Does Brian Burke Need To Rethink His Needs?
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.
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.
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,