Columnist wonders if Bettman warned Burke about lengthy lockout

12 Comments

Did Gary Bettman give his old pal (and Toronto Maple Leafs GM) Brian Burke a heads up about the lockout canceling a full season?

Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons asks that question while reviewing a quiet offseason for the Leafs:

In the most inactive summer of Brian Burke’s time running the Maple Leafs, you have to wonder: What did his friend, Gary Bettman, tell him about the coming season?

And can Burke’s quiet approach to making over the Leafs be attributed in any way to a belief there will not be an NHL season?

Burke never went out and acquired the veteran goaltender he said he wasn’t going to get at the end of last season. He wasn’t in any way aggressive in the free agent market, which is understandable considering the mistakes made in the past. He never found the first-line centre he hoped for — and has this odd belief that James van Riemsdyk, a winger with talent and marginal success, can be that centre.

Naturally, there’s an easy counterargument for that: perhaps Burke didn’t identify a No. 1 center or veteran netminder in free agency.

(Few would venture that there were many – if any – free agents who met either description this past summer. Then again, this is Toronto.)

Simmons also points out that the team isn’t paying for the final season of problematic contract’s such as Tim Connolly’s deal.

A retort for that is simple as well; wouldn’t Burke need to see the lockout coming years ahead of time to plan such a caper? Similarly, wouldn’t it be a sign of coherent management if a GM at least accounted for a possible lockout?

It’s tough to imagine the league giving one GM a head’s up – even of a franchise as crucial as the Maple Leafs. Do you think Simmons might be onto something, though?