BURKE TRYING TO BUCK THE LOMBARDI WAY
From Mark Spector of sportsnet.
Brian Burke is going to rebuild the Toronto Maple Leafs the fast way. He has said it over and over.
He might be smarter than all of those general managers who have patiently built through the draft. Or, he might be that guy on your street who says he can paint the house in an afternoon, or do a brake job at halftime of the football game.
Until someone actually does rebuild a team from the bottom up at the speed Burke says he is able to do it, does anyone really know if it can be done?
In Burke’s world, he would turn Tomas Kaberle into a top-six forward. Preferably a centreman who can feed Phil Kessel. Maybe someone in his late 20′s, with a few years left on his contract at a reasonable cap hit.
If not that then a top-flight young prospect AND a draft pick. Or at worst, a serviceable NHLer and a first-round pick.
In the real world, which visited Leafs Nation this weekend, teams don’t give up a huge chunk of their future for a defenceman who will become an unrestricted free agent after the coming season.
There is no doubt that the emergence of Kevin Bieksa and Willie Mitchell on the list of availables has softened the market for Kaberle. But the reality is, it’s all about the contract, Leafs fans.
Kaberle is an excellent player. A solid No. 2 defenceman. Nobody is disputing that.
But he is a guy considered underpaid at $4.25 million. That means he is most certain to test the free agent waters as a UFA next July. He’s a one-year player for whomever takes him – period.
As such, all of those offers we’ve been hearing about since the draft simply didn’t materialize for Burke.
“The hockey club confirms this evening that Tomas Kaberle remains a Leaf,” Burke said in a statement Sunday evening. “While a number of Clubs made offers to trade for Tomas, none of them reflected Tomas’s value to our team. I understand a period like this is stressful to the player, and we are pleased that there is a resolution, and we can all continue to prepare for the coming season.”
What happened here is that Burke stood by his guns, for better or worse.
He’s been telling us that he’s not going to accept prospects and draft picks for players like Kaberle; that his rebuild was going to be faster than that.
So when nobody would offer anything more than a prospect or a draft pick he didn’t budge. That makes him true to his word.
But like the guy who talks a good game, does it not hint that – just maybe – rebuilds can not be sped up just because a GM isn’t patient enough to do it the old-fashioned way?
The fact that Burke is trading a one-year player made his many claims that he wanted a top-six forward who can play right now curious at best. But Burke fed the Toronto media, and they regurgitated his trade fantasies as if they were a fait accompli.
Burke uses the Toronto media like an implement, and they have charted this Kaberle non-trade daily. Four teams are interested today. Six the next day. “Now it’s double digits!”
Burke says he wanted a top-six forward, and it is reported as if that’s the market, not the wish list.
Honestly, a Toronto radio actually asked me this question on the air about a month ago: “So, how long until Burke can move Kaberle for a Dustin Brown-type player?”
The guy was serious.
Like the Kings were going to trade their 25-year-old captain, signed for four more seasons at a reasonable cap hit of $3.175 million, for a 32-year-old pending UFA.
It is absolute fantasy, nothing less.
And Brown, it should be noted, is the product of an old-fashioned rebuild in Los Angeles.
Kings GM Dean Lombardi has moved patiently, drafting and developing the Kings into an oncoming Western power. Los Angeles is tangible evidence that building the tried and true way still works in the new NHL.
Burke is trying to prove that there are other ways to accomplish the same thing. And maybe he’ll get there.
But as Tomas Kaberle’s no-trade clause kicked in Sunday at midnight, Burke’s plan took a hit.
Come the March trade deadline, he might be settling for that high draft pick. With a lot of time wasted in between.