So, just what exactly is Brian Burke’s vision for the Toronto Maple Leafs?
I’d like to share my thoughts on what I feel he is trying to do and also to shed the misconceptions being floated around. I keep hearing the same tired and baseless complaint over and over from the Burke/Leafs bashers, that he does not want talented and skilled players and that he only wants a team full of goons. That is blasphemy, if he could add the big and talented trio of Rick Nash, Jarome Iginla and James Neal to his “Top Six” he would do so in a second, he’s not a fool. These are not guys that are readily available and why waste your bullets on spare parts?
But when he hesitates at adding a Maxim Afinogenov, Nik Zherdev or Paul Kariya it’s because these players are not appreciably better than what we already have and do not fit in with what Burke is trying to build – plus less cap friendly than internal options. John Ferguson would have added one of those aforementioned pieces for better or worse and with the thought process of “if you keep adding parts they will eventually work”, he did not have a vision, and for this I think we can all say about Brian Burke, he has conviction and I for one believe in him. His vision is simple yet effective, and luckily for Maple Leafs fans entertaining to boot.
His ideal team would consist of two solid lines of highly skilled scoring forwards, hopefully with some size and tenacity as to not be pushed around and he wants his third line to be filled with responsible, defensive oriented pit-bulls who make the opposing teams night miserable. Mix that with a fourth line of energy guys with an enforcer or two and a big, physical, in your face shut-down defence core along with a decent goaltender and you have a Brian Burke team.
How far is the current team from reaching that vision? I think ideally Burke would love to have Kulemin-Bozak-Kessel as his second line, an enviable second line, along with Versteeg-Kadri-Armstrong as the third line. Unfortunately that also goes to show we are basically short three top line forwards all things being fair. Even with our current roster our third and fourth lines are set, in fact if this league eliminated all of the top two lines in hockey and teams could only play their third and fourth lines, the Leafs would be a perennial contender.
The team is moving in the right direction and we are starting to form a pretty solid base and nucleus of talent that will lead to a contending team night in and night out, and if we can add a Joe Thornton type in free agency next season, get a solid (bigger) top six forward for Tomas Kaberle who can help take the pressure off Phil Kessel we could finally be onto something. This is of course assuming the continued internal development of Bozak, Kadri, Kulemin, Ross, Schenn, Aullie and of course the Monster Jonas Gustavsson.