Ever since the ugly 1-9-1 slump in mid February that saw our beloved Toronto Maple Leafs fall out of playoff contention, the focus of the fan base has shifted from what will it feel like to experience playoff hockey in Toronto again, to whom will the Leafs draft June 22 in Pittsburgh? The wounds suffered from that late season swoon have seemingly healed and scabbed over, and the time has arrived in which hope and expectations have once again returned.
Speculation is rampant that Brian Burke will create havoc this weekend and shake up the blue and white in an attempt to finally have a playoff worthy roster in the big smoke. What I offer – in an attempt to eliminate the pending anxiety that Leaf fans will surely experience in the next 48 hours – is a suggestion to temper your expectations. As visions of Rick Nash, Roberto Luongo and Jordan Staal dance in Leaf fans minds, be prepared for Burke and the Leafs to leave Pittsburgh with a top five pick and not much else. Of course the talk is heating up and rumour mongers have been discussing their ‘inside information’ ad nauseum of late, but keep in mind that whatever one hears from the lips of ‘trusted sources’ regarding the blue and white is most likely untrue.
What is true is the fact that the MSM in Canada – TSN in particular – make their money on three days every year: the entry draft, the trade deadline and the opening day of unrestricted free agency. Another truth is the fact that nothing generates internet traffic and boosts television ratings more than speculation involving the Toronto Maple Leafs. What we need to remember, in the midst of this frenzy, is that during the Burke regime in Toronto there have been no previous information when it comes to trades. Scratch that, both the Phil Kessel and Tomas Kaberle trades were spoken about before their completion, however it was Leaf management themselves openly discussing those transactions in order to put pressure on the Boston Bruins organization. As for the Dion Phaneuf, Francois Beuchemin and Kris Versteeg deals no ‘insider’ knew of them beforehand. The benefit though is that nobody really knows what Burke and the Leafs are working on. Following the Mike Richards to Los Angelas trade last season it was revealed that the Leafs made a hard push – Nazem Kadri, Nikolai Kulemin and a 1st – for the former Flyers captain. While they frustratingly fell short of acquiring the now Stanley Cup champion Richards, perhaps this season Burke can pull the trigger on that under the table trade.
For the people that cherish the religion that is the blue and white, 7:00 on Friday June 22nd, 2012 will be similar to waking up on Christmas morning and unwrapping the presents under the tree. What we hope is that unlike those crappy presents from past years – you know like Scott Thornton, Luca Cereda, Scott Pearson, Steve Bancroft, Jeff Ware, Brandon Convery, Drake Berehowski, Landon Wilson and Eric Fichaud – this year’s pick will be the one that made all those bad ones worth it. Personally, if the Leafs can get one of Mikhail Grigorenko, Alex Galchenyuk or Filip Forsberg with the 5th overall selection then I’ll be happy. What would be really great is if Santa Burke is good to us Leaf fans this time and gets either a bona fide #1 centre or a true #1 goalie.