Brian Burke's folly: The Toronto Maple Leafs

oopsburke.jpgJames Mirtle wrote a nice piece on the Toronto Maple Leafs, spotlighting the five biggest mistakes that Brian Burke has made in his 500+ days as the team’s general manager. Let me be honest, though – there’s plenty of other mistakes to choose from.

The biggest error was trading those crucial draft picks (a first and second rounder this year, a first rounder next year) for Phil Kessel. Mirtle has a great write-up on the gaffe, pointing out that pride and principle might have gotten in the way of Burke’s team building efforts.

For one, the Leafs could have landed Kessel via an offer sheet for $5.4-million a season, his current salary. Compensation would have been three picks – a first-rounder, a second-rounder and a third-rounder – and Toronto would have kept its 2011 first-round pick.

… Burke could have alternatively made this year’s first-round pick conditional – or “lottery protected,” as is often the case in the NBA. The condition could have been as follows: If Toronto finishes in lottery position, instead of giving up the 2010 and 2011 first-rounders, make it 2011 and 2012.

Of all the missteps, that move is the worst. But really, almost all of the big moves Burke made smell of desperation rather than sound decision making. He’s added a ton of salary in goal (Giguere’s $6 million) and on defense (Dion Phaneuf at $6.5 million, Mike Komisarek at $4.5 million and Francois Beauchemin at $3.8 million) to a team that already had a faulty structure.

In fact, after the jump I’ll share a quick salary cap breakdown just to paint that not-so-pretty picture.


Thumbnail image for phaneufer.jpg2010-11 Salary Cap Commitments (according to CapGeek.com. Figures are rounded for simplicity.)

Forwards (8 of 12): Kessel ($5.4 million), Bozak (3.73), Grabovski (2.9), Orr (1), Irwin (900k), Stalberg (850k), Caputi (833k) and Sjostrom (750k)

Defense (7 of 6): Phaneuf (6.5), Komisarek (4.5), Kaberle (4.3), Beauchemin (3.8), Finger (3.5), Schenn (2.98) and Gunnarsson (800k)

Goalies: (1 of 2): Giguere (6)

Cap space in 10-11: $11.38 million

Key re-signs: Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson

Ugh, what a mess. Between Burke’s blunders and the mistakes of the past, the Leafs have a stunning $25.58 million wrapped up in a top 6 defense that isn’t even any good. The rumors of moving Kaberle seem to be gathering steam now because he’s just about the only blueliner they can move. Schenn is their bright side. Phaneuf, Komisarek, Beauchemin and Finger have contracts that would make Glen Sather blush.

Frankly, this team doesn’t look promising. They have all those Pension Plan bucks to spend but they have so many holes to fill with a rotten roster. Sure, they have the occasional nice prospect like Nazem Kadri, but chances are they won’t just be giving the Bruins a great draft pick this year but possibly next year too. The only thing I can say is that maybe – just maybe – Toronto will have a chance to turn things aroung in the 2011-12 season because Giguere’s contract will expire (as will Kaberle’s, if he is still with the team).

Brian Burke is a great hockey mind and brings bushels of unintentional comedy to the table, but the club’s win-now approach turned the Toronto Maple Leafs into a tragicomedy of a team. Now, if someone would listen to my advice and install a Burke Cam during next week’s draft lottery …

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    These 2017 NHL Draft picks lacked hype … but not swagger

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    The interview process for draft prospects must be a real beating. Then again, it’s also an opportunity or hopefuls to push back.

    In the case of two smaller prospects, it meant providing some swagger in their answers, possibly impressing their new teams. If nothing else, Kailer Yamamoto and Michael DiPietro generated some refreshingly confident quotes.

    One would assume that the Edmonton Oilers picked Yamamoto with the 22nd choice for more than just a great answer alone … but still.

    Nice, right?

    Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek related a similar story about DiPietro, who the Vancouver Canucks nabbed with the 64th pick.

    Funny story: When one team at the NHL told him “We don’t think you can play in the NHL with our team, you’re too small” at the combine, he fired back with “well, I guess you have a problem with winning, then.” How do you not like that?

    If nothing else, those two aren’t shy.

    As a bonus story, check out the bumpy path Will Reilly – aka the “Mr. Irrelevant” of the 2017 NHL Draft – took to being chosen last overall by the Pittsburgh Penguins, via Puck Daddy’s Sean Leahy. From the sound of things, there are worse feelings than going 217th.

    The 2017 NHL Draft may have been “pumped down” from a hype perspective, yet it sounds like many of these prospects at least bring some moxie to the table.

    Kings, Golden Knights labeled 2017 NHL Draft winners; Bruins, not so much

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    It’s nearly certain that we won’t be able to determine the “winners and losers” of the 2017 NHL Draft until, say, 2022. If not later.

    Still, what fun is that?

    Quite a few outlets pegged some winners and losers, though sometimes the choices were more about themes like nations or player types than specific teams.

    For example: Puck Daddy gives a thumbs down to the “green room” experiment.

    Let’s take a look at some of the consensus picks.

    Winners

    Vegas Golden Knights

    GM George McPhee was dealt a bad hand when it comes to the lottery draft, so he instead made his own luck. And then he selected three players who could improve this team going forward.

    Sportsnet’s Jeff Marek especially liked the last two of their three first-rounders (Nick Suzuki and Erik Brannstrom), viewing Cody Glass as more of a no-brainer. Plenty of others were on board.

    Los Angeles Kings

    Gabe Vilardi fell to Los Angeles, whether it was because of shaky skating or some other reason. That potential steal (and some other shrewd moves) impressed the Hockey News’ Ryan Kennedy, who assembled draft profiles for PHT.

    Again, Vilardi’s loss was considered the Kings’ gain, as slower skaters were considered losers by the likes of Post Media’s Michael Traikos.

    Philadelphia Flyers

    Boy, Ron Hextall is good at this thing, isn’t he? Philly drew high marks even beyond the layup of landing Nolan Patrick. The main area of disagreement revolved around the Brayden Schenn trade, though plenty came out on Hextall’s side there, too.

    Arizona Coyotes

    Boy, that negative press didn’t last long, did it? Between landing Niklas Hjalmarsson, Derek Stepan, and Antti Raanta in trades and savvy picks, they were a popular choice.

    Themes

    Smaller players, Sweden, and Finland drew semi-serious mentions as “winners.”

    Losers

    Boston Bruins

    The perception is that they played it too safe.

    Colorado Avalanche, for now?

    OK, this was more about draft weekend than picks, but people are criticizing Joe Sakic for standing pat. That could change, but the negative sentiment is there.

    Detroit Red Wings

    Another common choice. Some believe that their draft was the worst of them all, which isn’t great considering the declining opinion of GM Ken Holland overall.

    New York Rangers

    Lias Andersson was viewed as a reach by plenty, and his connection to the trade to Arizona might intensify the scrutiny.

    Themes

    Not a great draft for Russian-born players and/or guys who don’t skate quite swiftly.

    ***

    So, those are some of the near-consensus choices for winners and losers, via the brave souls who made rapid reactions to the 2017 NHL Draft.

    Ducks ink D Holzer to two-year deal reportedly worth $1.8M

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    As the dust settled on the expansion draft, the Anaheim Ducks’ defense is coming into focus.

    Sunday continued that pattern; the Ducks signed Korbinian Holzer to a two-year contract worth $1.8 million, according to TVA’s Renaud Lavoie.

    You can break down the Ducks defense as more expensive players (Hampus Lindholm, Sami Vatanen, Cam Fowler, and Kevin Bieksa) and cheaper ones (Holzer, Brandon Montour, and Josh Manson).

    Only Vatanen, Lindholm and Holzer see contracts that go beyond 2017-18 – at least without an extension yet for the likes of Fowler and Manson – so Holzer provides a little bit of certainty.

    Is the $900K a minor overpay, though? Holzer played in 32 games for the Ducks this season after appearing in 29 in 2015-16. His impact has been pretty minimal, generating seven points while averaging 13:31 in ice time per contest (down from 14:45 the previous season).

    Granted he may get more opportunities to show what he’s capable of if the Ducks lose another piece. Then again, at 29, the Ducks likely know what they have.

    2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class to be named Monday; Selanne + who?

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    The 2017 Hockey Hall of Fame class is expected to be announced on Monday, and every indication is that Teemu Selanne will be on the list. Beyond that, well, there are a lot of question marks.

    NHL.com notes that there’s at least a possibility that Selanne will be the only NHL name to be part of this class, which would mark a first since 2010 (when Dino Ciccarelli was the lone addition).

    It’s a nice way to continue what’s been a buffet for hockey fans: the 2017 Stanley Cup Final’s conclusion, the expansion draft and then the 2017 NHL Draft. The HHOF announcements are a nice appetizer before free agency gets, well, frenzied?

    “The Finnish Flash” was also an obvious top choice in last year’s poll to see who should be in the class.

    Now, that doesn’t mean he is the only interesting name.

    For one thing, Daniel Alfredsson will be eligible for the first time, much like Selanne. “Alf” falls in the “Maybe” category with some interesting, debatable other options: Mark Recchi, Dave Andreychuk, Alex Mogilny, Jeremy Roenick, Paul Kariya, Chris Osgood, and more.

    The 2016 Hockey Hall of Fame class included Eric Lindros, Rogie Vachon, Sergei Makarov, and Pat Quinn.