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Talking Hockey: Helpful tips for Brian Burke

Guest Irishjim

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By Tim Boughton, Paul Grant and David Walton | ESPN.com

This week, the regular guys offer suggestions to beleaguered GM Brian Burke as to how he can turn that Maple Leafs ship around. That is, if you can turn around a ship that is sinking.


1. Drop the attitude: Forget about Kevin Lowe, start challenging successful GMs to barn fights. Although Burke and Lowe have made up for the public feud over the Dustin Penneroffer sheet, it was a clown move. OK, we get it, you picture yourself as a tough guy.

2. Use your calculator: This is simple. You are in charge of a big-market club -- you have lots money -- so trade for Tim Thomas’ cap space. Trade draft picks to get him. Also: A club with money can overpay for players from a league like the KHL with no problem. Let those leagues develop the players and then steal them away. Manchester United didn’t develop Wayne Rooney, they bought him from Everton.

3. Rescind Freedom 35: Even though the Trailer Park Boys attempted to make the retirement age 35, it didn’t go into law. Enough with the youth movement; you need to make it deep in the playoffs NOW. Bring in big-name, high-risk veterans. You’ve got nothing to lose. (It worked in Anaheim.) Why weren’t you in the Jaromir Jagr market, what aboutShane Doan? Plenty of guys have one good year left. Extra cap space (see item 2) will allow for a big-risk signing.

4. Resign: Admit it, even though he proceeded you at the franchise, Ron Wilson was your guy, and Randy Carlye is a desperate stop-gap in an attempt to keep your job. The whole Ron Wilson contract extension/subsequent firing weeks later might indicate that Burke might not even be in control of the team. When the stodgy old monocle, ascot and top-hat wearing crowd (which is how I imagine the Leafs board of governors) start making personnel decisions for you, it is time to go.

5. European vacation: Scour Europe for a set of can’t-miss twins whom you can draft.

6. Stay golden: Let’s face it, you are going to have to trade for Roberto Luongo. He might be at the fringe of his prime, but he is Canada’s golden boy, and I don’t think the fans will come down too hard on you for bringing him to Toronto. The media might, but, whatever, they already nitpick every move you make. And if Luongo fails, you will be fired, so you don't need to be afraid of his 10-year contract if you are going to last another two.

7. Don’t play in 3-D: You have three decent defensemen on your roster, unless you had the foresight to bring Caryle in as a player-coach. You might need access to a time machine to make that part work, however.

DAVID WALTON: Let me get this straight: You ask for suggestions for Brian Burke and Tim writes something that belongs in one of Dr. Evil's ridiculous monologues? Goodness. Well, at least we can only go onward and upward from here, right?

1. First and foremost, you have to go get a goalie. A real goalie. I realize you are waiting until the price is right, but the longer you wait, the more likely it is you'll get a visit from the Whammy and end up on the outside of the playoffs. Again. You gave the Bruins three top draft picks for Phil Kessel. Shouldn't you be willing to do the same to keep pucks out of your net? So go get Roberto Luongo or Jonathan Bernier. Then you can give the fans at the center of the hockey universe something else to complain about -- besides not making the playoffs.

2. And this is one point I will agree with Tim on: Find a new coach. The writing was on the wall with Ron Wilson. But replacing him with Randy Carlyle was short-sighted. Wouldn't Bob Hartley have looked good behind the Leafs bench?

3. Trade Dion Phaneuf. I've never been a fan of Phaneuf's, and I know Paul just started crying because of his man-crush on the Leafs captain. But I think in doing so, you could fill some of the remaining holes on this team and turn it into a contender.

4. When all else fails: bobblehead night.

Your turn, Paul. What suggestions do you have for your hometown GM?

PAUL GRANT: Thanks for nothing, guys. As the senior guy here, I was planning on having you guys submit your ideas, take out the best ones and claim them as my own. I can clearly see you've left me high and dry. Winging it:

1. A goalie, yes, it starts with a goalie: Our hockey pals Phil or Rayzor would stop more pucks than the current contingent. (Sorry for almost killing you that time, Phil.) James Reimer is only 24, so there's still time to make sure he doesn't turn into a goalie version of Jim Benning: a guy with potential who got burned out by being used too much, too soon. But I don't think Roberto Luongo would last 15 games in that market; the intensity is like Vancouver's, only with the caustic East Coast attitude. Tim Thomas, while a great goalie, is not the answer here. The Toronto media would feast on his eccentricities. What they need is a guy who is from the Toronto area, wants to win for the Maple Leafs because he grew up idolizing the crest. And since Rick Tabaracci is not available, you have to go to Kingston -- about three hours away and the hometown of none other than the legendary Doug Gilmour -- for Mike Smith. Offer the Coyotes a crazy-good deal that they can't resist. It all starts in net. No goalie, no chance.

2. Don't overpay: The problem with many Leafs signings is that the players were paid way too much. Once they got into the media miasma, the players got so distracted by the attention, fame and fortune lavished upon them that they forgot about the task at hand. That's why you need to enforce the hometown discount. Bring in area guys who would play for less -- or at least a cap-friendly amount -- are accustomed to the market and don't get dazzled by the bright lights. Guys from Southern Ontario: Joe Thornton, Jeff Carter, Drew Doughty, Bryan Allen, Dennis Wideman, Kyle Quincey, Corey Perry, Mike Fisher, Adam Henrique, Shawn Thornton, Matt Cooke. All shapes, sizes and roles. Surely a couple of those guys would sign on and be effective.

3. Bring back Wendel Clark: Now that's a man-crush. Guy could still throw them, I bet. I'd pay to see that.

4. Look to the future: Don't listen to Tim: Stop signing and trading for guys whose best days are clearly behind them. This is an institutional mindset (see Eric Lindros, Bryan Marchment, Mike Peca, et al.) that has to go away. Step up the scouting so that you're getting guys who have potential. Heck, the Red Wings have been doing it for years with lousy draft picks. Why not just hire away their staff? Something like that. The point is, make sure you don't become the latest guy brought in who was past his prime.

OK, enough. My special box of ticking cigars from Brian Burke just arrived, so I've got to go. Until next week, good day, and may the good news be yours.

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