Maple Leafs president and CEO loves job Brian Burke has done with team

toronto_maple_leafs.gifMaple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Richard Peddie was asked for his thoughts on the job Leafs GM Brian Burke is doing with the team, and you have to wonder if maybe Peddie’s underlings are showing him tapes of other teams winning and calling them the Leafs.

Shi Davidi of The Globe And Mail gives us the early leader for quote of the season.

“I absolutely love the job Brian Burke has done,” Peddie said moments before a grand opening ceremony for Maple Leaf Square, his company’s gleaming property development project.

“What he’s done, first off, is he’s built a really deep (management) team, with succession. Dave Nonis is a GM all by himself, Dave Poulin is a GM in waiting, Claude Loiselle has been an assistant GM, we’ve got the greybeard and wise man in Cliff Fletcher, really, really a deep, deep team.

“Then he set about changing the culture of the team. I’ve never seen a GM that had a really clear vision of what kind of team he wanted. I’ve worked with seven of them, which might say something about the longevity of GMs at our place, but he’s got this clear, clear vision — goalies, defence, four lines, all that. I’ve never heard it, basketball, soccer, hockey, as clear as him. …

“Did we finish 29th? Was that not good? Absolutely, but I love where he’s at now, what he’s done, so high, high marks to Brian Burke from my perspective.”

If anyone ever calls Richard Peddie a pessimist, just show them these quotes to shut them up. If anyone wanted to call him crazy, on the other hand, this would make for an outstanding Exhibit A. As for Brian Burke, you better believe he knows what was said and you’d better believe he’s got his own take on things.

“We finished 29th, I don’t know how I can give myself anything other than a poor grade,” he said. “You’re dealing with sophisticated sports fans in Toronto — you better be honest. We haven’t had any success, hopefully it starts (Thursday) night.”

The Leafs open up with the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto and while fans may be excited about the start of the season in Toronto, realism is also a bit more in vogue than usual in Canada’s hockey capital.

While things could all click right for Toronto and they sneak in the playoffs, the more realistic thing to believe in is that they’ll improve starkly over last season and just miss out. If the Leafs can turn the corner like that and perhaps even not finish last in the Northeast Division, then people can start believing in the job Burke is doing building the team. Until then, the jury is out.

Of course, whatever tapes Richard Peddie is watching will show the “Leafs” lifting the Cup at seasons end yet again. He might be asking what happened to the red and black jerseys they wore last year are though.

Scroll Down For:

    The Buzzer: Kane gets first hatty, Predators first to clinch

    Getty Images
    Leave a comment

    Players of the Night:

    Evander Kane, San Jose Sharks: It took him 565 NHL games and three teams, but Kane now has his first NHL hat trick. Then he made sure to grab his first four-goal NHL game for the hell of it. Kane has five goals and 10 points in eight games since the trade deadline, the most of any player dealt this year on deadline day.

    Mike Hoffman, Ottawa Senators: Hoffman had an assist in regulation and then one-timed his fifth game-winning goal of the season in overtime to help the Senators past the Dallas Stars.

    Nashville Predators: For no other reason than they claimed first blood in a 4-2 win against the Colorado Avalanche, becoming the first team this season to clinch a playoff spot.

    Highlights of the Night:

    Bravo, Johnny:

    Kane’s hat trick goal:



    Factoids of the Night:


    Senators 3, Stars 2 (OT)

    Capitals 6, Islanders 3

    Predators 4, Avalanche 2

    Sharks 7, Flames 4

    Ducks 4, Red Wings 2

    Wild 4, Golden Knights 2

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Rangers getting a good look at the future, despite playoff disappointment

    Getty Images

    Silver linings for teams far off the playoff line are few and far between at this time of the year.

    But if there is one that can be taken for any team looking at re-tooling or rebuilding for next season, it’s the ability to take a look at the future crop against NHL adversaries.

    The New York Rangers are one of these teams. They declared themselves open for business prior to the trade deadline and dealt away some big names, including Rick Nash and Ryan McDonagh, for some younger talent.

    They’re also facing a challenge with aging goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who, as great as he is, won’t win the battle with Father Time.

    Needing to fill holes at several positions, the Rangers have been able to take a good look at a couple of promising prospects, including what may well be their future between the pipes.

    New York has played rookie Alexandar Georgiev six times and owns a 3-2-0 record since he played his first NHL game on Feb. 22. Despite picking up the loss, Georgiev allowed just two goals on 40 shots for a .950 save percentage.

    He’d give up four in his next start the following night, but since then has amassed three straight wins, including a 37-save performance on Wednesday against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. He’ll be called upon again on Saturday, another test and another chance for evaluation.

    The inital analysis is promising. Georgiev is sitting on a very respectable .929 save percentage in his brief time in the NHL and he’s already turning heads around the league.’s Kevin Woodley’s wrote that Georgiev is taking after the likes of Andrei Vasilevskiy, Semyon Varlamov and Sergei Bobrovsky — some pretty good company.

    Blueshirt Banter’s Tom Urtz Jr. took a really deep dive in Georgiev, concluding by calling him a “pleasant surprise.”

    There’s a lot to like about him, his potential is visible, and the circumstances are set up in his favor for him to be able to prove himself more in an extended setting next season,” Urtz Jr. wrote.

    Shifting to the men in the rearguard, Neal Pionk is making the most the big minutes he’s been getting over the past 17 games, and he’s starting to produce.

    Pionk is on a three-game point streak with five assists during that span.

    Also 22 and also undrafted, Pionk, like Georgiev, is showing real promise on defense.

    “He competes hard and he’s got a good skill set,” Vigneault told on Friday. “He can make that good pass and there’s no doubt that in his college and prior to that, he was considered an offensive defenseman. He’d join the rush and was good on the power play, so there is some upside there with him. We need to continue to work at his game and continue to improve it.”

    The Rangers appear to have some budding young talent and an array of players to build around with the likes Pavel Buchnevich, Vladislav Namestnikov and Jimmy Vesey — assuming they sign the latter two who are set to become RFAs at the end of this season.

    And perhaps most importantly, the Rangers, who have long held the distinction as a team where old players go to get older, seem to finally be favoring youth over past-their-prime talent.

    That’s good news for Rangers fans.

    Scott Billeck is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @scottbilleck

    Ducks lose Bieksa for 2-5 weeks


    ANAHEIM, Calif. (AP) Anaheim Ducks defenseman Kevin Bieksa will be out for two to five weeks after surgery to remove scar tissue from his left hand.

    Bieksa is having surgery Friday, the Ducks announced.

    The 36-year-old Bieksa has eight assists in 59 games this season for Anaheim, which is fighting to get into playoff position with three weeks left in the regular season.

    Anaheim recalled defenseman Korbinian Holzer from its AHL affiliate in San Diego before facing the Detroit Red Wings at Honda Center on Friday night.

    The Ducks have won five consecutive Pacific Division titles and made five straight postseason appearances, reaching the Western Conference finals last season. But Anaheim (35-24-12) began this weekend out of playoff position and in fourth place in the Pacific.

    More AP NHL:

    Canadiens need to look in mirror before moving forward


    The Montreal Canadiens have been a colossal disappointment in 2017-18. Instead of building on their first-round playoff exit from last year, the Habs have bottomed out as one of the worst teams in the league from day one of the season.

    The highs have been short and the lows have been long, but it sounds like current general manager Marc Bergevin will get an opportunity to improve his underwhelming roster. As owner and team president Geoff Molson reiterated at a team foundation event on Friday morning, Bergevin isn’t going anywhere.

    “It has not been a satisfactory season so far,” Molson told PHT on Friday morning. “Marc and I both know that, the whole organization knows that. And I think if you asked every player, every coach and every person that’s involved, they’d all say the same thing. We have to get better. Marc knows that and I tell him that. He acknowledges that and he agrees with it, of course.

    “There’s no question that I think Marc is very capable of accomplishing that, but he and I both know that this season’s been unsatisfactory.”

    Don’t be mistaken, Molson also said the team will make adjustments to the way they operate before the start of next season. Someone is going to take the fall for this disaster, but it won’t be Bergevin.

    When asked if the Canadiens have to make the playoffs next season, Molson hesitated before saying that he wasn’t sure how he wanted to express himself regarding next season. Those are things he wants to answer closer to next fall, but he also added that it’s important for the team to always do everything they can to be competitive every year.

    Like most teams, the Habs will be in the mix for John Tavares if he becomes a free agent on July 1st. Whether or not they rebuild or retool might depend on if they can land Tavares, which has be considered a serious long shot at this point. But if he does decide to join former Team Canada teammates Carey Price and Shea Weber in Montreal, the Canadiens would once again be seen as legitimate playoff hopefuls.

    “Do we need a franchise player? Probably,” said Molson, without ever mentioning the Islanders forward’s name. “And that’s something I see as an opportunity for us.”

    Who knows what the plan is if they can’t land Tavares in free agency. All we really know for sure, is that the owner expects everyone to be better heading into next season. Molson isn’t putting the blame on any one particular person, but he acknowledged several times that the way this season unfolded was not acceptable.

    “I’m not really going to point any fingers,” said Molson.

    “So you can look at players, you can look at coaching, you can look at scouting, you can look at player development, you can look at the general manager, you could look everywhere and say there are areas to improve, and that’s what we’re going to do.”

    It’ll be interesting to see just how long it takes for those improvements to turn into on-ice success for a that hasn’t won a Stanley Cup in 25 years.

    Joey Alfieri is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @joeyalfieri.