Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs are celebrating their three-year anniversary today. Hopefully he made reservations at a nice restaurant.
If anything, Burke has been busy in three years as general manager in Toronto. In no particular order, he’s acquired Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf in separate blockbuster trades, drafted Nazem Kadri, signed Mike Komisarek, signed Clarke MacArthur, signed François Beauchemin, traded Beauchemin for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner, traded Tomas Kaberle, traded for John-Michael Liles, signed Tim Connolly – basically he changed the entire team except for Luke Schenn, Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin.
One thing Burke hasn’t done in Toronto is make the playoffs, though he’s got his best chance to change that in 2011-12. After 24 games, the Leafs are 14-8-2, five points clear of ninth place in the Eastern Conference.
The long-range outlook for the Leafs remains fuzzy, however. Despite its strong start, Toronto remains a long shot to win a Stanley Cup. And having traded two lottery picks (Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton) for Kessel, the prospect pool, while deeper than past years, is short on elite talent. With so many key Leafs set to become unrestricted free agents in the next couple of years, it’s possible their window could close before it’s had a real chance to open.
Then again, it’s not like Burke will be sitting around doing nothing until then. If he can make a move he thinks will improve the team, he’ll make it. That much is clear.