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Ode to Tim Brent; Burke plays the public “trade” card early

Few like to play the media like Burke.  We all remember how he said the “market” for Kaberle was going to heat up at the draft, then after July 1 free agency.  Then it was going to be after the “big name” free-agent defensemen were gobbled up by various suitors.  From there, we were actually told the precise number of trade offers made for Kaberle.

At the end of the day nothing happened, but hey, we were entertained.

It was much the same with his supposed bid for John Tavares at the 2009 draft.  He boldly and very publicly indicated he would move up in the draft if he could.  He really had nothing to offer to make it worth the Islanders’ while, but he gobbled up headlines and print space for quite a while.

So, when he tells a Toronto radio station this week that he is getting trade offers already, my guess is we can take this with the tiniest grain of salt possible.  Burke likes to grab the spotlight, stir things up and keep the always gullible media on the trail of what’s not going to happen.

In fairness, we all knew he was after Kessel, and that actually happened. But when he did make an even bigger splash, as in Dion Phaneuf, no one breathed a word.  It was a huge surprise—to the media and Leaf fans alike.

So heading into Tuesday’s game with the Panthers, the timing was perfect, after a few losses, to send out a public missive, just to keep the players from getting too comfortable with a bit of waning early success— and ensure the media will focus on Burke for a while rather than the Leafs losing.

A quick comment regarding Tim Brent: he made a simple but great shot block late in the first period that immediately turned into an offensive opportunity for he and the Leafs.  That’s the kind of small but important thing (causing a turnover and creating a counter-attack) that is so important to success in today’s game. (In the last few games, it was Leaf opponents that blocked a ton of shots.)  Shot-blocking takes a willingness to sacrifice, and Brent has certainly done that in his opportunity with the Leafs.

His being part of the third period winner was icing on the cake.

The Panthers probably deserved better last night.  The winning Leaf goal was tainted by an apparent missed goalie interference call.  And the Panthers also thought there was a missed penalty call before the Kessel breakaway marker sealed the deal.  But the Leafs aren't giving this one back.

Interesting to see the Leafs made the obvious move we discussed a few days ago in this space, moving Kulemin up to the first line and dropping Versteeg into what is probably his more natural place—on a second line.

As I said at the time, I don’t feel Kulemin had done enough to deserve a promotion, but I have no problem with the move.  I’m hoping he continues the progress we saw last season, because that could be a key factor in the Leafs’ attaining any level of real success this season.

For one night, anyway, he had some jump against the Panthers.

Bozak won’t get many “easier” goals (scoring in the NHL is never easy, I realize) than he did against Florida in the first period, but credit to him for going to the net and being in the right place.  He will play freer now, and may add a few more goals now that he has the first goal of the year out of the way. Guys won’t always admit it publicly, but it bothers them when they can't score early in the season. It helps to get that first one.

Credit as well to Phaneuf for a great headman pass and to Kulemin for still creating a chance after skating by the net.

I like Bryan McCabe.  I liked him in his years with Toronto.  He made mistakes, for sure, but he gave the Leafs some outstanding service.  Big shot, pretty good skater.  Could deliver big checks.  A competitive guy.  And we may never have heard the term “can-opener” without him.

That was a great Pat Quinn trade, the one that saw McCabe come to the Leafs for Karpotsev.  McCabe became an end-of-season All-Star one year.  And people thought the Hawks won the deal at the time.

Phaneuf is still pushing to make things happen offensively.  That includes taking risks, which won’t always be well received by coaches or fans.  I don’t think it’s just about him trying to get more points personally.  It's likely more that he feels he needs to help the forwards create chances offensively, since the Leafs had been struggling to score.

Brown continued to lead the way among forwards in the hitting department.  That will be important going forward, particularly if Armstrong is out for any length of time. You need more than one or two guys who are prepared to play a physical game, and make it hard on the other team.  
Toronto Maple Leaf Hockey blog 

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