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The Leaf corporate “apology” and the year-end media day (Burke and Carlyle): many words but….

I would love to hear from you all about the Leaf ownership “apology” that was published on the team’s web site late Monday night this week.

For me, it was just more empty talk.  (That it was “signed” by Larry Tanenbaum provided little solace.  In fact, it probably just annoyed me all the further.  He and Richard Peddie were behind the big move to oust Pat Quinn as GM back in 2003.  They couldn’t leave well enough alone and we have all seen the results.  Not suggesting the Quinn era (my bias aside) was perfect and yes, it came in the free-spending pre-cap days.  But the Leafs iced very strong teams every season.  With their resources, they should have—and they did.

However, since Tanenbaum and Peddie inserted themselves, this team has gone south in so many ways.  It has been, for me, particularly noticeable since Tanenbaum became the largest individual shareholder instead of the late Steve Stavro.  Through Tanenbaum, we had to listen to the organizational front man, Peddie, all those years, as he stuck his fingers in areas where he had no clue what he was talking about (as in the hockey club's affairs).  He “chaired” the doomed three-man committee that selected John Ferguson Jr. as General Manager in August of 2003.  Ownership proceeded to meddle even further; Ferguson was in over his head, all the while refusing to take advice.  Enough said.

On the apology note, Tanenbaum said that ownership still believes in “the plan”.  He should have added, if only they understood what the plan was.

He spoke of this past season's results being "unacceptable".  I've never quite understood why so many coaches and athletes use that term.  I guess people think it makes them look determined, or something.  It just sounds weak to me.

If you really cared about something having been unacceptable, you would have done something about it long ago.  It's been "unacceptable" around here for years.  Part of the problem is, what is unacceptable is the ownership group led by Tanenbaum.  And they won't fire themselves.

Anyway, I won’t go on.  But let me know if you were impressed by a season-end public “apology”…

****

I don’t know how many times I’ve said here that Brian Burke is a shrewd hockey guy.  That’s a compliment.  That said, in my view, he is neither smarter—or better—than any number of good GM’s around the National Hockey League.  I’ve discussed this point here many times before.

His fourth annual year-end debrief with the local Toronto media brought little in the way of major revelations, which was no surprise.  They want to find another goalie (young, old, they don’t know at this point).  And, they want to find (for the fourth summer in succession) a first-line center. 

He still believes in Reimer.  (So do I.)  He still believes in his defense corps. (I’m not so sure about that one.)  And he still believes in his second line of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur. (I do not—at least not as a proven, go-to, modern-day elite-level NHL second line.  Serviceable, maybe.)

He says he wants a team that dictates, rather than being dictated to.  That the team needs to get bigger, and it will only take three or four guys with size who will make the rest of the team play bigger.  That’s true.  I’m with him there.  You don’t need a whole team of big, tough guys.  You just need enough of them to embolden the rest of the group to be able to play their game with confidence.

He responded to one question by acknowledging (no surprise there; he was hardly alone) he was upset by the late-season loss in Boston when the Leafs could not do much about the Bruins and their somewhat physical play.  (Carlyle earlier said, about the same game, that the Leafs looked pretty much mesmerized by what was going on.)

The most shocking thing for me, though, remains the fact that Burke said yet again that he and Ron Wilson had a fundamental disagreement as to how a team should be built, and yet he kept Wilson for more than three seasons as his coach.  I just don’t know how that happens.  That, for me, is huge.  And it is incomprehensible that he retained a coach for years when they disagreed on the most basic premise of all:  how a team should play.  Listen to the tape, it’s right there.  And it’s not the first time he has stressed that point.

I also fundamentally disagree with Burke's premise that Leaf fans were happy until February 6.  No, that’s not true.  On February 6, we had a fast, puck-moving team that - against weak opposition in the regular-season - could on many nights outscore the other team. It was entertaining at times, yes.  And that’s a good thing.  But at best (and the rest of the season proved this clearly), even in our “heady” sixth-place days in the mediocre Eastern Conference, we would have slid (just) into the playoffs and been cannon-fodder for any of the good teams atop the East.  So that hardly constitutes satisfaction for me, or, I’m guessing, many other Maple Leaf supporters.

Anyway, we are where we are, with Carlyle behind the bench and these two guys, it would seem, at least on the same page.

We can debate the nuances of whether the team was in shape or not (Burke claims the team was, and worked hard, just not hard enough for a “Carlyle team”).  But since Burke says he hasn’t changed his view about how a team should be built (hmmm…), it does beg the question: why are we still so far away after three and a half years on the job?

It’s not as though this need for a goalie (just like in Vancouver when Burke was GM there) is new in this market.  Nor is the need for a front-line center or overall team toughness part of some some new trend in the NHL.  Burke talks about those things constantly—you know, building a team from the goal out, being tough, dictating the game, etc.

But we sit here with a small forward group (or players with size who rarely use it), a mistake-riddled defense group and uncertain goaltending this far into his mandate.  When you see the lack of veteran experience, the absence of guys who have won anything anywhere, the lack of team toughness, the lack of grit, it’s not a surprise, is it?  In fact, I’m not quite sure why he looked so confused that this isn’t all coming together smoothly.  The team is missing a ton of parts, and while there is some talent here, he has a roster with a bunch of replaceable fourth-line guys, too.

I found it interesting that he refused to name names when it came to Marlie prospects who would actually be significant Maple Leafs some day.  Perhaps he wants to ensure that hopes in Leafland are not raised around certain names, though Rick Dudley did that for him a couple of weeks or so ago in discussing Colborne as a big-time second-line center next season. (Did I hear that wrong?  Correct me if I'm off-base...)

It was odd that Burke kept raising Carter Ashton’s name.  I just don’t see Ashton, (who I grant you is very young) as a guy who should be anywhere but with the Marlies.  Again, I guess Burke was just trying to promote what he did at the deadline, and the fact that he has a number of former first-round picks in the system.  The proof, however, will be in how many of those picks (Gardiner, Corlborne, Ashton, Kadri, etc.) actually become significant impact guys with the blue and white.

It was interesting as well that he swatted away what he tries to suggest is the myth of the Penguins “build” philosophy, saying they won a lottery and got Crosby—though surely he knows they did a lot more to re-build that organization than simply getting lucky that one time.  (I’m sure Burke would gladly take a lottery ball “win” to help expedite the Leafs’ progress.)

He also spoke of his impatience, using that as his rationale/defense for his oft-stated comment that he had/has no use for a “five-year re-build” (or those GM’s who “buy time” by invoking that phrase).  He just won’t quite come out and admit he got it very wrong here.

He says making the playoffs is not important on the one hand, claiming that his team could (very easy to say, after the failed fact) have made the playoffs the last two seasons if he had simply made trades at the deadline, but it would have meant giving up some of the future and he wasn’t prepared to do that—just to lose in the first round.  (I guess he doesn’t believe in the theory that anything can happen once you get to the playoffs.)  He is building, he says, a championship contender.

All in all the most revealing thing of the morning was perhaps when Carlyle talked about Francois Beauchemin basically being a jumble of nerves when he showed up back in Anaheim last season after his relatively short stay in Toronto.  Not quite sure what we should make of that.  Was that a slam at Ron Wilson?  Or was it simply saying that something happens to guys when they play in Toronto?  It was just odd to hear, and I’m not quite sure what the intent was in Carlyle saying that.  I’m sure pending unrestricted free-agents and their agents will hear that clip and say “next”, when it comes time to choose a team in future.

In any event, as much as I’ve commented here on Burke’s obvious need to bring attention to himself, as in “his way” and “how I build my team”, I did not see this as an exercise in dishonestly or deception.  I think the guy tried to handle questions and issues as directly as any GM can during these chats with the media.  There isn’t any real acknowledgement about failure, however. It’s all couched in stuff that sounds like excuses to me.  If he thinks they need a bigger and/or better roster, he has had time to accomplish that.  That falls on him, no one else.

If that sounds harsh, let me borrow Tanenbaum’s term—sorry.

27 comments:

  1. It seemed a bit like a "throw Wilson under the bus" event. They were deflecting blame.

    The lottery excuse about the Penguins seemed just that...an excuse.

    Beyond Crosby, there are many Penguin players that could upgrade the Leafs and I am not just talking about skilled players. Orpick, Engelland, Asham and Vitale provide a ton of grit...plus there is Steve MacIntyre in reserve.

    Asham has 16 points in 64 games. A similar Leaf player, Mike Brown has a career best year of 8 points, while Asham has a best of 34 points and usually clocks in a mid 20's

    Deryk Engelland, a super tough defenceman, has 17 points this year!

    Here he wins against Colton Orr

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Wc1szOLDTgM

    Mr. Burke, why dont't the Leafs have super tough defensemen like that? I would much rather have Engelland over Orr or Rosehill.

    Truculence?

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  2. I hear you, DP....Pittsburgh was way more than one luck lottery pick.....

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  3. Another great post, Mike. Lots to wade through:

    1. No, I'm not moved by the apology letter. I'd rather MLSE just keep quiet and keep providing the cash flow. I have zero interest in what their interpretation of the hockey team is. I do, however, believe Burke's echoing of that apology is genuine, and I feel for him. It's been a tough few years for the man. You can tell he's suffering through this... just look at footage of him on the day he arrived here compared to now.

    2. The Beauchemin quote was revealing - and worrying. If a cup-winning veteran can get that rattled playing in Toronto, this team simply has no chance. I'm crossing my fingers hoping it was Wilson's doing and that Carlyle can promote an insulated environment for the group. Part of that also falls on Burke - just stop yapping so damn much and show the players that you care about one thing - helping them win. The media can generate storylines on their own without a daily dose of soundbites.

    3. I agree it's hard to look at the team right now and think positive. But I wasn't aware of the Dudley interview you mentioned and I just went back and listened to it. Dudley came across as genuine, not just spewing accolades on the kids in order to appease anger. And as a widely respected evaluator of talent, that makes me optimistic. He said:

    - Colborne is a future top 2 centre
    - Gardiner is a future 1 or 2 d-man
    - Kadri will figure out what is and is not doable at the NHL level, and when he does he will be a very very good player
    - Blacker is extremely talented all-around

    Anyway, I'm not sure what my original point was here so I've resorted to rambling. Basically, right now there is tons of work to be done. But this summer may just be a good one for the Leafs, and according to Dudley, we may just be closer than we think. Might as well stay the course.

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  4. The apology is meaningless. It's just a way to buy some time with those that will buy that garbage. He said that Kadri would be in the NHL next year. He didn't say it would be with the leafs. Burke needs to put aside his self imposed rules and do everything to make the Leafs a winner, or resign.

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  5. Anonymous

    I think you hit the nail on the head... the core is simply not good enough. Compare our top 5-6 forwards and top 3 Dmen to the top 20 teams and you'll see two trends, less skill/mental toughness and way fewer guys developed by the Leafs who bleed blue and white.

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  6. Re: Anon's comment above re our top 5-6 forwards

    Thanks Anon...I agree that while we try to be hopeful, the core is not what it is on many other teams.

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  7. You've captured the sentiment of many fans very well, Mills.

    I, too, see that is has been difficult for Burke. We all know he's been through a great deal and has handled a personal tragedy with tremendous grace.

    With regard to the hockey team, I simply wish, as I have noted here many times, that he would exercise restraint and demonstrate less of a "me" orientation.

    The Beauchemin thing, if not a complete stunner, was still not good to hear.

    I also have great respect for Dudley's track record as a manager/evaluator. I just don't know if it helps to tell Leaf fans that Colborne will be a "top" second-line centre. We've heard this kind of optimism before, but as you say, he knows talent, so we'll see.

    There is no question some good pieces can be added this summer via trade and the draft and who knows, maybe an under-the-radar UFA who can make a difference here in terms of grit, character and leadership.

    Thanks Mills...good stuff as always.

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  8. A few years ago I took my two year old grandson to a junior hockey game, an exhibition game for the national team. At the end of the game he waved to the players as they left the ice. Then he sat down and stared into the rafters above. I asked him, Tie what are you looking at? I will never forget his reply: “The hockey gods.” We all know that the gods chose not to smile on us on this, the Season from Hell. So, what is being done to displease the hockey gods?

    I have no idea what it would feel like if my bosses took out a full-page ad to apologize for my performance. Job security does not come to mind. Pressure to achieve dramatic results quickly certainly does. Is there a quick fix for the Leafs? I don’t know, there might be if the foundation is strong enough. However, I am not sure if the foundation is in place at this point in time (although you can see it in certain ways). If the goal was to humiliate Burke, then I imagine that they achieved that. But, what would the point of that be? Was the idea to put him in his place? The hockey gods already did that, in a mocking way I would say. So, where does the ultimate responsibility lie?

    I have always thought that the best way to attain performance is to recruit the right person, provide superior working conditions, and get the Hell out of the way. Without doubt, Burke is a shrewd hockey manager, not to mention a wildly entertaining one. He has abundant resources to work with. Nevertheless, I am sure that Brian Burke himself would say that he has not achieved the results he expected at this point in time. Will sticking your nose where it doesn’t belong help him get there? I doubt it. That seems to be what got us into this fine mess in the first place and cost you your tens of millions in foolishly lost revenues.

    We will all agree that the painting is far from a masterpiece. Fair enough. Then let the artist you commissioned continue working on it. Did you commission the wrong artist? That is a separate question altogether. At the end of the day, the gods will require faith. Even a two year old knows that.

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  9. I thought the apology was interesting.....I believe it’s a combination of PR damage control, and ownership starting the countdown on Burke’s stewardship. The problem of course is that, like everything the Leafs do, the letter was easy to mock. It’s hard to control PR damage when everything you do merely paints a bigger, more vivid target on your own chest.

    My real rant here is that I do think Burke is correct (in a way) about the “Pittsburgh Model”. But the point isn’t only that Pit got lucky with Crosby, the point is that many many observers look at Pittsburgh’s experience and conclude that finagling several years of great draft picks is the best way to build a winner, and then dump all over the Leafs for not going that direction. Great draft picks alone clearly won’t do the trick; if that were so we’d see a much different list of recent cup winners. Pittsburgh has had 5 top-5 draft picks in the last 10 years; more than anyone else. Florida had 4, and seven other teams had 3. Of those nine lucky (or smart??) teams, only three have won cups: Pit, Carolina and Chicago. With each of Carolina and Chicago, one of their “golden” top picks wasn’t even playing for them when they went into their victorious playoff run (Jack Johnson never played a single game for Car, and noted franchise cornerstone Cam Barker was traded by Chi at the deadline in their winning year). So.....this ‘tank to win’ strategy is at BEST a three out of nine set of odds! Come on....every single cup-winning team has been built with a COMBINATION of trades, free agency, prospect development, and frankly.....a bit of dumb luck too. It drives me crazy when armchair GMs ignore all that and say that high draft picks are the magic elixir; it’s simply not true. You’d have better odds following the “Detroit Model” or the “New Jersey Model”, which is precisely what Burke (and indeed the majority of NHL GMs) are trying to do.

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  10. I think this was the hope, Bobby C., when Brian Burke took over, that we would see an end to ownership meddling on all levels. Not that we have not had some outstanding hockey men before in charge (Quinn most certainly was) but they always faced, it seemed from the outside, at least, some level of meddling.

    I'm with you. As fans, we can applaud or critique our GM's moves. Ownership should be largely silent- at worst quietly supportive (Ballard, Steinbrenner, Mark Cuban aside, of course!)

    Burke is doing his work. I may not enjoy his public persona, but you are right: let the work continue.

    As you say, even your grandson, at the age of 2, can identify that.

    Thanks Bobby C.... Beautifully said again.

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  11. Great stuff, Hammer22. I absolutely support your perspective that really good teams are built with all of the above ingredients (draft, trades, player development, UFA's and a dose of good luck along the way...)

    You've broken it down really well. Thanks for chiming in on this one.

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  12. hey michael... that letter from leafs management was meaningless and thus almost insulting. it reminded me BP apologizing for the gulf oil spill. talk... is... cheap.
    as for burke... i think we as fans are disappointed with his choice of words, but here's the thing... whenever he opens his mouth, his job's on the line. because of this, he's NEVER going to come out and say 'yeah i made some horrible decisions, and i've been incredibly wrong from the start.' EVEN if he in his heart knows it's true!
    'well we brought in carter ashton.' i'm sorry, WHO? oh the guy you traded a potential future tough/big-minutes defenseman for... great.

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  13. Interesting to hear Mills' interpretation of Rick Dudley's comments. I think we were all livid at that time, and we should now try to interpret Dudkey's evaluations as a sincere attempt to be objective, not a cynical attempt to spin his boss's way out of trouble. If Dudley is correct, then there may be less need for pessimism and despair than we are feeling at present. After all, a Leaf renaissance will probably hinge more on development than trades.

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  14. I think what Burke said at the press conference was right. He has put together some good pieces but still has a ways to go. He identified a #1 centre, a goaltender and some "tough to play against players" as what he needs to add. He doesn't see the draft as a quick way to solve the problem and plans to go the trade route. Player development is not being ignored, but as we saw last year, doesn't provide immediate returns.
    Presumably the trade route has been his main plan all along but it takes two to tango and if the trade you want (or free agent) isn't there, there's not much you can do about it.
    I think he knows what he wants to do and it makes sense to me. I don't know what trade opportunities existed in prior years, so I don't feel I can criticize him for not making trades for a #1 centre, goaltender, etc. earlier. He has taken some action in the right direction but needs to do more. Okay, like Bobby C. said, let him get on with it.
    Other GM's know his priorities and the pressure on him to produce a result. I don't envy him! I hope he is up to the task this summer. It's a lot more fun being a fan when your team is truly competitive.

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  15. Thanks Alex C.....You make a very fair point about Burke and the microscope he is under and how he has to be aware of ownership's perception of everything he says. (As for the "letter", interesting that you raise the BP oil spill....that didn't exactly mollify people, either, eh?. Corporations trying to sound genuine with no history of actually being genuine doesn't generally wash...)

    As for the Ashton trade, well, the jury is really out for me. I don't like the idea of trading a young defenseman, but we'll see how Ashton develops here.

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  16. Well First off the apology. To me it is irrelevant. This is the act of a corporation doing damage control to repair the brand. Make no mistake about it the Leafs are not priamrily an NHL hockey team they are a brand name, a corporation. Like all corporations this faux apology is simply a cheap cost efective way to buy time. It is a lot like RIM apologizing when thier email network crashed a couple of months ago. Are they really sorry, I doubt it. They just want to make sure people stay loyal and kepp buying the leaf brand.

    As for the news conference a few things.

    1. Ron Wilson and Burke were not on the same page about to play the game? Really, I'm completely dumdfounded about this. Like you stated Michael, how can you have the two top people in an orginization going in such completely opposite ways and expect succes?

    2. Once again the players are told they have to be in better shape and didn't work hard enough. Wasn't this the exact same thing that Wilson preached when he took over 4 years ago? So we have wasted four years to be right back where we started, a team of players who are out of shape and don't work hard enough.

    3. Penguins got lucky and won the draft lottery and Crosby. But in succeding years they also drafted Fleury, then Malkin, then Crosby the Stall and somewhere in there they also got Letang. Correct me if I'm wrong but hasn't Crosby missed most of the last two years? Aren't the Penguins still in cup contention. To try and mislead people about the way the Penguins were built is just bafflegab. They were built through 4 succesful drafts something Burke hasn't had even once yet.

    4. There are many ways to build a team Chicago, Pittsburg did it through the draft. The flip side is the Islanders, Panthers and Edmonton. Teams that draft high but have yet to show success (although Edmonton shows signs). Panthers did it this year through free agents. Detroit does it through trades and draft picks (Detroit has traded its number one pick more times than any team by far over the last 15 years). Why does Burke have to disparage other teams methods? Maybe he should try another method since his has failed miserably the last 4 years.

    5. More of the same although deliverd less bombastically than in other years. No stupid quotes "It's like getting kicked in the groin", but still no real sense that Burke has a plan or any real sense of the way forward. Just more excuses.

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  17. Bobby C...To Mills' point, yes, we can, I believe, accept Dudley said what he did as a talent evaluator, though I can't help but maintain a healthy skepticism whenever one of the brass, at the end of a failed season, tries to polish the silver a bit. Just my nature Bobby, I can't help it!

    I absolutely concur, though, that "internal" player development will be a huge part of this cocktail going forward, along the lines of Hammer22's point above...

    Thanks Bobby.

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  18. Well said, Ed.

    I think we can all understand Burke's stated priorities. My criticism stems largely from the fact that the three central issues- a goalie, a first-line centre and "toughness" have been his objectives, part of the "plan" from Day One. I understand that Reimer was seen, justifiably or not, as the "number-one" in goal, but the other issues remain as well...

    Like any GM, he is judged on his record and to this point, it's not a good grade, in my eyes. But I'm with you and Bobby and others that we need to wait and see what can be done going forward to improve the roster.

    Thanks Ed.

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  19. While I'm prepared to see what happens this summer, as I've discussed with Bobby C, Ed and Mills, I do agree with all of the points you make here, Willbur.

    I don't know how you have a coach for four years that you fundamentally disagree with. The conditioning thing just baffles me. Wilson did indeed preach the same mantra years ago. (That's why some players were traded, as I recall...) And yes, Burke spends way too much time criticizing what other organizations do. It's just not necessary.

    As I said in my post, I thought, for what it's worth, that the media briefing was not a case of Burke being disingenuous. He was somewhat less combative this time, but I've just seen the movie too often.

    I just want to see results, and less talk.

    Thanks Willbur.

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  20. We all know Burke can talk the talk. But so far, he hasn't walked the walk. I judge him by his own pronouncements, and if he's in "the business of winning", then he's currently in the wrong business.
    The public apology was a PR reaction to fan anger after a disastrous year. The COO's nostra culpa letter to season ticket holders invited them to write him with their concerns. It's all bumpf.
    The season finale press conference offered us nothing new. We need a #1 goalie, a #1 center, some veteran leadership, and more toughness? STOP THE PRESSES!
    I have no more slack to cut for Leaf management. Some credit Burke for sticking to his "plan", but that just reminds me of Napoleon's advisors approving his sticking to his plan to invade Russia as winter closed in.
    You said it best in your response to Wilbur's post: "I just want to see results, and less talk."

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  21. I think most Leaf fans are well accustomed to hearing from the brass what we need...now we want to see it consistently on the ice- as in outcomes.

    Burke knows, his management team knows, we all know that significant improvements need to be made. No matter how much good groundwork may have been laid already, much like the Oilers, when you finish 25th out of 30 teams, there is a lot more to do.

    Thanks Gerund O'.

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  22. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 11, 2012 at 6:58 PM

    Larry wrote an apology, he wrote on a whim
    Brukie had another one, he did for fans

    He put the apology before the press, hoping the fans would drank it all up

    He put the apology before the press. he called it his fault, and called upon the fans and said

    Oh fans,just believe, just believe, that my plan will work. Oh fans, the plan is already in the works, to relieve the heartaches

    The fans cried out, let us get this straight
    We are to accept your apology because the plan is already in the works

    He said, just believe, just believe the plan is in the works

    Yes the answer is on the Marlies, they're going to try and win a cup, and make you feel better

    He put the apology before the press, and hope the fans will drank it all up
    He put the apology before the press, you're such a gullible bunch of fans

    He put the apology and plan before the fans, and they'll drink em both up, he said,
    Believe the apology and the plan and you'll feel better
    Believe the apology and the plan, and absorb it within your small little minds
    Believe in my apology and my plan, and come back next September

    OK, enough of that, and my apologies to Harry Nilsson and his hit song in 72 title "Put the lime in the coconut".

    And my apology to you Mike for my sour mood for what transpired yesterday. C'mon, who are you kiddin Pal Bruke! Do you think for a moment that the knowledgeable fans of this once proud franchise believes in any of the rubbish that you spill out? Do you really think for a moment that captain Phony is in the same class as Chris Pronger? And what about this nonsense that you could have received a first round draft pick for Clarke MacArthur? As another GM stated, if that is true, you should have taken it because he's only worth a 3rd at best. OK, OK, I know I'm getting a little grumpy. But this baloney that Leafs management has been feeding us this past season about being the youngest team and strong prospects is a little too much to believe. If this is so then why is it that many pundits are saying that Montreal, Edmonton, Ottawa,Winnipeg and Carolina are in better shape than our Leafs? No matter how you spin it, the foundation of this team is faulty and is going to need a lot attention in the off season just to be in the mix for a playoff spot next season.

    Soo...you've said that you're not interested in a 5 year plan, how is your plan working for you now Pal Burke? Dare we say, four years and counting.

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  23. That's outstanding, Long Suffering (Wasn't Nilsson the lead singer with Bread?)

    What can I add?

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  24. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 11, 2012 at 10:50 PM

    Thanks Mike, and no Harry Nilsson was a solo singer and song writer. You no doubt will remember his other big hit in 69 "Everybody's talkin" which is the theme song to Midnight Cowboy. I believe you have in mind David Gates one of the two vocalist(Jimmy Griffin is the other)of that sweet soft rock group called "Bread". Gates voice somewhat resembles Nilsson.

    You know I had a big chuckle the other day when I read that Pal Burke model for the Leafs was what Bill Torrey did on Long Island. Gees,if he had followed Torrey model our beloved Leafs would be gearing up for a long playoff run. Some may not remember that "bow tie" Bill had even less to work with when he took the helm of the Islanders then Pal Burke had. Yet, in 3 years his expansion team not only made the playoffs, but they came within a whisker of upsetting the eventual Stanley Cup champions Philadelphia Flyers in the semi-finals!

    Sad to say, but Pal Burke forgot one important rule to the model, "Never trade your number one pick under no circumstance". By trading not one, but three top picks, Pal Burke took a sledge hammer to Torrey's model and sabotage his own success in Toronto. The other thing that is disturbing to me is the comment he made about Kadri. If he honestly doesn't feel that he will be a star in this league, then why didn't he trade the 7th pick back in 09 along with Kaberle to Boston for Kessel when he had the opportunity? Make me sick replaying the whole episode in my mind of our Pal Burke and Peter Chiarelli walking away from that deal because each misunderstood the other over who was to give up the 1st. Hindsight being what it is, given up Kaberle and our 1st doesn't look so bad now eh!

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  25. The Kessel trade will be debated for a long time, Long Suffering. Kessel is an outstanding young scorer, but it will be interesting to see how he evolves under Carlyle, and whether he will want to stay here when his current contract runs out.

    Torrey was an outstanding GM. I always compare him with Cliff Fletcher, as they both built expansion teams at the same team in the early and mid 70s. While Cliff finally won that one Cup with Atlanta/Calgary in '89, Torrey built with youth from the get-go, filled with character vets (and great goaltending!) and won four Cups.

    Thanks Long Suffering. (And thanks for the clarification on the musician...)

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  26. Long suffering Leafs fanApril 12, 2012 at 7:32 AM

    Mike, I agree with you in principle on Kessel. But my comment was more to do with Pal Burke remarks on Kadri and the initial trade proposal at the draft in 09. If Pal Burke had surrender the first pick along with Kaberle we would have had our cake to eat! Do you not agree that Seguin between Kessel and Lupul would make a dynamite line?

    So, the Pens had a big laugh at the expense of our fearless leader. Can't say I blame them, even without Cosby they're a team to drool over. After all, who in their right mind wouldn't like to have a Malkin, Staal, and Neal up front with a Letang, Orpik, and Fleury protecting the back end.

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  27. That line would be amazing, Long Suffering!

    I totally understand your point. And yes, the Penguins, whatever anyone wants to say about how they "re-built", are one dynamite team to watch, win or lose.

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