Kukla's Korner Hockey
OK, we can start the season now.
from Bruce Arthur of the National Post,
Brian Burke loves it here. The pressure, the pace, the weight on his broad shoulders, it’s all fine with him. Being the general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs has worked out, off the ice, exactly as he wanted it to.
“It’s awesome. It’s the Vatican. It’s everything,” Burke said on the eve of his team’s 2009-10 National Hockey League season opener against Montreal. “This move has worked out from a family standpoint—all the things that we thought would be better in our lives as far as our family and distance to see children [in Boston] and stuff, all of that has come true. We’ve fallen in love with this city.”
The city, meanwhile, seems to have fond feelings for him, too, as he has gone about remaking the city’s chief sporting obsession. Nobody is really doubting Burke, not yet.
from Matthew Sekeres of the Globe and Mail,
Canucks general manager Mike Gillis said his franchise would again talk to the NHL about an incident involving a Maple Leafs executive making comments about Vancouver players.
“We’ll talk to [the league] about it and see what their position is but this, in my mind, is another example of the Toronto Maple Leafs trying to upset our team,” Gillis said from Calgary, where the Canucks begin their season with a game against the Flames.
Vancouver’s latest complaint stems from a video on the Maple Leafs website, entitled Behind the Draft, where general manager Brian Burke discusses the possibility of trading up into the top five slots.
“Vancouver has made a major effort to get the second pick out of Tampa Bay,” Burke tells his scouts at a pre-draft meeting. “We heard they offered - again, this is all second-hand, so we’re not sure - [Alex] Burrows, [Kevin] Bieksa and their own pick. Those are two pretty good players.”
Don’t miss the newest episode of NHL Network’s ‘Off the Ice’ featuring Henrik Lundqvist, Niklas Backstrom, and Jonas Gustavsson.
from Damian Cox of the Toronto Star,
Over the course of the past 10 months, Burke has reconstructed the Leaf front office, keeping some elements that were there when John Ferguson was in charge – chief amateur scout Dave Morrison, assistant GM and Marlies GM Jeff Jackson – and dumping others. Trying to figure out who does what isn’t easy, although Burke is the front man, Nonis the pseudo-GM and Poulin nominally in charge of pro and amateur scouting.
“In a single line? Well, my job is to help make the Toronto Maple Leafs better,” said Poulin, who left a Chicago headhunting firm to join the Leafs. “For the most part, the job is creative. How are we going to get better?”
from Jason Botchford of The White Towel,
In a new special on Leafs TV called Behind the Draft 2009, Burke is essentially caught rumour mongering. In the documentary-styled, multi-chapter feature, which was filmed at June’s NHL Draft, the general manager, who has described members of the media as “maggots” and “scumbags,” makes an unsubstantiated, admittedly speculative claim, alleging the Canucks made a strong push for Victor Hedman. He is the Swedish defenceman who the Tampa Bay Lightning drafted second overall.
Burke is filmed in June at the beginning of the draft in the Leafs war room where he is seen addressing his scouting staff. “Vancouver has made a major effort to get the second pick out of Tampa Bay,” says Burke on Part 1 of the series which can be seen on the Leafs’ web site. “We heard they offered, again this is all second hand so we don’t know if it’s true. We heard they offered (Alex) Burrows, (Kevin) Bieksa and their own pick. Those are two pretty good players.”
He’s right. They are two pretty good players whose inclusion in the alleged deal make the rumour sound pretty outlandish.
It’s one thing for Burke to make the comment in his war room. That’s fair game. It’s another entirely to allow it to air.
Maurice Richard, Jean Beliveau and Bob Gainey.
George Armstrong, Dave Keon and Darryl Sittler.
These are just some of the names that have been honoured to be captain of two of the most storied franchises in the NHL. But which names will be added to that list for this season.
With the Canadiens and Maple Leafs set to begin the regular season on Thursday, both teams have yet to name a captain. So who would be the leading candidates to take on this all-encompassing responsibility?
from Craig Custance of the Sporting News,
A nice preseason means nothing when it comes to accumulating points for a possible return to the playoffs. But the speed in which Burke has closed the talent gap between Toronto and division rivals Ottawa, Buffalo, Boston and Montreal is astonishing.
Yes, the playoffs may still be a long shot, but we’re done trying to predict what Burke can’t do. He’s delivered on nearly everything else he set out to accomplish in Toronto. And he has done it in less than a year.
Adding young talent might be the one accomplishment that ultimately makes the biggest impact.
“All the young players have been contributors as the competition has gotten better and more difficult,” said Toronto’s senior vice president of hockey operations, Dave Nonis. “It bodes well for us long-term.”
from Damian Cox of the Spin at the Toronto Star,
Somehow, the Maple Leafs will make the playoffs.
There, I said it. Now it will almost certainly haunt me for the next seven months.
Maybe it’s just a change of pace after predicting non-playoff campaigns over and over in recent years.
But suggesting a Leaf playoff berth certainly isn’t about logic. There are gaping holes in this Toronto lineup that can’t be denied.
But you can bet on an improved sense of team identity to help Brian Burke’s Leafs, and let’s face it, the mediocrity of so many Eastern Conference teams leaves the door wide open for any club able to put together a 93-95 point season.
from Rob Longley of the Toronto Sun,
The lanky free agent signee may have moved a big step closer to being one of the most promising in the league with his 15-stop performance.
It took him two nights—20 minutes on Friday and 40 more last night—but Gustavsson recorded a backhanded shutout, was named the game’s first star and will have tongues all around Leafs Nation wagging this morning.
As irrational as the debates will get, there was some added spice when starter Vesa Toskala let in a softy late in the first period on a shot he should have stopped.
Gustavsson had some Swedish accompaniment in one of the last bids to make an impression on management with the regular-season now just four sleeps away.
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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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