Does Brian Burke Need To Rethink His Needs?

February 19th, 2012 15 Comments

With trade rumors swirling that Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke is looking to acquire forward Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets, Burke’s team was embarrassed by the Vancouver Canucks by a final score of 6-2 on Saturday night.

You cannot judge the Maple Leafs netminding and defense based on one game, but when you consider the Blue and White currently sit 27th overall averaging 3.00 goals against per game there is plenty of evidence that this team needs to upgrade on the backend.

A quick look at Toronto’s goaltenders reveals James Reimer is ranked 41st in goals against average (2.98) and 36th in save percentage (.903), while Jonas Gustavsson is ranked 37th in G.A.A. (2.85) and 34th in SV% (.906).

Truth be told, neither one of these goaltenders has been all-world this season. That said, when you consider just how poor the team defense has been it is tough to blame just Reimer and Gustavsson.

When you consider the names on the back of the jersey’s Toronto’s defense should be much better than the results. Rookie defenseman Jake Gardiner  and the often criticized Luke Schenn lead all Maple Leafs defensemen with a plus/minus rating of +7. Carl Gunnarsson is second on the team with a plus +3 rating.

Dion Phaneuf (-4), John-Michael Liles (-6), Cody Franson (-3), Mike Komisarek (-2) and Keith Aulie (-2) are all minus players. Some of these players play better defense than others, but none of them has been a defensive stud this season.

Up front the results have been better, but far from great.

Sure, Toronto has plenty of plus players up front, but few of Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson’s forwards have established themselves as reliable defensive players.

Comparatively, the Maple Leafs are ranked seventh overall in scoring averaging 2.97 goals per game. Phil Kessel leads the Maple Leafs in scoring with 30 goals and 63 points, which puts him in the top five in the NHL in both categories, while linemate Joffrey Lupul sits 21st in goals scored with 23 on the season and seventh overall in points with 61.

When you consider Rick Nash’s overall skillset defense would have to be considered a soft spot for the talented winger. Sure, Nash plays in Columbus where defense is often an afterthought and goaltending is often comical, but nobody is ever going to mistake Nash as a Selke Trophy candidate.

Without question, Brian Burke is one of the best general managers in the NHL and, with the exception of a few poor moves, it is hard to argue with the acquisitions he has made since becoming the Maple Leafs general manager. That said, one wonders, is bringing in Rick Nash going to help this team? Would Burke be better off looking to acquire more defense?

Clearly, while Nash would satisfy the fans need for a big name forward (like Phil Kessel isn’t a big enough name already!), it is hard to believe he will make this club a Stanley Cup contender.

Keep in mind if Burke were to acquire Nash the asking price is said to include Schenn, a prospect and a first round draft choice.

That deal would hurt the Maple Leafs defensively in the short term and may hurt the teams development in the long term, not to mention the $7.8 million salary Burke would have to make room for.

With both Kessel and Lupul in need of new contracts after next season it would appear as if Burke would better off re-signing his two stars rather than trying to bring in Nash.

Let’s face it, Kessel and Lupul are already doing a great job manning the wings on Toronto’s top line. In fact, the duo of Kessel and Lupul have combined for the second best totals (124 points combined) in the entire league.

Adding Nash only complicates your top line, could potentially have a negative impact on your salary cap for years to come, fails to address Toronto’s need at centre and does little to address the teams most glaring need—defense.

Adding a top centre would go a long way in addressing the Maple Leafs paltry defense, as would taking a serious look at bringing in a proven goaltender. The addition of Nash, while tempting, does not look like the smart move for Burke, at least not from my seat.

At the end of the day we’d all love to see Rick Nash in a Maple Leafs uniform, but the price tag (which is significant) is far too high. Let’s hope Burke switches gears and looks to improve his team where it needs it most—defensively.

Until next time,



  1. David says:

    Trade Kessel, Dion, Kadri and a Pick for Nash and Carter… Nash, can now be the Captain (most paid player) and bring up the D-Man from the Marlies

  2. MarkRitter says:

    What’s up Bradley!

    Phaneuf is Burke’s captain- hard to see him dealing Phaneuf, but the trade makes sense on some level…

  3. defence is what toronto badly needs if there going anywheres and a hard nosed defence is the way to go . afterall defence is what toronto badly needs period .

  4. with reimer getting three strait wins two by a shutout why would the coach switch goalies this coach makes many mistakes . so maybe toronto should rethink its coaching never mind this buddy buddy thing with burke .

  5. nhl fan says:

    Hi Mark

    I agree, the leafs top priority should be to improve their goaltending. Way to inconsistent. I have been saying this all year. Outside the win over Detroit, the goalies have not stolen a game.

  6. Hudson says:

    I was originally saying no, not to Toronto, and we would not stand much chance anyway. But you know, I think Nash is a franchise player. And Toronto deserves one again. Finally. I say throw what we can at them, and try to land him. Fix salaries and holes later. We aren’t doing damage this year anyway. Nash can have a big impact for the next decade.

    I am less convinced of the value of Carter to be honest. Remember that his numbers came on a great Philly team. Where is he now?

  7. Mark Ritter says:

    NHL fan—

    we often disagree, glad to see we actually clicked this time around!


  8. Mark Ritter says:

    Hey Hud—

    One thing we know is Burke and his team have pulled off minor miracles before. I look to the future and agree with some of the comments that Burke may have a tough time keeping the cap together for his team.

    With Phaneuf already making big bucks, and Kessel and Lupul due for a raise in 2 summers, how does Burke make it all work and upgrade the D and possibly upgrade the goaltending?

    $7 million for Phaneuf, $8 million for Nash and potentially 6 million or more for Kessel and Lupul each— that’s $27 million for four players!

    That said, in 2013-14 Burke has almost no forwards signed, so there is flexibility there. Perhaps Burke makes the deal, goes into next season with his eye on making some solid moves in the summer of 2013-14?

    Who knows? I am excited to see what happens!

    Something will have to give that’s for sure.


  9. Jake says:

    The fact is Nash is not winning any games for Columbus so why would he do any better in a Leafs jersey ?

    Burke needs to address the problem of lack of size up front . The leafs forwards are too easily pushed of the puck and are forced to make hurried passes that often go astray because of their lack of physical pressence .

    It is easy to blame the defence when Wilson has them going deep and jumping into the play to counter the forwards size deficit .

    The fact is the forwards are not getting their jobs done and the defence and goalies are paying for it . The problem is up front so Burke needs to stop with the 3rd line trades and fix the top end with a couple of power forwards that can back off the opposition .
    Kessel ,Lupul ,MacArthur and Grabovski may all be fine players just not all on the same team .

    I would trade Kessel for Nash in a heartbeat even throw in Kadri and Komisarek if Columbus would add a 2nd round pick .

  10. Mark Ritter says:

    Well said Jake, and agreed! Except for that part about trading Kessel…

  11. Hudson says:

    The last time I looked, Kessel backs off the opposition just fine. No way in hell I would trade him. And no way in hell Burke would given his price tag. Burke is enjoying the payoff, and so am I. And only 24 years old. Man.

    I would trade about anyone else on the team other than Lupul. That is one poor team in Columbus, and it surfaced with great coaching from Hitch. But that is it. And Nash has still had a couple great years. So he’s a bit overpaid. It’s not like other teams haven’t had that problem. Get some youth going alongside our stars, and rid ourselves of stupid contracts like Komisarek.

    Who knows, maybe Burke is after Carter. With our need at C, it would probably fit better, and cap-wise too as has been mentioned. I wonder how he’d do with us. Pretty well with Kess and Lupes I bet. Lupes and Kess have shown they are really good playmakers. Maybe Carter would do great and take some scoring pressure off our dynamic duo…

  12. Dave says:

    Well boys, looks like Ol’ Conky (Ty Conklin) is on waivers out of D Rock City this morning. I don’t see Burkie picking him up unless Reimer or Gus are part of a package he is going to move. Might be a solid stop gap if thats the case while we wait for Scrivens and Rynnas to develop….

    I see some tough choices coming up for Burkie over the next week.


  13. Mark Ritter says:

    Looks like the Hartnell Vs. Phaneuf saga is far from over…check this out boys—

  14. Dave says:

    BAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA I love it!!! Harts in an animal. Something tells me this is some type of game these guys are playing albeit, one sided.
    I saw Hartnell in a post game interview after they beat up on the Leafs (and Harts on Phaneuf) talking about the mutual respect those two had for each other. Hartnell talked about chilling with Dion over the all-star weekend and the fact the he respected Dion for being the Captain of the Leafs. He also went on to plug the Leafs as being a top franchise in hockey and all of it seemed sincere. Thats why I commented in one of the threads that I think Burkie will get this guy down the road somehow. Harts seemed legitimately interested (as much as he can be qhile under contract) as well.
    This is gonna get weird dude….


  15. Hudson says:

    That is hilarious…you have to admit.

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