He Came From Providence (the one in Rhode Island)

This is Brian Burke about 35 years ago. It was very likely around this time that someone last used "Brian Burke" and "likeable" in the same sentence. This weekend we’ll see the great man in action.

Brian Burke has to hit a home run this weekend. His signature moves so far in Toronto (Kessel offer sheet disguised as a trade; Phaneuf deal, Kadri selection, Gustavsson signing) offer a mixed bag result (Seguin alone would mean a tremendous amount to a rebuild) and there is pressure to improve immediately. It has always been thus in the Big Smoke.

What does he have in Kaberle? A well priced veteran ($4.25M cap hit) one year from free agency. He is perhaps slipping a little but remains an outstanding talent and should cover the bet (his cap hit) and could certainly help a very good team win the Stanley. San Jose? Maybe. Los Angeles? Possibly. Fact is, most NHL teams could use Kaberle but the one year lease on his services makes him a less attractive option for many teams.

Toronto fans have been fed a steady diet of crazy from their media (Dustin Brown, David Backes, David Krejci) in terms of possible return for one season of the puck moving defender. This probably means massive disappointment if/when the trade does come down, but for me the key element will be a top 6 forward coming back this weekend.

Why? The Leafs top 6 (I believe it to be Kris Versteeg, Nikolai Kulemin, Mikhail Grabovski, Tyler Bozak, Phil Kessel and Colby Armstrong) has some talent but isn’t much above expansion quality. Burke is under some pressure to make sure that 1st rd pick dealt to Boston for 2011 (another Kessel bullet) isn’t a lottery pick again, so acquiring an NHL veteran who can play with (say) Kessel and Kulemin is very important.

If he can’t do it this weekend, there are other options. Trading away more draft picks, maybe dealing Kadri (extremely unlikely) or Luke Schenn (possible) or maybe picking up a mid-level free agent like Lee Stempniak or Patrick O’Sullivan. Brian Burke isn’t stupid, I expect he’ll get his top 6 forward this weekend.

One final note: there have been some rumors out there on the Al Gore that Edmonton is involved in the trade talks. I don’t think it makes much sense, unless the team has a chance to sign Kaberle long term. Without a multi-year contract, trading any assets for a rental runs counter to logic and reason.

  • LT, what are the chances that the offers for Kaberle are low enough that a Cogliano&Chorney package could be considered? I’d imagine that it would be a reach, but if for some reason Edm did land him, there is always the TDD and the potential for a high pick in return.

  • My prediction. He`ll make another wonderfully aweful trade, be dilightfully arrogant about it in the media, being wittingly smug and pompous as he knows better than thou, and Toronto fans will either cry unstoppably or plan the parade route. I will be waiting with baited breathe for this travesty to unfold. Nothing like a little drama. GO BURKEEEEE

  • Lowetide

    It is very difficult to see the current Burke in that picture…

    I see no way the Oilers can be making a trade with Toronto, unless it is Souray for Jeff Finger or something like that. One other possible trade that would make sense to me would be Cogliano for Beauchemin, who would be a perfect second pairing dman for the Oilers for years, he just turned thirty and should have 5 good years ahead of him.

    LT, curious if you have lloked at Washington’s surplus of centers, with Fleishman, Belanger, Steckel, and Boyd Gordon as number 2-5 on their center depth chart, the last three would all make sense as the 3C the Oilers so desperately need. I wonder if Gordon could be had for a third rounder? He is a 25 year old former first rounder, 6 feet tall and almost a 60 percent guy in the faceoffs, and is behind Belanger and Steckel on the depth chart.

  • Lowetide

    Ryan: If I’m Steve Tambellini there’s no way I offer anyone without a chance to sign Kaberle longer term. I don’t even know if Kaberle is a guy EDM would want long term (I like him a ton) but dealing Cogliano for a one year rental is nuts.

    Schenn on the other hand……

  • Lowetide

    I understand your point LT, but is Cogliano worth a top 40 pick in the draft if he doesn’t fit in the Oilers long term plans? I would think Kaberle could get a draft pick in that range at the deadline, maybe more.

  • Lowetide

    Ryan: I might make the trade if absolutely certain Kaberle would get me a first round pick at the deadline 2011. Otherwise, I’d rather deal Cogliano for a D prospect or play him this season and try to increase his value.

    That’s what Sam Pollock would have done. He’d have played Cogs with Hemsky until December and then traded him for something nice.

  • This probably doesn’t come as a surprise to many, given my allegiances, but I’ve always liked Brian Burke. Like most GM’s out there, he’s made some mistakes along the way, but I think he’s particularly hated in these parts because of bias alone – the Penner/Lowe/Bobby Ryan incident. Okay… and his smug persona. But I like him.

    Everyone looks at the Kessel trade like Burke’s a complete idiot. Obviously, the way it turned out leads credence to this thought, but hindsight is 20/20. Had the draft pick this past year been out of the top 2, I don’t think it looks nearly as bad. And Burke had reason to believe that they’d be better than they were last season. On paper, they had a better squad than the one they had the season before. They added Komisarek & Beauchemin to their back-end, and adding Kessel for nothing off the roster surely should have improved the team. He would have been stupid to think they’d be a legitimate playoff threat, but he’d have been stupid to think that they’d get worse to the point he was missing out on Hall (Seguin wasn’t really on the radar as a threat for #1 a year ago).

    Bottom line: he gambled and lost. The team took a step back, even with the additions they made. In hindsight, it was a bad deal, but it wasn’t a given that it would be nearly as bad as it turned out… kind of like the Oilers season last year – no one would have expected the year they had heading into the season.

    Now Ron Wilson, on the other hand… well, I totally dislike him… and yes, it has everything to do with his arrogant attitude, BUT also what he did (or didn’t do) to my beloved Sharks… 2-0 series lead on the Oil and they couldn’t close the deal… I quit the Sharks that Spring. Memories…

    • Crackenbury

      You’re right about the bias, but I didn’t like the deal right from the start. It was questionable at the time it was made, giving up 2 first rounds and a second round pick on an undersized forward with so-so skating ability. Watching the Leafs tank throughout the year made the deal a slam-dunk disaster. The potential for Boston to get another lottery pick is more than likely in my opinion. Boston is going to be a playoff team for years because of this trade.

      Burke has never had to rebuild a team to the extent he needs to with the Leafs. His desire for instant success will doom the Laffs for many seasons.

    • Ducey

      Everyone looks at the Kessel trade like Burke’s a complete idiot. Obviously, the way it turned out leads credence to this thought, but hindsight is 20/20. Had the draft pick this past year been out of the top 2, I don’t think it looks nearly as bad

      Had he added Kessel to a group of 2 or 3 forwards that were very good NHL players and it didn’t work out, sure. But he added him to a team that was essentially devoid of firepower.

      Trading two consecutive #1 picks in a rebuild is always going to kill you. Even if the picks don’t turn out to be lottery picks, they are most likely top 10. By rushing to improve in the short term, you are dooming yourself to a future of mediocrity.

    • hindsight is 20/20

      Then why did we all go on and on about how hilariously bad the deal was 5 minutes after it happened?

      As far as I can remember the only people who thought it was a good deal were Leaf fans who were drinking the Burke-aid.

      • And if they finished 21st and gave up the 9th overall pick (plus next year’s) for a guy that was taken 5th overall just 4 years earlier, it would’ve looked like a good deal to Leaf fans (as long as Kessel consistenlty puts up 35). The Leafs finished 24th in 08/09. With the additions they made, it was fair to think they’d improve on that. I think Burke figured the pick should be in the #10 range. That deal is fine by my eye (as long as the next year’s pick is no higher). There’s a lot of “ifs” and “buts” in there, but this deal turned out a lot more disastrous than it could have.

        Admittedly, I defended the deal with that kind of thinking – two # 10’s for a 40 goal scorer… sure, given that the Leafs shouldn’t have problems attracting high-end free agents (to make up for losing the draft picks). It could’ve worked… it didn’t. On paper, they improved that off-season… and then they dropped 5 positions to 2nd-last.

        And now all the Burke bashers look smart, when in reality, they got lucky. He’s still done a pretty decent job (Kessel trade aside): bringing in Phaneuf, Giguere; dumping Blake; Versteeg deal; signing top young college free agents to replenish lack of picks; a Beachemin/Komisarek bounce-back year away from looking smart on those signings, and a potential Kaberle deal.

        • So two number 10s and a second are worth a number 5 as a best case scenario?

          A) I still don’t consider it a good trade even if it happened exactly like that.

          B) Most of us calling it a terrible deal also predicted a lottery finish for the Leafs.

          Interestingly, when the deal was made he was just coming off a 20 year old season which looked a lot like Comrie’s 20 year old season, so I guess taking that into account it could have gone even worse.

          I should also add that if you think bringing in Phaneuf and making him captain was a good move we probably are never going to agree about anything concerning Burke.

    • 9 Inches Uncut

      It’s not just Tyler Seguin. Looking at the Leafs this season I’d say they’re right there with Edm as a bottom 5 team again this year. Which means another high lottery pick. And although 2011 is one of the weakest draft classes in years there are still some good prospects, like Sean Couturier, Boone Jenner, Ryan Murphy, and Adam Larsson. Guys that are potential top 6 forwards and top pairing dmen.

      The acquisition of Phil Kessel would have been a okay deal if it was one 1st round pick but the fact that he gave up two is ridiculous during a rebuild. And Burke should have known that they would be high as during a rebuild your team is highly unlikely to finish outside of the bottom 5. And if he evaluated his roster honestly he would have seen big gaping holes. Too many slow punishing defencemen and no depth up front translates into a weak offensive club. Not to mention outside of Kaberle you don’t want any of those other dmen handling the puck as much as they had to last season as Phaneuf and Co. just aren’t puck moving dmen.

      Great teams are a mix of talent, speed, toughness, size, and tenacity. Being heavy in any category tends to leave gaping holes in other areas. Just look at the Oilers, Capitals, Leafs, Panthers, etc.

    • R.A. Slapshotzky

      Brian Burke is a disgrace to the league for this reason alone. He is a true scumbag. Can you imagine is he tried this bull$it in Vancouver?

      And you like him RossCreek? You truly are a Calgary Flames fan. You must follow the three D’s rule: Deny, deny, deny. I suppose you gotta… to be a Flames fan… at this point especially. Check this out:

      September 30/2008 he tried this:


      -Burke stepped down as GM of the Anaheim Ducks on November 12, 2008

      -On November 29, 2008, Burke was introduced as the President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Lowetide

    Ross Creek: Burke’s achilles last season was goaltending which is/was easily found. Like rocks by the shore.

    I agree Burke is no dummy, but he’s not exactly ripping line drives so far in Toronto.

  • Ducey

    Oh, by the way RC, I did like Burke’s trade to pick up the Dion. He traded a bunch of 7’s and 8’s for a Jack (and Jacka**) and improved his future in the process.

    I know the Dion had worn out his welcome in Calgary, but Sutter should have done better than he did.

    • Maybe – Phanuef is pure locker room poison.

      Sure he came in late and said the right things for a few weeks, but lets see how it goes with him as captain for a season.

      I know that with Calgary more than a few teammates couldn’t stand him so much that management or the coaching staff had to intervene on his behalf semi-regularly to save him from a beating.


      You should ask Vandermeer off the record what he thought of Phaneuf as a teammate.

  • Muji 狗

    If Burke wants to put the rebuild on hold this year, try to compete, and prevent the Kessel pick from being another lottery pick…
    …he should JUST KEEP KABERLE.

    Trading Kaberle, who you correctly state is on a value contract, only makes sense if he’s getting quality pieces for the future.

  • Muji 狗

    Ahh, so this weekend is Burkie’s Last Resort?

    You didn’t mention it above, LT, but it is the Finger deal which is killing him. Signing the wrong guy and for far too much should be damn close to a firing offense.

    But now they have to deal with consequences, part of which is dealing off a solid veteran on a great contract, rather than signing him to an extension.

    I’m not sure Stempniak is welcome back in TO, nor do I think he would want to return, but his own options must be narrowing fast and his expectations of a raise, or to be paid for a small sample size must be dwindling by now.

    The most likely trade I see, despite his lack of truculence, is Ribeiro for Kaberle.

    • Burke didn’t sign Jeff Finger, Cliff Flether did… that was his parting gift (along with dealing Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak).

      And they’ll be burying Finger in the minors this year, so it doesn’t really affect them, just Ontario’s teacher’s.

      ~Word is, Flether thought he was actually signing Kurt Sauer~

  • Watching Burke struggle moving Kaberle for fair value makes me believe the Oilers need to move Penner or Hemsky this season.

    Kadri isn’t popular but he produces. I’d take him on the Oilers in a second!

    (Ramadan’s early this year)

  • Lowetide

    Nate: Yeah, Kadri looks like he’s going to be a player. Good for him, I bet he’s had his share of difficulties along the way. I still wonder about how much offense he’ll bring but he has a nice range of skills.

    Poor Cliff Fletcher. He should NEVER have been running the team after he lost it but there you go. When I win the lottery, my first book is going to be about smart GMs and Fletcher is going to be a big part of it (along with Torrey, Imlach, Sather and Holland).

    But he was terrible the last time in Toronto.

  • ubermiguel

    The Kessel deal was a good one at the time. There’s no way Burke makes that deal if he thinks he’s picking #2, but any draft pick is a gamble. Kessel is the real deal and young enough to build around.

    Trading Souray for Finger would eat up most of Toronto’s remaining cap space. We’d have to take more salary back.

      • ubermiguel

        So if you were GM you’d be saying:

        “I’d rather guarantee being in 29th place than try to improve my team.” and, “I’d rather have some prospects who might be good in a few years (if they make the NHL) rather than a 21 year old that led the Bruins in scoring with 36 goals last year.”?

        • 9 Inches Uncut

          If I were the GM I would have used the already built in excuse of rebuilding the club to compete for the Stanley cup.

          Having Tyler Seguin and another possible lottery pick goes a longer ways then a 36 goal scorer that the Bruins seemed to be tripping over themselves to get rid of.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            “Having Tyler Seguin and another possible lottery pick goes a longer ways then a 36 goal scorer that the Bruins seemed to be tripping over themselves to get rid of.”

            That remains to be seen.

  • jt in Oilertown

    Ross Creek said…

    Burke didn’t sign Jeff Finger, Cliff Flether did… that was his parting gift (along with dealing Alex Steen for Lee Stempniak)…

    ~Word is, Flether thought he was actually signing Kurt Sauer~

    Hence, my wrong guy comment.

    And I’m sorry if I gave the impression that Burke signed Finger. I meant to give the impression that it is Burke has to deal with the consequences of that signing.

    Whether they bury that albatross in the minors or not remains to be seen, but the optics certainly aren’t good.

    • Fans of the Oilers should pay attention to the Sacramento Kings situation in regards to a new building downtown.

      The comparables;

      Billionaire owner/s

      State/Provicial capitals under 1million in pop.

      Arco arena is the oldest&smallest facility in the NBA.

      Northlands = Cal Expo State Fairgrounds

      It’s worth following over the next year.

      Edmonton should create a 1% retail sales tax in several districts.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    wonder if burke would get suckered into a horcoff for kaberle deal, just might be the forward the leafs need lol, low points gettin, up there in age, and a high price in salary, perfect!

  • Cowbell_Feva

    Sorry folks, but I cannot stand the man with the world’s largest head. I have done it a few times, and don’t feel like re-hashing and re-typing all the F#CK ups that this guy has had/done.

    He is doing again in T.O. just like he did in Anaheim and in VanCity. Yeah, yeah, he won a Cup with the Ducks.. FYI he had NOTHING to do with constructing that team, he inherited that team when he signed on.

    While I may agree with Ross Creek that moving Stajan/Hagman/Mayers for Phaneuf was a good move for the Leafs, I still to this day think that Dion Phaneuf is WAY WAY over-rated! He used to be a force when he jumped off the ice into guys at just the right time, and not get penalized. WAS. Yes he has a hard shot. But he is not going to turn around a bottom feeding team like Pronger has done in his career. Neither is Versteeg, nor Colby Armstrong. Phaneuf was on a decent team that played Defense first and he had one good season. He’s been riding those numbers for 2 years now.

    The problem I have with Burke is that there are 30 NHL teams that deal with cap issues and have players to be moved. But nowhere else does the attention have to be focused in on the GM like it does with him. (Yes I know he is in a hockey hotbed) but the fact remains that he seeks the attention and has so much arrogance and stubborness that it makes me sick!