It’s hard to argue that Brian Burke has done anything but improve the Leafs, in terms of the current roster (younger, faster, tougher), cap issues (he has somehow moved seemingly immovable contracts), in terms of depth (more players fighting for fewer spots) and the future (young players in the pipeline, draft choices down the road).
Whether it was acquiring Phaneuf (and Aulie, as well, somehow) for players no longer in the plans, dealing bad contracts (Jason Blake, etc.) or acquiring kids with real potential (Colborne, Gardiner) it’s clear that, while the Leafs still have a ways to go, some very good work has already been done.
It’s pre-season, and it’s natural to get a little excited—and perhaps unrealistically hopeful—about the team’s prospects and some of the young guys looking to get noticed. But most would agree that the improvements—while still very much needing to be in evidence when the games count for real—are already on display for all to see in the early days of training camp and the pre-season.
All this said, I wonder if Leaf fans may have a player or two that, in their heart, kind of/sort of still wished was in the blue and white?
I’m guessing very few, if any Leaf enthusiasts would say Kris Versteeg, for example. (I thought Versteeg could be an important piece a year ago, and he played some decent hockey here. But from the get-go, he seemed not to fit, somehow. And Burke moved him fairly quickly for reasons we may not fully ever really know.) But are there others that Burke has given up in his now almost three years at the helm (or Fletcher, in the months prior to Burke’s arrival) that you wish were still here?
I mean, if you just look at the roster from the beginning of the 2008-’09 season and compare it with what the Leafs have in place at the moment, it’s shockingly different—and I dare say, while not a finished product, better.
But fans all have “favorites”, guys they just like, thought played well or played with heart in a Leaf uniform. Anybody you still wish was here?
Stajan, Ian White, Stalberg, Steen (Fletcher move), Tim Brent?
Those are all good NHL players, but that list demonstrates to me (the full list of departed players is much longer, of course, but those are a few names that spring to mind…) that the Leafs haven’t really given up very much.
For me, there are no players that I feel I wish were still here. That’s not a knock on them, just my perspective that the team is better constructed now.