There are many things to admire about Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke. If he is on your side, you’ll never have a more passionate advocate; he is fantastically loyal to his friends; and he clearly has a better-than-average grasp of the English language.
But perhaps Burke’s most admirable attribute is his willingness to change his mind on certain matters. For instance, he once was a vocal critic of shootouts – “it would be the same thing as if the National Football League decided its games by having guys throw footballs through a tire” he said when he was Vancouver’s GM – but now has come to accept them as part of the NHL’s larger entertainment package.
That’s why I have faith Burke will realize the error of his ways since he’s been in Toronto – in particular, his strategy of making the Leafs into a Stanley Cup contender without depending on high draft picks and a longer-term rebuild.
When he first joined the Leafs – and as late as last summer – Burke told anyone and everyone he wasn’t interested in finishing at the bottom of the standings to pick up high-end young players who may or may not turn out to be worth building a team around. That’s why the Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf transactions were made and why, barring a trade, Toronto won’t have a first round draft pick until 2012.
But now, with the Buds still at the bottom of the standings, Burke must see that his initial philosophy won’t work. Too many Leafs fans have been traumatized by too many years of disappointment for them to be patient with anyone (including Nazem Kadri, Jonas Gustavsson and Luke Schenn) for very long.
That would change if management came out today and told Torontonians, ‘You know what? We screwed up and we’re changing course.’
Suddenly, each loss wouldn’t be nearly so painful. Fans could look at any number of young teams built through the draft (like the Edmonton Oilers) and have something to base real hope on.
In this playoff-deprived town, bad gambles and fast fixes just don’t cut it anymore.
This article was originally published in Metro News. For more hockey commentary, check out Metro Sports.