Brian Burke is infamous for his his “Christmas trade freeze,” which is the couple of weeks over the holidays where he won’t move any players (which is a nice gesture, of course). You can think whatever you like about that; whether he’s missing out on potential deals a couple months before trade deadline or not, we’ll never know. He’s likely not.

But that fact that he said he wasn’t willing to go to free agency this summer during today’s press conference struck me as a little bit odd.

It’s always tough to face the facts (and the media) when your season doesn’t go as planned, and to Burke’s credit, he owns the lack of success without backing down. Today he stood there in front of everyone and answered the reasonable questions, while Calgary’s GM Jay Feaster said he “won’t be answering questions about their personnel or head coach” in his presser. Great, thanks for coming out. Why are we doing this, then? So, credit to Burke there.

But, again, to come out today and say they’re not going to look at all of the possible ways to improve the Leafs is preposterous. There’s the hope that he’s bluffing, so as not to get everyone all riled up (and eventually disappointed when it doesn’t work out), but for argument sake, let’s say he’s serious. Let’s say he means it when he says the Leafs will solely ”look to the old-fashioned way, trades” to improve their team.

Why limit yourself like that? Fine, you prefer trading, but why impose any restriction that doesn’t have to be there? Why not embrace the fact that you’re a cap-spending team and try to get better? There are a lot of GMs who’s hands are tied around the league, while Burke is voluntarily holding his wrists together.

This off-season’s free agent pool includes Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Matt Carle, Bryan Allen and Alexander Semin. It would take some re-jigging of the Leafs’ cap situation, but they could get it done if they had the chance to add a quality player. It shouldn’t be hard to clear space for guys when you’re a lottery pick team.

You’d have to pay top dollar of course, but sometimes you have to do that to win. But that brings up another problem: Brian Burke also said he still won’t give a front-loaded deal because he sees it as cap circumvention. Maybe the Leafs can’t land a guy like that because of more self-imposed restrictions. Other GMs can do it, but he can’t, because….he’s morally opposed? It’s not exactly a thimble-sized loophole – Lou Lamoriello drove a bus through that thing to land Ilya Kovalchuk.

I’m aware the CBA may change, and that loophole may get tightened up, but all this time it’s just been an unnecessary hindrance on Toronto’s roster.

I’m an unabashed Brian Burke fan. I think some of the moves he’s made in Toronto have been great. And even in failure, I’m still a fan of the man himself. But if I were a Leafs fan, I’d be a little tired of having to play under different rules than other teams who can make deals over the holidays, who are willing to sign free agents in the off-season, who are allowed front-load contracts, and who don’t insist on only improving through trade.

The whole “red paperclip” game is fun, but not as easy as it looks.

***

Random closing tangent: that press conference was one more question from Burke devolving into Tom Smykowski from Office Space in his interview with The Bob’s.

 

Comments (24)

  1. stubborn guy is stubborn

  2. To me it seems like he’s setting himself up to have a scapegoat when he’s eventually fired. Then he’ll got to the whole “I want to win the “right” way” type of excuse as to why he failed, in attempt to make a desperate grasp at another job.

    Fact is his personal policies are unnecessary and antiquated. And will owe to him never seeing success as a GM again unless he changes them or finds a different position to take in hockey.

  3. Burke claims he doesn’t see much available through free agency.
    “This off-season’s free agent pool includes Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Matt Carle, Bryan Allen and Alexander Semin” … I guess Burke is waiting for the next free agent pool which features such stars as Tim Connolly (36 points, -14 in 70 games) so he can pay him 4.75 per over two seasons. Good thinking Burke, you guys are just a trade away from contending. It is partially the Leafs fans fault for believing in this moron up until now, I can’t count how many times I have had to listen to how brilliant a hockey mind Burke is.
    Now the Koolaid tastes like sewage, and Burke continues to sound more like an idiot every day he opens his fat mouth. He would be better to shut up like Jay Feaster, do you show the other players your cards during a poker game?
    Who cares if the media is upset because you didn’t tip your hand. NHL GM’s should be loyal to the fan base, which means to winning and building a contender at all costs. Not to giving the media what they want, and trying to sound like some sort of “makes his own rules” maverick.

  4. …and don’t forget these other self-imposed restrictions: ‘respecting’ no-trade clauses (Kaberle etc.); refusing the ‘offer sheet’ (could’ve had Kessel for less); refusing to ‘tank’ (even one last game a couple of years ago against the Sens would’ve landed them lottery pick); and finally, now Burke is talking about setting his own trade deadline a few days before everyone else. This is all designed to make Toronto a desirable place for players to come play…but it ain’t working, is it?

  5. I dont know what press conference you were watching, but he didnt say he wouldnt look at free agents, he said he would go the trade route to address their needs in a #1 C and a goaltender. He elaborated and said that the free agent pool looks thin this year, and we all know in years past how many contracts are signed in the June months–Sedins, Marleau–so I wouldnt jump the gun and say that hes openly passing on Parise, Suter and Semin. Although none of those players would probably want to sign with a losing team in the spotlight, anyways. He said he would use trades, not free agency, to address those basic needs–not that he was going to pass on free agency this year.

  6. Well, every year it’s this excuse or that, “if we’d just had Kessel healthy” “if Phaneuf and Armstrong for a full year” blah blah.

    Stock up on high picks, draft and develop, trade away a player or two in time to fill needs not met by the draft…the way Detroit and Colorado and Pittsburgh did it.

  7. Forget Burke’s BS about thinking front-loaded contracts are “cap circumvention” – they’re a terrible risk for a team. Good on him for refusing to sign a contract with a player that could ultimately turn in to an anchor on the team. Most GMs don’t care because they know they won’t have the job when the contract goes bad – it’s nice to have one that’s concerned about more than his own job security.

    - An extremely frustrated Leafs fan

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