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 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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    Scary moment: Carlo Colaiacovo hospitalized with ‘dented trachea’

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    Buffalo Sabres defenseman Carlo Colaiacovo has experienced plenty of bad injury luck in his winding career, but Saturday presented one of his worst scares.

    As you can see from the video above, Colaiacovo received a scary cross-check from Viktor Arvidsson of the Nashville Predators, who received a major penalty and game misconduct.

    Sabres head coach Dan Bylsma said that Colaiacovo was hospitalized with a “dented trachea” yet is OK, the Buffalo News’ John Vogl reports.

    Frightening stuff from an eventual 4-1 Sabres win.

    PHT will keep an eye out for additional updates regarding Colaiacovo’s health (and a possible suspension for Arvidsson).

    Comeback Kings: Gaborik pulls L.A. past Kane, Blackhawks

    Jake Muzzin, Scott Darling

    Patrick Kane set an American scoring record, and added another assist to make it more impressive, but the Los Angeles Kings just wouldn’t be denied.

    In the end, Marian Gaborik‘s big night meant more than Kane’s; he scored the tying and then overtime game-winner, both assisted by Anze Kopitar, for a rousing 4-3 overtime Kings win.

    Gaborik’s first goal:

    And here’s video of the OT-GWG:

    Noticing a theme tonight? Yeah, it’s been an evening in which it’s dangerous to assume a lead would stand.

    With that, the Kings stick to the No. 1 spot in the Pacific Division, but Chicago shouldn’t feel all bad. The Blackhawks were able to piece together a decent run during their dreaded “circus trip.”

    Patrick Kane’s streak hits 19 games, setting a new American record


    When it comes to point streaks for U.S.-born NHL players, Patrick Kane now stands alone.

    With a power-play goal early in Saturday’s Blackhawks – Kings game, Kane extended his streak to 19 games, breaking a tie with Phil Kessel and Eddie Olczyk (who finished with at least a point in 18 straight).

    As of this writing, Kane has 11 goals and 19 assists during this 19-game streak. He also leads the NHL in scoring.

    Bobby Hull’s 21-game point streak stands as the Chicago Blackhawks’ overall team record, by the way.

    So, how would you protect a lead against the Stars?


    You know what they say: it’s easy to bash a strategy in hindsight.

    Slam that NFL head coach for going for it on fourth down … or settling for the field goal. Bury that MLB manager because he kept a pitcher in too long. And so on.

    “Score effects” settle in during almost any lopsided hockey game, yet the Dallas Stars present quite a conundrum: what’s the best way to put a way a team with this much firepower?

    Tonight may have presented the greatest evidence that this team won’t go away easy, as it seemed like the Minnesota Wild had the best of a tired Stars team* when they built a 3-0 lead.

    Instead, the Stars scored three third-period goals while Tyler Seguin capped the comeback with an overtime-winner.

    It was one of those bend-and-then-break moments for Minnesota. Dallas generated a 44-26 shot advantage, including a ridiculous 35-15 edge in the final two periods.

    Does that mean that Mike Yeo may have tried to play too conservatively with a healthy lead? It’s a possibility.

    On the other hand, would the Wild be wiser to try to run-and-gun with one of the most dangerous offenses in the NHL?

    It sure seems like a pick-your-poison situation. Which way would you lean, though?

    * – To be fair to Minnesota, each team was on back-to-backs.