Earlier this afternoon, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke discussed numerous topics on Leafs Lunch – Leafs Nation Edition with Dennis Bayak. With the Leafs playing much better than their winless start, they may make some noise during the trade deadline or as Burke alluded to before it.
Personally I have always admired Burke’s honesty in discussing his teams. He usually gives his fans a perspective on what he plans to do while playing his cards close to the chest. The GM of the 2010 Team USA program also announced he will release the roster on Monday, December 28th.
Lets break down some of the topics discussed.
On the State of the Team
- Thinks the playoffs are realistic and notes the team work ethic has been great to date.
- Reemphasized not winning their first seven games really hurt their chances of climbing the standings.
- Would like to see both goalies healthy and in rhythm. Wants two weeks with both Jonas Gustavsson and Vesa Toskala healthy so he can assess the situation and rely on one of them down the stretch.
- Thinks the team shows strong character. He signed and traded for character and therefore did not ship out players during the beginning of the season.
On Specific Player Personnel
- Likes the added offense of Niklas Hagman, noting the Finn already scored 16 goals, a total he did not make until February of last year.
- Feels Nikolai Kulemin will not be a top six forward but makes a great shut down player and “has third line written all over him.”
- Discussed Jason Blake as the hardest working player on the team. Does not mind the salary owed to the veteran.
- Will honor the NTC of Tomas Kaberle noting he deserves it with his excellent career performance as well as loyalty to the team.
- Thinks Luke Schenn needs to sit out to teach him lessons. Last year they did not have the dept to do so.
- Disagrees with Rickard Wallin scoring goals at the NHL level. Believes he is a fine bottom six player capable of winning face offs but is not nearly strong enough on the puck.
- Believes Matt Stajan plays great with Phil Kessel, filling the first line center position admirably.
Trade Talks and Trade Rumors
- During the losing streak, there were two vulture trades which Burke would have entertained had they continued losing.
- Felt Jiri Tlusty would be an NHL player but not in Toronto. Thinks Philippe Paradis could be a power forward eventually but was taken too high. There was one more offer for Tlusty but offered significantly less value.
- No contract talks with Gustavsson. Still unsure what he has with The Monster. Prefers not to talk during the regular season but understands it may need to happen.
- Spoke with the Philadelphia Flyers numerous times but nothing regarding Jeff Carter.
- Regarding the Kessel trade, noted how he cannot wait for the stars to align just to make a move for a valuable piece. Clearly will build around the talented right wing.
- Nobody is untouchable but Burke will not trade a young player who is playing hard.
- The Leafs hold an advantage in the ability to take on salary both on their cap and budget. Burke will try to swing something to that effect before the deadline, but otherwise will make according buy or sell moves depending on the team’s playoff positioning.
- Gave us an update on Chris Didomenico, noting he should be back in six weeks. Burke mentioned that the injury sustained to his femur could be career threatening but not in this case.
- Expressed excitement to see Nazem Kadri at the World Juniors starting this weekend. How he performs will be crucial to this kid’s projection. Kadri scored twice in Team Canada’s 16-0 drudging of Latvia today.
- On OHL overager Jacob Muzzin, the GM showed interest but was not nearly as high on him as other teams. If you are unfamiliar with Muzzin, we discussed his signing with the Los Angeles Kings last week.
That pretty much sums up the variety of topics discussed. Some interesting talks in the trade rumors section, as Burke seems to feel Carter will stay in Philadelphia. The Leafs do hold a competitive advantage with some added cap space and this general manager seems willing to use it at his discretion. Despite the teams record, the building blocks are there with what could be a very solid core down the road.
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