As the news of the Shea Weber offer sheet spread like a virus throughout the hockey universe once again the conversation quickly turned into Brian Burke and his inability to land the big fish in Toronto. According to a variety of both fans and media alike – specifically Bryan Hayes of TSN Radio (@HayesTSN) – Flyers GM Paul Holmgen willingness to produce a 14 year $100 million dollar contract is not a sign of desperation, but of a foresight the Leafs seemingly lack. One statement in particular from Hayes seems to voice a common criticism from many Leaf fans
Must be a blast to be a Flyers fan. Their GM has ice in his veins & will do anything to win. Long term deals, offer sheets, trades, etc.
Yes, Holmgren obviously does have a fearlessness in making big moves to improve his team, but most of those moves have backfired and blown up in his face. Do people want Burke to make trades and outlandish moves just for to give them something to talk about? Is the frustration more so about the Leafs not landing these players, or more so about their boredom in mid July? Was it a blast to be a Flyers fan when your GM traded away two cornerstone players in Mike Richards and Jeff Carter only to watch them hoist the Stanley Cup in Los Angeles? Was it a blast when your GM traded away the former 2nd overall pick in James van Riemsdyk to the Leafs for an offensively limited and slow of foot Luke Schenn? Wait, maybe it was exciting when he signed goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov to an awful 9 year $51 millon dollar contract. I know I would have been excited if my big money goalie posted a .887 save percentage in the post season.
What’s funny is that Burke has demonstrated a willingness to make the big move. In his first off-season with the blue and white Burke targeted and finally acquired 21 year old sniper Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins. The interesting element to this acquisition was the fact that Kessel was at the time an RFA just like Shea Weber. Coming off of a breakout 36 goal season with the Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli and his emerging star could not come to terms on a new deal. Enter Burke. As the negotiations between the Bruins and Kessel became ever more sour, the Leafs began to make it known that they were willing to produce an offer sheet in order to bring the electric winger to Toronto. Burke and his team of geniuses quietly re-acquired their 2nd round pick from the Calgary Flames which made the threat of said offer sheet legitimate. As training camps opened it became evident that Kessel – who was out rehabbing after shoulder surgery – was not going to return to Boston. The Bruins emphatically stated that they would match any offer sheet produced to Kessel. Boston was caught between a rock and a hard place. One one hand they could trade their young player to a divisional rival, or on the other hand they could have the Leafs sign Kessel to an offer sheet worth more than they were willing to pay. In the end the Leafs exhausted Chiarelli into dealing Kessel. While nowadays people critique Burke at length for this trade, at the time the deal seemed like a significant win for the blue and white. In one fell swoop they weakened a team within their division while acquiring a 21 year old, proven, top line offensive player they so desperately lacked.
Can’t Win Situation
The Kessel transaction has become the one move that Burke haters flock to when attacking the current Leafs GM. It becomes a little confusing when the fans who attack Burke for acquiring Kessel as an RFA criticize him for not making an offer sheet to Weber or similar players. What is obvious is that Burke and the Leafs are damned if they do and damned if they don’t. Would the same fans that groan and moan over the loss of Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton (the players taken with the two 1st round picks traded for Kessel) be content with dishing out four 1st round picks for Weber? Does Hayes wish Burke was a fearless GM willing to sacrifice everything just so he has something to talk to callers about on his afternoon radio show? What people need to realize is that there is no quick fix. Burke is building this team. I am painfully aware of how long it has been without playoff hockey in this town, but that cannot be all on Burke’s shoulders. The current GM is entering his fourth NHL season, and if some fans cannot see the visible improvements throughout this organization then there really is no hope for some of you.
Personally I don’t want Burke offering a 14 year deal to any player in the NHL. I’m happy that he hasn’t signed any of these ridiculous big money contracts. As for trades, do fans not realize the trades the Leafs have made with Burke at the helm? I challenge Holmgren – or any GM for that matter – to match these trades:
Francois Beauchemin for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner
Matt Stajan, Ian White, Jamal Mayers and Niklas Hagman for Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrik Sjostrom,
Luke Schenn for James van Riemdsdyk
Tomas Kaberle for Joe Colborne, Tyler Biggs and a pick eventually traded straight up for John Michael Liles
Brett Lebda for Cody Franson and Matthew Lombardi
Failures Are Obvious
Time will tell whether the Predators end up matching the Weber offer sheet or not, but if it were up to me I’d take the Philly picks and move on. If you’re a frustrated Leafs fan I hear you. Shit, it’s been tough lately I’m not going to lie. However making a move like Holmgren did is not something that will change the fate of this team overnight despite reports from the contrary by the Michael Bay – all flash no substance – hockey fans in Toronto. I strongly believe that this Leafs team is an above average goalie away from being a perennial playoff contender. It’s up to Burke to make it happen, he has definitely failed in that area up until now. If you want to attack Burke attack his failure in that department. What Hayes and fans shouldn’t attack though is his willingness to make a big move to improve his hockey team. That willingness was established early in his Leafs tenure when he deftly manipulated the Bruins into dealing Kessel.