder and a conditional pick for Antropov, a player of more or less comparable value. The same yardstick suggests that Buffalo may well have overpaid for Dominic Moore, a useful player, but not a standout.  Burke also got creative and found a way to essentially turn cash into some additional hockey assets;  in one other trade, the Leafs acquired a 4th round pick from Tampa and took on the expiring contracts of Olaf Kolzig and Jamie Heward (both of whom are out indefinitely with injuries) as well as an injured prospect and former first-round pick by the name of Andy Rogers;   the transaction was accomplished essentially by the Leafs agreeing to take on the salaries of the injured players (and giving up a minor league prospect, I suspect to make the trade “legal” under the NHL’s rules) in exchange for the pick and prospect.  In this way, Tampa (it appears) will qualify to receive revenue-sharing money and the Leafs turn an asset they have lots of (cash) in to assets they find themselves needing (picks and prospects).   Overall, Burke managed to get a fair price for the assets he had to sell, and managed to creatively manufacture a little something else that might just turn out to mean something down the road and cost us nothing in terms of hockey assets.

Step two of the process comes after the Cup is awarded to someone else.  The plan will unfold a little more at the draft and during the upcoming free agent season.  Burke has given himself plenty of salary cap flexibility to build the team he wants to have over the next couple of years.  Like many others, I strongly suspect he has his sights set on Rick Nash the year after next.  In the meantime, he can choose to deal Kaberle and/or Kubina if he feels the need to do so and gets the right offer or offers.

Brian Burke stuck to the plan today.  He did what he needed to do to begin the rebuilding of the team in earnest.  He managed to avoid losing Antropov and Moore for nothing; perhaps more importantly, he managed to avoid failing to move Antropov and getting himself into an uncomfortable negotiation as a result, with Antropov holding all of the cards in that little poker game (if Antropov isn’t traded, with his contract expiring at the end of the year, the pressure on Burke to re-sign him rather than letting him walk for nothing would have been immense.  Antropov would have been in the driver’s seat in that negotiation.)

So Burke did what the plan asked of him.  He didn’t lose sight of any of the objectives.  He achieved his goal.  He should now feel free to stand in the middle of the ring and shout, “Adrienne!”

Setting the Market: Brian Burke and the NHL Trade Deadline 2009

Nb:  I am cross-posting this article to both my own site and Pension Plan Puppets;  I spent a lot of time working on this, and it occurred to me that if Jammies or Sexypants accidentally pushed the wrong “deletify” button over there at PPP, I might lose the whole thing.  So here ’tis:

Here’s the lowdown on the must-see command performance of the season:  Brian Burke goes to work at the trade deadline.


Artist’s rendering:  Burke demonstrating how to do a proper hernia exam.

This year, for Leaf fans, there is one command performance that we are all waiting to see.  Strangely, the exhibition we’re awaiting will not be given by any skater dashing up the ice with stick and puck.  Rather, the demonstration of skill and excellence we await will be accomplished in an office using phone, fax and email.

Our angry Irish overlord is the only truly high-priced, blue-chip quality talent that we have in Maple Leaf blue and white this year.  In truth, everything that has happened with the players on the ice to date this NHL season is but prelude to that which is about to unfold before our eyes.  Burke’s handling of Pogge, his resolution of the Sundin situation, the acquisition of Brad May, the waivers of Stralman and Bell – all of these matters were mere preparation for the Bellicose One.

The eyes of Leaf Nation are upon Brian Burke at the trade deadline.

Primer for Young Leaf Fans

Chapter One

Look at the men.  They are wearing blue and white.  Why are the men wearing Blue and White?  They are Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players.   They are teammates playing a hockey game.  They wear blue and white shirts.  They wear blue and white pants.  The blue and white shirts and pants are called uniforms.  Why do the Maple Leafs hockey players wear uniforms?  If they did not wear uniforms, they could not be sure that the player they are passing the puck to is on the other team.

leaf primer
TML for Kids

Look at the men’s feet.  The men are wearing funny shoes.  The funny shoes are called skates.  Why are the Toronto Maple Leafs hockey players wearing skates?   Judging by the way the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing against the Florida Panthers, no one is really quite sure.

Look at the man at the end of the rink.  He is wearing lots of extra padding.  Who is the man wearing lots of extra padding?  His name is Vesa Toskala, and he is the Toronto Maple Leafs’ goalie.   What is a goalie?  A goalie stands in the way when men from the other team shoot the puck.   A goalie stops the puck and makes a save. Doesn’t that sound scary?  Let’s watch Vesa Toskala.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!   Okay, that one went in the net.  It is not a save.  Let’s watch again.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!.   Hmmm, I’m sure Vesa Toskala will stand in the way of one of these shots soon.  Maybe we should come back later.

See the man at the bench?  His name is Ron and he is a hockey coach.  He is the coach of the Toronto maple Leafs.  Coach, Ron, coach!  What does a coach do?  When the players on the team make a mistake, the hockey coach must fix it. The hockey coach must tell the players what they did wrong.  He must teach them never to do that again.  Doesn’t that sound interesting?  Would you like to talk to Coach Ron?   That would be fun,  but Coach Ron is a VERY busy man.

Look at Vesa Toskala again.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!  Well, that was not a save either.   Let’s watch one more time.  See the man with the puck?  Shoot, man, shoot!  No, still not a save.  Yes, I know, I said that Vesa Toskala is a goalie.  I know I said that a goalie makes a save.   But Vesa Toskala has not made a save.  How do I know he’s a goalie?  He has a very nice mask.

See the man scowling?  His name is Brian.  Scowl, Brian, scowl.  Brian is the General Manager of  the Toronto Maple Leafs.  What is a General Manager?  The General Manager’s job is to make the team better.  The General Manager’s job is to make the team win.  Do you hear Brian talking?  Brian says bad words.  Brian says filthy words that you must never repeat.  Brian is angry.  Why is Brian angry?  Why is Brian scowling?  Why does Brian say bad words?

Wouldn’t you?

Mats – BFF? Ur 13 ready netime, kthxbye – BB

From an article in today’s Globe by Tim Wharnsby:

One of Burke’s first items on his to-do list will be to contact free-agent centre Mats Sundin, and garner his interest in returning to the Leafs next month. With the addition of Lee Stempniak, Sundin could play on a line with the newcomer and right winger Nik Antropov.

My initial reaction was one of excitement.  I am wondering if that is appropriate or not, keeping in mind that any icetime distributed to Sundin is TOI that’s not going to one of the younger kids.  No doubt, Mats would eat up a lot of quality, important game-situation minutes.  Players we’re trying to develop need those minutes sooner or later.

If we can’t win this year by adding Sundin – and we can’t – then why delay the development of the others?

And why do I still have my fingers crossed for his return?

Update: Damien Cox has his Thursday mailbag at the Star’s site:

Q: Hi Damien,

If Brian Burke becomes the GM, would he go and sign Sundin? Who you think he will make the team’s captain? Thanks.

Kirupa Kathir, Brampton

A: It would make no sense to sign Sundin from a variety of standpoints, and I can’t imagine Burke would pursue that strategy. What would be the point? As far as team captain, unless it’s Luke Schenn somewhere down the road, the Leafs probably don’t own a player capable of wearing the “C” right now.

Ladies and Gentlemen, it’s Wharnsby v. Cox, down in the mud at the Silverdome (-ilverdome, -ilverdome).  We’ll sell you the whole seat, but you’ll only need the edge!

NaNoReMo Project Update

Mike, I haven’t abandoned the project.  There’s something going on at work this week that demands my full attention.  I probably won’t have an update until Friday night/Saturday morning.

Hang in there.  Meantime, get ready for the Brian Burke era in Toronto by reading this excellent review of Brian Burke’s resume to date.  Can’t spare the time to read it?  Here’s a hint about the thesis:  “Canucks” and “Ducks” both rhyme with “sucks”.

Maple Leafs Twenty Questions: Funsize Edition

All-time world champion non sequitur (in that, in addition to being unrelated to the topic, it “follows” nothing):  My Dad, who seems to be working hard to secure a position as worldwide press agent for HiR:tb, tells me that there’s an army of people out there reading the blog and enjoying what I write.  That’s terrific to hear – and I’d love it, if you’re one of those folks, if you’d leave a comment on the site so I can prove to my wife that all this time spent tippy-tapping away on the keyboard is worthwhile in somebody’s opinion.

PPP has sought some help answering a series of five questions directed his way by certain mischievous Oiler fans. Here are the five questions, with my proposed answers.

1. What is the consensus amongst Leaf fans about the Sundin situation?

Divided. Those who advocate staying the course worry that Sundin’s return would provide little benefit (as far as team success) and delay or derail entirely the development of young forwards gobbling up prime minutes in important situations. Those who don’t see the team obtaining a top five draft pick anyway want him back to teach the youngsters the way. Those who are cannibals think he looks delicious.

2. What is the worst deal in the past 5 years that the Leafs have done? What has been the best?

The worst on-ice deal has to be Red Light Raycroft. Colorado Avalanche fans (both of them) are by now learning that with “Razor” (cough) in net, the “scoring area” now includes all four corners of the rink, most washrooms on the mezzanine level of the arena, and a substantial portion of the state of Colorado. There are no guarantees that Tuuka Rask (who the Leafs traded to get Raycrap) will ever be Martin Brodeur v. 2.0, but that deal perfectly symbolizes the ineptness of the JFJ management regime: JFJ evidently failed to foresee that Ed Belfour would age, because he failed to have a suitable successor ready to take over from within the organization; he then badly overpaid for Raycrap (both by way of trade and by way of mammoth contract), a goalie whose “talent” he over-estimated; to fix his own mistakes in that regard, the Leafs were then required to trade for Vesa Toskala. The best deal may well be Cliff’s most recent Risebrough: a 2nd-rounder for Mikhail Grabovski.

3. How does it feel knowing that the last Stanley Cup that the Leafs won was when there were 6 teams in the league?

How did it feel when Chris Pronger and his wife basically hocked a loogie on the statue of Gretz out front of the Rexall Place/Skyreach Centre/Edmonton Coliseum/Northlands Coliseum? How did it feel when Roli the Goalie got steamrollered in Game 1 of the ‘06 Final, following which the Oil coughed up a three-goal lead and went on to lose the series in 7 games? That’s gotta hurt. Anyway, take those feelings, transplant them on a fan base that actually keeps coming to the games when the team doesn’t have a freakish run of success, and you get the idea. Laugh it up out there, Oiler fans – at least our team never lost the Cup to a bunch of itinerant hillbillies.

4. Rumor has it that Cliff Fletcher is 612 years old. Is this a concern for Leafs fans?

It is true that Cliff Fletcher is so old, he was once a contestant on a game show where the big prize was “fire”. Nevertheless, the front office is one place where the “wily veteran with a track record of success” is much preferred over the “promising but unproven talent”: see the entry in Failopedia for “Ferguson, John Jr.”. By the way, hope that Steve Tambellini thing works out for you guys. Really.

5. Do you hold out hope for Brian Burke coming to town?

I personally want Brian Burke to come town about as much as Kevin Lowe would like to carpool with the guy. Burke’s record – both as it relates to the draft and his ability to assemble a well-rounded team (or even one NHL calibre starting goalie) is doubtful, as I’m sure the seven time Stanley Cup Champion Vancouver Canucks would agree. His record with the Ducks raises questions about his ability to manage the cap, though Niedermayer and Selanne have to bear some of the blame for that. It would, however, be fun to watch Burkie berate the local mittenstringers like a drill sergeant with PMS on a daily basis. Put me down for “meh.”

A Place Of Its Own

Mike posted this in my little article about Gord Kirke’s busy, busy schedule:

Hello Mr.B.Burke.

Am Mr.G.Kirke, I work with a HOCKEY TEAM here in CANADA as an SEARCHING officer. I have just found out that a foreign customer with us WAS FIRED last year without leaving a next of kin to his PLAYERS and he has no known family. The HOCKEY TEAM will keep the PLAYERS if it remains unclaimed which will only favor the HOCKEY TEAM, so I decided to look for a foreigner that will agree to inherit the PLAYERS while I prepare grounds for the claim.

I deem it important to assure you that this is legal and genuine and will be carried out officially too. The claim itself is overdue and will be given prompt attention by the HOCKEY TEAM upon your payment request while I’ll give you exclusive details and support from here. I am ready to give you 25% of the HOCKEY TEAM for your support and I also guarantee the safety of your name and details.

I’ll furnish you with more details upon getting your immediate response.

Thank you.


Obviously, this is waaaay funnier than what I wrote. It deserves a post of its own.  Voilà.

Fiddling While Rome Burns?

CTV announced today that it had acquired the rights to the iconic “Hockey Night in Canada” song. Most people ’round these parts seem to want to talk about how CBC was wrong-footed on this one; the conventional wisdom is that CBC looks foolish in failing to re-acquire a license for the tune. That may be so, although it seems to me likely that – had the Mother Corpse thrown a pile of money at the rights holder just to nail down the song – people would have been just as busy bellyaching about a publicly-funded broadcaster lavishing funds extravagantly on a mere overture to the weekly exhibition of hockey. Whatever the truth of the matter, my point is that patrons of donut shops coast to coast would – and do – have no shortage of second guessing and “obvious” wisdom to offer free of charge, delivered between gulps of coffee and with an accompanying spray of cruller dust, for the dunderhead bureaucrats and anyone else within earshot.

My own parochial interest was piqued more by this little chestnut, hidden near the end of the linked article:

Earlier Monday, CBC had announced it asked Toronto sports lawyer Gord Kirke to mediate negotiations between the public broadcaster and Copyright Music and Visuals, the company that controls the song’s rights.

Yes, that’s right, the CBC wanted to hire Gord Kirke – THAT Gord Kirke! The one that’s supposed to be taxed to the max by his many demanding duties on the committee the Toronto Maple Leafs have struck to find The One, the G.M. that will lead Leafs fans into the promised land after our own little version of Exodus, lo these forty years (yes, that was a cheap “1967” reference. I’m entitled to one a year.)


Haven’t the Leafs been assuaging the worst fears of their fans – that the lack of obvious activity towards achieving this goal is in fact reflective of the actual level of activity going on within MLSE – by assuring us all that a very thorough and exhaustive search was being conducted in order to identify the perfect candidate for the position, and that the organization would not be rushed into making a selection simply for the sake of having someone in place come draft day? Haven’t they in effect been telling us that Gord Kirke and the rest of the committee are busier than a one-legged man in an ass-kicking contest, and don’t you worry your pretty little head about it, they’ve rolled up their sleeves, they’re pulling all-nighters on this one, but dammit we’re gonna do the job right?

Doesn’t it sound a little bit like that’s all – and this next passage is a technical term, please try to follow along – bullshit? To me, this sounds a little like Mr. Kirke is the kind of “busy” that you used to be when your Mom asked you to mow the lawn: “Oh, wow, I’d love to, Mom, but I’ve got this killer report due in third period geography on Tuesday, and the Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment board is also kind of hoping I’d have a GM hired by then.” In other words, too busy to mow the lawn, but NOT too busy to go whip donuts at passing buses with your best buddy.

If Gord Kirke and the search committee is so damn busy, how the hell does he have time to be even considering taking other jobs? I appreciate the fact that the story indicates CBC was approaching Kirke, rather than the other way around, lemonade-755563but what’s the likelihood that CBC isn’t plugged into Kirke’s level of activity on the GM question, tied as they are to the apron strings of Maple Leaf broadcast money – money that gets more and more plentiful the more successful the Leafs become, as the playoff runs of 1993 and 1994 proved beyond any shadow of a doubt? If Gord Kirke is truly busy with the GM search, and I’m talking “juggling chainsaws while he puts out a four alarm fire, dances a jig, writes an opera and rescues a puppy” busy, no way does anyone at CBC throw out his name as a dude that might be able to help them in their time of crisis.

I wonder what other occupations and pre-occupations might currently be engaging Mr. Kirke, in addition to his many exhausting headhunting labours on behalf of the Bay Street Mint? He could be:

  • operating a lemonade stand – can’t let the first heat wave of the season go unexploited, and 25 cents a glass for some water, sugar and citrus flavouring is market waiting to be exploited. Look for the chain of stands with 16 oz glasses of “product” that comes in a plastic cup with Bryan McCabe’s picture on it, and retails for eight bucks plus tax;
  • trying to get through Grand Theft Auto IV;
  • watching Cheers marathon on Deja Vu – currently enjoying seventeenth consecutive “Coach” episode, struck by similarities between Ernie Pantuso and former employee John Ferguson Jr.;
  • totally working up the courage to flirt with that hot chick behind the counter at Timothy’s coffee shop under the TD Centre: “Hey, baby, I can get centre ice reds for you. Of course there is the matter of the seat licence; now, if you’ll let me take some licence with your seat…”
  • trying to learn how to belch the alphabet. Currently making it regularly up to “q”, only vomited once;
  • secretly hiding shit from Cliff Fletcher’s desk when Fletcher takes a time out in the executive crapper, then wondering aloud whether Fletch may be beginning to suffer from Alzheimer’s when Cliff expresses frustration at not being able to find his fucking stapler; and
  • helping O.J. look for the “real killer”.

Seriously, Gord and his buddies couldn’t convey their intentions any more clearly at this point if they hired a skywriter to author an airborne message to the following effect: “Dude. Chill out. We totally have Brian Burke’s phone number. He just has to work some shit out, man.”

The Book of Burke 1:01

With the Anaheim Mighty Ducks eliminated from playoff contention last night, cue the Toronto media hype about Brian Burke, incoming General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Part Time Saviour of All Mankind. Details remain unclear concerning His Holiness’ expected time of arrival here in the GTA; it is also unknown whether he will be flying in through Pearson, teleporting, or merely decreeing out of existence all space and time between His current location on the left coast and the foot of Bay Street (heads up, Idaho!). I give you exhibit A, the babbling prattle of Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox:

It begins today. Officially, that is. Unless Gord Kirke has presented the MLSE board with an entirely different game plan, Burke has been the No.1 target of the Leafs since John Ferguson was fired in January and he’s still the No.1 target.

This thing is now going to heat up quickly.

“It’s going to go from 33 1/3 rpm to 45 rpm in a hurry,” one source said.

Is that quotation really to be taken seriously? First, am I to believe that someone [the source] said “33 1/3 rpm to 45 rpm”? Ignore, for a moment, the astonishingly anachronistic (and not particularly compelling) metaphor. Even back in the old days (when people read newspapers, for example), if and when people made reference to long playing records, nobody added the “rpm” part in to the sentence, which means it’s likely that Cox just dropped it in there. How the heck am I supposed to rely on a quote that I’m fairly certain has been monkeyed with? Okay, you can stop ignoring the astonishingly anachronistic metaphor now: evidently , Cox couldn’t find anyone under the age of seventy willing to discuss the situation. “It’s going as rapidly as ye olde prunes through the digestion of King Henry,” quoth one scribe. Finally, I assume that in using this figure of speech the “source” (demanding anonymity for obvious reasons, given the incredible sensitivity of this most highly secret information) meant to suggest a sudden and substantial increase in the pace of activity. Is that sense of frenetic acceleration truly conveyed in this sentence? Would you be left with the impression of a sudden frenzy if the “source” had spelled out the metaphor in more arithmetic terms: “The lazy revolution of this LP is going to increase in frequency by somewhat less than 40%“?

What a great load of bollocks, I say. What is the story here? What is it, exactly, that is gathering such profound momentum that only an obsolescent metaphor will suffice to describe the massive approaching wave of Burke-mania speeding towards the parched hockey desert of Hogtown, at last joyously quenching the insatiable thirst for the Hockey Wisdom that only He (Praise be his Name) can bring?

Well, if you read the “story” closely, here’s what it actually reports: Brian Burke is the General Manager of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He has been for a couple of years. It is generally believed that the Leafs are interested in hiring him as their General Manager. They became interested in January, when they fired the last unfortunate idiot who held that job. Burke’s team finished losing its playoff series last night. So now they can pick up the phone and call him. Y’know, to find out if he’s interested. Unless, of course, the source is wrong and Gord Kirke has a different plan. [Pause: sound of crickets chirping.] To be more concise: having thought about it since January, the Maple Leafs might call Brian Burke soon.

Invigorating, isn’t it, the chilling rush that comes with just being associated with the breakneck pace of this unstoppable coronation? Thank God – er, I mean, “Thank Brian Burke” that Damien Cox had that anonymous source willing to go out on a limb and share with him – and by extension, us – the thrilling and lightning-fast unseen front office machinations of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the National Hockey League.

By Almighty Burke, I’m glad to be alive!