Jump to content

Maple Leafs couldn’t have been the L.A. Kings

Guest Irishjim

Recommended Posts


By Damien CoxSports Columnist

It’s as though some are waiting for this big apology from Brian Burke, a mea culpa moment, an acknowledgment that the success of the Los Angeles Kings in these Stanley Cup playoffs is undeniable proof that he miscalculated with the Maple Leafs this season.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the accusation by now. That Burke said during the winter that if he’d wanted to make a move here or there the Leafs could have grabbed the eighth seed in the Eastern Conference but declined to do so, and now the L.A. run has demonstrated clearly he should have made those moves because the Leafs could have done just what the Kings have done.

The Kings, predicted in many corners last fall to be a possible challenger for the Cup, finished eighth in the West and are now in the Cup final, waiting for either New Jersey or New York to qualify.

But that doesn’t — and shouldn’t — mean the Leaf president and GM thinks his team could have done the same.

“If people want to look at the Kings and try to turn what I said back on me, that’s just an ignorant comment,” he said from New York on Thursday. “I’m not going to retreat from my comment. If people want to take it out of context, fine.”

Burke says the Kings and Leafs weren’t, and aren’t, comparable.

“This L.A. team, this eighth seed, is a pretty special eighth seed,” he said. “It might be the best eighth seed of the past 20 years. They made a coaching change, they found their identity in the final 30 games, they’re a good hockey team and a big hockey team, with a front-line goalie.

“They’re very similar to the team we won with in Anaheim in 2007 in terms of their size and style of play.”

It took the Kings years to compile the pieces required to make roster-finishing moves like the acquisition of Mike Richards and Jeff Carter. In the case of the Carter deal, it’s worth noting that while defenceman Jack Johnson was sacrificed to Columbus to make the trade, years of sound drafting meant the Kings had a replacement for Johnson, 2008 second-round pick Slava Voynov, trained and ready after three full minor-league seasons to take Johnson’s place.

Brayden Schenn and Wayne Simmonds went to Philly for Richards, but the Kings had draftees Dwight King and Jordan Nolan primed to contribute.

The Kings, of course, have been drafting high since 2003 and despite the moves they’ve made over the past two years, still have viable prospects like Andrei Loktionov, Jonathan Bernier, Derek Forbert, Tyler Toffoli and Jordan Weal in their system.

To imagine the Leafs had that kind of depth and available replacements and could have dumped prospects and picks at the February deadline for immediate help, then gone on a similar playoff run as L.A., is about as misleading a suggestion as can be imagined.

“For us at the point we were at this season, to trade Luke Schenn, or Nazem Kadri, or the fifth pick in the draft just to get a couple of 30-year-old players to make the playoffs, that’s not a blueprint for a championship,” said Burke.

“I’m interested in a parade, not just being able to stand up in front of Leaf fans and say I made the playoffs.

“I want a parade, as remote as that might seem right now.”

Burke and his staff aren’t getting much credit for the winner they have built at the minor-league level with the AHL Marlies. Some of the prospects under the charge of head coach Dallas Eakins were picks from the John Ferguson Jr. era, some were Burke’s draft picks or trade pickups, but Eakins and his staff and the overall organization are the work of the Burke administration.

When the Marlies were sent to Oklahoma City by private charter for Games 1 and 2 of their current series, an expense no other AHL team would be willing to bear, that was an example of the NHL-style manner in which the Leaf affiliate is operated.

Now, whether some of those Marlie assets can be packaged in a deal for a front-line goalie (Roberto Luongo, Jaroslav Halak) or a top forward (Rick Nash), we’ll see over the next six weeks.

As far as the Kings and their powerful surge to the Cup final goes, Burke sees it in similar terms as the Ducks’ run to a championship. It will captivate the southern California sports fan, but sustainability beyond this spring is the trickier issue.

“People forget. The Angels were showing our highlights in their stadium back then. It was noticed from Santa Monica all the way to the border,” he said.

“The Kings are a little more Hollywood. A little more glitz and glamour. But both teams have a hard-core fan base of around 10,000, and they’ve got to be competitive to fill the building on a regular basis. I don’t think that will change because of the great playoff run the Kings have had.”

Burke, needless to say, understands keenly now that running an NHL team in SoCal isn’t anything close to running a team in southern Ontario.

Words linger here much more.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

While on one hand Burke sounds like a sane GM, don't mortgage the future for old rentals and just be bounced in the first round. but in a month watch him trade his 1st pick and a couple of prospects to vancouver for overrated and over priced Luongo.

Link to comment
Share on other sites


"While on one hand Burke sounds like a sane GM, don't mortgage the future for old rentals and just be bounced in the first round. but in a month watch him trade his 1st pick and a couple of prospects to vancouver for overrated and over priced Luongo."

All things being equal, that would be a good trade. I also don't think it will cost that much to get Luongo. Teams are not gaga over him like they used to be and his HUMONGOUS contract is a huge liability. I think Vancouver would just be pleased to rid themselves of his contract. Luongo is 10x better than anything Toronto has going on in the net anyway. Vancouver is almost as scrutinizing on its players as Toronto is (so you would not have the "Bryzgalov" syndrome).

I think a Schenn could get the deal done.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...