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Maple Leafs Make Playoffs

Nine of the sixteen playoff spots this season have been clinched.  The remainder will clinch over the next few days.  I think we have found the most unlikely playoff team based upon recent history.  The Toronto Maple Leafs have clinched their first playoff berth since 2004.  This is the first time they will appear in the playoffs since the adoption of the salary cap.  In part this happened in part because Toronto no longer was able to use their financial muscle to buy up enough free agents to keep their team barely at playoff level with little plan of how to build a stronger team.  The salary cap forced them to build a legitimate contender and it is a long process.

Their process got underway properly when they hired Brian Burke.  It took him the better part of four seasons to right the ship and as soon as they were ready to make the playoffs, he was fired.  Burke's job wasn't over but it was on the right track and the new Leaf ownership wasn't smart enough to see it. 

Dave Nonis is the new Leaf GM.  He has most of his experience in Brian Burke systems in Vancouver and Toronto.  Hopefully he has learned enough to follow Burke's process through fruition.

As for the Leafs this season, they are currently in fifth place in the East Conference and can fall no further than eighth place. 

Toronto has improved both offensively and defensively from last season.  At forward they have young players in Nazim Kadri and James Van Riemsdyk to be excited about to go along with top scorer Phil Kessel.

On defence, Dion Phaneuf, Cody Franson and Carl Gunarsson lead an increasingly solid group.

Young goalies James Riemer and Ben Scrivens are both having strong years.  There is reason to wonder if they have what it takes to win in the playoffs, but that is a new question in Toronto.  Playoffs have been out of reach for a long time in Toronto and they will make them again this year for the first time in nine years.  They have Brian Burke to thank for it more than any other man and they didn't treat him right given all he accomplished.

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Comments

Joe Z.'s avatar

one could argue that firing burke is the reason they made the playoffs….

Posted by Joe Z. from Austria on 04/21/13 at 08:50 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Can you make that argument here?

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/21/13 at 10:01 PM ET

Avatar

burke was against kadri up with the big club, and he was trying to trade for Luongo.

‘think joez is on the right track.

Posted by akwingsfan on 04/21/13 at 10:49 PM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

Under the right circumstances it makes sense for Toronto to trade for Luongo.  It is the coach’s job to decide if a player is in the NHL, but during last season it was probably sensible that Kadri was kept in the minors for the majority of it.

I think your “facts” to argue against Burke are dubious in terms of their truth and at best horribly out of context as an argument.

Facts we cannot argue.  Burke drafted Kadri in the first round.  Burke did not trade for Luongo despite months of on and off again talks.  In fact the initial “rumor” was Burke was fired because he did not make that trade for Luongo.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/21/13 at 10:57 PM ET

Avatar

seems to me to me the “facts”, not rumours are that:
Toronto/ burke were interested in Luongo.
Burke disliked his goaltending.
Burke was fired.
Nonis was hired.
Nonis did not trade for Lou.

supposition: Burke wanted to trade for Lou, the new ownership did not, and canned him.  otherwise wouldn’t Nonis first action been to make the trade, curry a little favor with the boss.

what “circumstances”  no one will trade for that albatross of a contract.  Lou will be a buyout.

Posted by akwingsfan on 04/22/13 at 12:34 AM ET

PuckStopsHere's avatar

I thin the better explanation is incompetence from the bureaucrats who are the new Toronto owners.  They wanted to make a mark and didn’t find Burke to be the most friendly guy to deal with so they fired him with no meaningful hockey reason behind it other than the fact that Toronto had not made the playoffs under him ... yet.

And you are trying to read far too much into it in your supposition.

Posted by PuckStopsHere on 04/22/13 at 12:37 AM ET

Avatar

burke was against kadri up with the big club

Burke wanted to trade for Lou, the new ownership did not, and canned him.

I believe these are both wrong.  Wilson was against having Kadri up because he’s a terrible, terrible coach of young players (see: the way he threw rookies under the bus regulaly). 

Burke didn’t want Luongo for the price that Vancouver wanted in return.  When Nonis took over it wasn’t as simple because the new season was about to start and Vancouver was going to see how they did with Lu and Schneider platooning.  The rest test is whether Nonis swings a deal for Luongo in the summer.

As much as I dislike Brian Burke, this is his team.

Posted by Garth on 04/22/13 at 10:37 AM ET

Avatar

That Burke wanted Lou and Nonis and the board did not is the exact opposite of what I’ve seen reported.

I thin the better explanation is incompetence from the bureaucrats who are the new Toronto owners.  They wanted to make a mark and didn’t find Burke to be the most friendly guy to deal with so they fired him with no meaningful hockey reason behind it other than the fact that Toronto had not made the playoffs under him ... yet.

Pretty sure the Leafs board more or less said this on record. That they liked the hockey plan, but not Burke’s demeanor. This is, indeed, a better explanation.

Posted by larry on 04/22/13 at 01:04 PM ET

Bossy_Rules's avatar

Please!! Toronto has the 2nd worst Fenwick close of any team in the NHL.  They are in the playoffs for 1 reason and 1 reason only.  Good luck.  Their shooting % is unsustainable and so is their goaltending.  Credit to Reimer and Scrivens for the seasons they have had but they are not suddenly elite goaltenders out of nowhere.  I don’t think Burke was a good GM.  He overvalued toughness at the expense of good hockey players and was a Luddite when it came to any new way to gain insight into what wins hockey games.  Nonis is probably no better, especially when you consider that TOR employs 1st, 3rd, and 5th, 6th and 7th worst Fenwick close players in the league with at least 20 games played (McClement, Holzer, McLaren, Kulemin and Orr).  I’m happy for my TOR fan friends who are finally getting some good goaltending but the sober among them realize that the Leafs are not much better this year than in recent years past.

Posted by Bossy_Rules on 04/26/13 at 04:08 PM ET

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imageThe Puck Stops Here was founded during the 2004/05 lockout as a place to rant about hockey. The original site contains over 1000 posts, some of which were also published on FoxSports.com.

Who am I? A diehard hockey fan.

Why am I blogging? I want to.

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Email: y2kfhl@hotmail.com