Brian Burke

Brian Burke warns James Reimer about instant success, won’t chase Steven Stamkos

Despite “missing” the first day of free agency to some criticism, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke has been making some nice moves this off-season. It’s almost like the old, savvy Burkie is back after making some big, questionable investments via trades for Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel.

Burke re-signed Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak to cap-friendly deals and fleeced teams for two promising defenseman (John-Michael Liles and Cody Franson). It’s unclear if the Tim Connolly gamble will pay off, but it seems like a lower risk move than the Brad Richards mortgage many were clamoring for.

That being said, there are no guarantees that these subtler moves will push the Maple Leafs far enough to make a true playoff bid. Burke addressed two questions that might be essential to that process today.

1. Will James Reimer be a one-hit wonder?

It seemed like Toronto suddenly resembled an actual playoff team once Reimer took the reins as the team’s interim No. 1 goalie. Reimer earned 20 wins, a sterling .921 save percentage, 2.60 GAA and even became a meme generator when ingenious Maple Leafs bloggers made an ode to him via a parody of that odious “Friday” song.

Of course, the NHL landscape is littered with the broken dreams of guys who enjoyed all-too-brief runs of goalie stardom. The Columbus Blue Jackets are actively praying that such a fate isn’t in the works for their should-be franchise goalie Steve Mason. Burke brought that subject up to Reimer, asking the young goalie to Google two infamous names in the one-hit wonder tradition: Jim Carey and Steve Penny. Burke simply asked Reimer not to turn into them.

Too bad being an NHL-level goalie isn’t as easy as using a search engine, though.

2. Will Burke go after Steven Stamkos with an offer sheet?

Speaking of not turning into something you’d rather avoid, there is the question that Burke might mortgage some of his team’s future to send an offer sheet to Steven Stamkos or Drew Doughty. Burke notoriously fumed when then-Edmonton Oilers GM Kevin Lowe poached Dustin Penner from the Anaheim Ducks a few years back. He somewhat amusingly avoided snatching Phil Kessel via an offer sheet by sending a bit more than he would have given up for the contract in a trade to the Boston Bruins. (That package netted the Bruins Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton among other assets.)

So will Burke defy his former stance for the sake of swinging for a personnel home run? While Burke lamented losing out on Brad Richards because the team didn’t front-load the deal enough, he denied the urge to send an offer sheet to one of those stars.


Even so, Burke said he thinks that the team has improved and I’m inclined to agree. It’s unclear if Burke took a deep breath and decided to do things his way (rather than bowing to ownership and/or public pressures to make a huge, risky move again), but the results have been promising so far. The Maple Leafs still are a bit lacking in flat-out elite talent, but they’re finally moving in the right direction this off-season. Some might actually listen to the idea that the Leafs are a genuine contender for a playoff spot.

That probably sounds even better to a Leafs fans’ ears than a rousing rendition of “Reimer.”

Goalie nods: Niemi expected for Stars against Penguins

Antti Niemi, Jonathan Toews
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Talk about getting thrown into the fire.

Antti Niemi is expected to be the starting goalie tonight in Dallas when his Stars host Sidney Crosby, Phil Kessel, Evgeni Malkin and the rest of the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Niemi has, not surprisingly, been given the assignment over Kari Lehtonen, the latter of whom struggled badly during the preseason, allowing 15 goals on 84 shots.

Not that Niemi was razor sharp himself. He allowed eight goals on 65 shots, for a save percentage of .877.

Considering the Stars have a combined $10.4 million in cap space tied up in those two veteran netminders, it’s no wonder the number-one question facing the club is whether the goaltending has indeed been fixed.

We’ll start to find out tonight.

Marc-Andre Fleury will undoubtedly be in goal for Pittsburgh, though that hasn’t been confirmed.


Craig Anderson, the goalie the Senators decided to keep, versus Robin Lehner, the one they traded to the Sabres.

Cam Ward will start for Carolina when the Hurricanes visit the Predators, who will obviously go with Pekka Rinne. The consensus is that Eddie Lack will eventually supplant Ward as Carolina’s starter, but that apparently hasn’t happened yet.

Brian Elliott goes for the Blues versus Cam Talbot for the Oilers. Elliott was excellent in the preseason, stopping all but two of the 57 shots he faced, while Jake Allen allowed six goals on 60 shots.

Steve Mason for the Flyers versus Ben Bishop for the Lightning.

Ondrej Pavelec for Winnipeg versus Tuukka Rask for Boston.

Devan Dubnyk likely for the Wild versus Semyon Varlamov for the Avs.

Flyers want to prove doubters wrong

Jakub Voracek, Claude Giroux
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Jakub Voracek totally understands why nobody’s expecting much from the Philadelphia Flyers. When a team finishes 14 points out of the playoffs the year before, that’s typically going to be the case.

“We weren’t good enough last year, let’s face it,” Voracek told CSN Philly. 

So, no, it doesn’t upset him that the Flyers aren’t considered among the Stanley Cup favorites.

That being said, “it makes you feel you want to prove them wrong.”

The Flyers get going tonight with a tough game against the Lightning in Tampa Bay. They also play Saturday in Florida against the Panthers, before a rematch with the Panthers Monday in Philadelphia.

“My biggest concern would be getting off to a good start,” GM Ron Hextall said. “That’s one thing that we need to do.”

That’s something they didn’t do last year. In fact, they won just once in their first six games. By the end of November, they were 8-12-3 and in a big hole — one that proved too deep to climb out of.

Related: Flyers to start season with seven defensemen