Custom Search

A Brian Burke reward call-up rejuvenated Tim Brent's career

The Sabre game was yet another  opportunity for the Leafs to really build some momentum, if they had thoughts of a serious playoff run.

Oh well.

That Reimer would prove human surprises no one.  He has done a fabulous job and appears to have a bright future.  On Saturday night, he was not out-of-this-world and the way the Leafs played in front of him,  I'm guessing that, instead of a day off after three straight wins, they will be skating on Sunday morning, since they didn't exactly overdo it against the Sabres

Brian Burke is often thought of in glowing terms as a General Manager.  Not to disregard the one Stanley Cup his team won in Anaheim (a squad largely built by Bryan Murray), but Burke has built a reputation, in part, by being opinionated and media savvy throughout his career.  Writers love the fact that he is a great quote.  While he has clashed with some of the media folks on occasion, he is generally portrayed as being at the top of the GM pyramid.   We all remember that his long-awaited hiring by Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment was trumpeted when they brought him to town more than two years ago. 

He is the polar opposite, at least publicly, of a GM like David Poile, who has done a superb job building two different organizations essentially from scratch—the once truly awful Washington Capitals and much more recently, the exapansion Nashville Predators.  You rarely hear from Poile.  He just goes about his job and does it exceptionally well, with precious little money to throw around.  He has not "won a Cup", but has been an outstanding GM.

Now, Burke is a good hockey guy, for sure.  Experienced.  Smart.  Bold.  He tries to surround himself with good people, which is a sign he is a very secure guy.  He was OK as a GM in Hartford and built a competitive team in Vancouver.  He added some pieces in Anaheim that put them over the top.

Here, well, the jury is out.  He was disdainful about the notion of a five-year re-build, though that is precisely what we are in the midst of. 

But among his good moves was one that went under the radar screen on the last day of the 2009-’10 regular season.  For that last game, the Leafs called up Tim Brent from the AHL Marlies.

Now, the game was meaningless in terms of the standings.  But Burke was rewarding Brent for being a hard-working Marlie all-season long.  And he was sending a message to the Leaf players—and to the Marlie hopefuls as well—that the brass is watching and will reward you if at all possible if you play with the kind of grit we’re looking for.

Brent is an example.  In fact, I wrote about this in a post at the time, mentioning that it was a nice touch by Leaf management (click to see the earlier story).

Did anyone really think Brent was on the radar screen at training camp this past September?  We all (at least most observers) figured Bozak, Grabovski, Zigomanis, Hanson and Mitchell would battle it out for the four center spots.  Somehow, Brent did enough to keep his name in the mix, and when the team broke camp, he was still around.

Scoring a couple of early goals when the team won four in a row at the beginning of the season didn’t hurt his cause.  But we all recognize that his real value has been in those little aspects of the game that some players don’t want to do, or just aren’t very good at:  face-offs, eliminating your man, killing penalties, blocking shots.

There is not much glory or reward in those tasks, but Brent has, by and large, contributed to the club in those gritty areas.

His recent offensive output is almost a bonus, but a goal here and there hasn’t changed his focus.  He knows his role and is giving it everything he has.  His NHL career looked to be in the rear view mirror last season. Despite being a second round draft choice coming out of St. Mike’s, he never found a regular playing role at this level.

His call-up last April, though, was not so meaningless after all.

Whether he will be here when the team turns the proverbial corner and becomes a Cup contender (let’s assume that will happen) is difficult to predict.  We'll see.

But like others before him, “Motor City Smitty” (Brad Smith) , Peter Zezel—guys who bled blue and white while they were here, Tim is slowly carving a place in people’s hearts.

And for a hockey player, in a town like this, that’s a good place to be.

1 comment:

  1. Great post. I for one am hoping to see Brent around for the long-term - he knows his place on the team and plays it well. With the constant line changes I sometimes get the sense that management doesn't really have a sense of where the players they have do (or ideally should) fit in, but with him they seem to be right on. Always nice to be reminded of the things Burke has done well.