September 18th 2012 - His arrival was one of the most highly anticipated and welcomed arrivals of any sports figure in recent Toronto memory. When Brian Burke took over as GM of the Maple Leafs it was seen as the end of incompetence in Leafs Nation. Burke arrived in November 2008 and assured Torontonians that there would be no need to wait for a 5 year rebuild, as he says “I'm not interested … in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done”. Well Burke we are onto year 4 and no results and he is running out of scapegoats fast.
When Burke first arrived the scapegoat was the roster. And it was true for the 08/09 and 09/10 season Burke had very little to work with, But in 2010/11 He had put together a roster of Kessel, Phaneuf, Reimer, Lupul, Gunnarsson, Kulemin, McCarthur and Grabovski. The trade to land Lupul and Phaneuf were great deals, the Kessel one is now synonymous with the words bad trade. Reimer, Grabovski, Kulemin and Gunnarsson he inherited. James Reimer has played sub-par but continues to be endorsed by Burke as the “real deal” and the reason why Toronto did not aggressively pursue a goalie in the 2012 off season. So now the roster can’t be used as a Scapegoat, so now what?
Well now it’s the trade deadline. When Toronto went into a horrible slump this past season (11/12) Burke said his players were playing nervous because of the NHL trade deadline. Apparently the thought of the deadline caused every Leaf player to play like crap the weeks leading up to it. Once the trade deadline passed (With Burke having no activity I might add) he needed to find a new scapegoat.
Enter Ron Wilson, I am sure every Leaf fan would have endorsed Wilson being fired after the 2011 season but Burke doesn’t do that to his best pal. Wilson coached the team to a surprisingly good first 50 games and was even rewarded with a one year contract extension on Christmas (taking away any motivation to keep up the good work I guess). When the team had swooned and Burke feeling the heat he finally pulled the trigger firing Wilson March 2nd 2012. He hired his old Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle who with Burke won the 2007 Stanley Cup.Under Carlyle the Leafs did not improve and ended the season 13th in the East. James Reimer had finished the year a dismal 14-14-4 with a 3.10 GAA. In the offseason Burke let Gustavsson walk as a UFA and traded Luke Schenn for James Van Reimsdyk and signed Jay McClement. Ensuring that the Leafs enter the season (whenever the lockout ends) with an almost identical one as the team that was the 13th best in the East. Even more alarming was that aside from Schenn, who wasn’t the root of any defensive problem the Leafs were returning with the same group of Defenceman that ranked near the bottom of the league in nearly every important defensive statistic, and a goaltending tandem with more uncertainty than a John Ferguson Jr. draft pick.
Now, Recently Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire has decided to leave the team saying the Leafs had too many people telling the goalies what to do and not having enough ice time with the goalies on his own. It was revealed that Burke had approached Allaire once the 2011-12 season concluded seeking to sign him to an extension. Once Allaire spoke out against the Leafs, Burke was quick to respond saying the Leafs only intervened because they felt his style of teaching goalies is “outdated”. So Burke wanted to give Allaire an extension even though his methods were outdated now?
Everything about the Toronto Maple Leafs have changed since 2008 expect one thing, and yet still no playoffs. If the Leafs want to compete again they may need to look elsewhere than Brian Burke. Mr. Burke, you are running out of scapegoats.
Follow us on Twitter: @bettmanstandup