Monday, July 30, 2012

Back to the Future IV: Burke to the Future

It is late July 2012. The scene opens in Brian Burke's office at the ACC. The Leafs haven't made the playoffs since 2004 and have finished in the bottom third of the league in each season of Burke's three-and-a-half year reign as GM.

He is sitting at his desk, tie untied, empty bottle of whisky in the trash can, as he looks at a sheet of paper titled "Toronto Maple Leafs Roster, 2012-13". It is making him sad. The margins of the page are filled with the names Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, written over and over again in loopy handwriting, and set inside the centre of a heart. Burke also has scraps of paper on his desk with the words, "Will you be my No. 1 centre? Check yes or no. Sincerely, your secret admirer." He will be mailing them soon.

Burke takes a break from his current predicament to fondly remember his days in Anaheim. Winning. Truculence. No Mike Komisarek. Suddenly, Cliff Fletcher bursts through the door.

FLETCHER: It's your team, Burkie, something has got to be done about your team! Read this!

Fletcher hands Burke a newspaper from 2006. On the front page is a picture of Bryan McCabe and JFJ smiling and shaking hands.

BURKE: "The Toronto Maple Leafs have signed Bryan McCabe to a 5-year, $28.75 million contract, General Manager John Ferguson Jr. announced last night." Fletch, I already know about Bryan McCabe. Why are you making me read this garbage.

FLETCHER: You see, this one event starts a chain reaction that completely destroys the entire franchise. I already went further ahead into time to see what else happens. I backtracked everything to this one event, that's why we have to prevent this incident from ever happening.

Burke looks at Fletcher like he has two heads.

BURKE: Hold on, how are we supposed to stop something that has already happened?

FLETCHER: I did it. I finally did it. People have been wondering what I've been doing on the team payroll all these years, and I finally did it.

BURKE: Uh, did what?

FLETCHER: I built a time machine, Burkie—out of a Vespa.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

How Soon is Now? Is Kadri Ready

Nazem Kadri Leafs
The time for Nazem Kadri to make the NHL is now.

On average it takes a prospect about three years to stick in the NHL. That’s exactly how many years it has been since the Leafs spent the seventh overall pick in the 2009 entry draft on Kadri.

This is a pivotal season for Kadri to prove he’s capable of playing in the NHL. The Leafs need to see it happen now, because the longer it takes for him to prove he’s ready, the more his trade value diminishes. And as a team that hasn’t made the playoffs since 2004, the Leafs can’t afford to waste a top-10 draft pick.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Crying Poor

Five Stanley Cups put Edmonton on the map, helping it land the nickname 'The City of Champions'. But if you listen to Oilers' owner Daryl Katz and Edmonton Mayor Stephen Mandel it's going to take a brand-new rink to put Edmonton on the map. And who should pay for that rink? Why not billionaire Daryl Katz, but rather the good people of Edmonton. What a surprise.

Sure, a nice, fancy, new arena would be a whole lot of fun, but when the public is held hostage by owners and made to subsidize the cost, which inevitably go way over budget, it's a scam.

Check out today's post at The Good Point to read more.

Monday, July 9, 2012

How Much is Shea Weber Worth?

Shea Weber Predators
If you could sign the best defenceman in the NHL, how much would you be willing to pay? That's the question many GMs are asking themselves as the possibility of Shea Weber becoming an unrestricted free agent is only one year away.

The Nashville Predators just lost Ryan Suter to the Minnesota Wild and have to immediately work on signing Weber to a long-term contract. But without his defence partner, which certainly hurts Nashville's chances of contending, is Weber committed to staying with the Predators?

Last year Weber signed a one-year deal as a restricted free agent to determine whether the team was committed enough to winning. Well, GM David Poile re-signed Pekka Rinne to a massive deal, brought in rentals at the deadline, and made a strong pitch to keep Suter.

Accordingly, if Weber signs a one-year deal this year he will essentially be telling the Predators it wasn't enough, he's leaving.

With that possibility, rival GMs are asking the same question that Poile is asking: How much is Weber worth?

Friday, July 6, 2012

What's the Hold Up?

Unlike last year, this year's free agent market hasn't produced a feeding frenzy like everyone expected. Zach Parise and Ryan Suter got paid, but no team has taken the Florida Panthers approach of overpaying every average player available and hoping it's enough for the playoffs (I still can't believe it was for Florida).

Sure, the Flames overpaid both Dennis Wideman and the soon-to-regress-terribly Jiri Hudler, but that's just the Flames doing Flamesy things. Jay Feaster doesn't think he overpaid either of those players; in his mind the Flames got a steal. It will be interesting to see what the team does when the cap drops from $70 million. I want a camera there when someone tells Feaster he's over the cap by a good $5 million.

Yesterday at the Good Point I wrote about whether the big hold up on the UFA-front is due to the CBA that will expire at the end of the summer. I also speculate about whether a certain Tim Connolly, and players of his ilk, can be traded (hint: yes).

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Why the Sharks Need Rick Nash

Rick Nash Canada Joe Thornton
The San Jose Sharks are at a crossroads.

After making back-to-back Western Conference Finals in 2010 and 2011, the Sharks were ousted in the first round this season by the St. Louis Blues, a younger, faster, and hungrier squad. The Sharks squeaked out a 3-2 win in double overtime in Game 1, but lost the next four straight. Overnight, it looked like San Jose’s window to contend slammed shut.

That’s why more than any other team, the Sharks need to trade for Rick Nash.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Buying Low: Peter Mueller

The Toronto Maple Leafs have spent over $66.5 million on unrestricted free agents since Brian Burke took over in 2008. Of that, only $12.5 million, divvied up between Francois Beauchemin and Clarke MacArthur, was spent wisely.

The rest of the money has gone to Colby Armstrong, Mike Komisarek, Tim Connolly, Brett Lebda, Colton Orr, and other even less notable names.

Burke once promised that “July 1 would be our draft”, but the list of names that have arrived in Toronto has made Leafs fans wish Burke traded his “picks”.

So far this off-season Burke has resisted overpaying any of the underwhelming free agents. Aside from Jay McClement, who inked a reasonable two-year deal worth $1.5 million a season, the Leafs have watched other teams feast on the UFA buffet. Brandon Prust did not become Colby Armstrong 2.0 and Bryce Salvador did not get the Mike Komisarek treatment.

Barring a miraculous signing of Ryan Suter or Zach Parise (which isn’t happening, sorry), the Leafs' best chance is to wait for the market to cool and take a flier on a player later in the summer. Burke did the same with MacArthur in 2009, waiting until late August to sign what would be a 60-point scorer for only $1.1 million.

The player the Leafs could take a chance on this year is former eighth overall pick Peter Mueller after the Colorado Avalanche failed to offer Mueller arbitration, thus making him an unrestricted free agent at the age of 24.
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