Sometimes it’s the little moves that can make a difference.
And the tinkering that Burke is doing speaks to that point. He’s no different from other GM’s in the sense that they all, under a cap system, have to work 12 months of the year now more than ever, simply to maintain a workable roster. Burke is one of many proponents of the “top-six, bottom-six” formula for building his forward lines. While most of us would agree the Leafs are a tad (a lot?) light on the “top-six” side, they are certainly creating a fair bit of competition for those much sought-after third and fourth-line spots.
The signing of former Sabre/Thrasher Clarke MacArthur is the most recent case in point. Last year, Burke brought in Sjostom and Caputi in trades. He has also acquired Versteeg (though I’m guessing, on the Leafs, he will second-line winger) and Armstrong. He already has Hanson, Mitchell, and Orr and newcomers such as Brown, Irwin, Mueller and young D’Amigo who may well jockey for spots.
As a young guy with the Sabres a few years back, MaccArthur played with some pluck and was a contributor. Last season, I don’t know if he lost his spot or his play fell off, but he was a -14 before he was dealt to the Thrashers before the deadline. It’s noteworthy that Atlanta gave up two mid-round draft picks to obtain him for their playoff run. They walked away from his expensive arbitration award this summer, but that doesn’t mean that MacArthur won’t bring value for the Leafs at the lower salary he accepted from Toronto.
I wrote some weeks back that I thought Burke had one more big move in mind, beyond whatever thoughts he had about Kaberle at the time. The Kaberle window has closed, for now, though general discomfort may ratchet up those discussions again before long. But I have to believe Burke is still looking to hit a double, if not a home run. Easier said then done as I posted earlier this week, but it’s clear he is working feverishly to improve the team.