Hey Brian Burke: Where’s The Beef?

July 23rd, 2012 4 Comments

When it comes to Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke there are only two types of people he attracts, those that hate him with a passion, and those that are equally enamored with the hard nosed Irishman.

Burke’s wars with the media have been well documented over the years, as was his verbal punching match with the beloved Don Cherry. As much as the media may dislike Burke at times (and for the record I happen to like the man) nobody can deny that he is fiercely loyal to those in his employ, sometimes to a fault.

Since taking over the reins as GM in Toronto, Burke has continually promised to build a tougher/bigger team. “We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. That’s how our teams play,” said Burke at his inaugural press conference way back in November of 2008.

Looking back at the Maple Leafs roster the past few seasons nobody ever confused them as a team with a high level of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. Putting all the big words aside, the Maple Leafs have played small since the day Burke arrived, which has had fans scratching their collective heads for four straight seasons and has some questioning their own loyalty to Burke.

It would have been one thing for Burke to come out and say we’d like to get bigger and stronger, but to come out and all but set the expectation that the Maple Leafs were going to become the second coming of the Broad Street Bullies was foolish and all but set the sometimes irritable GM up for failure.

Let’s face it, the rules in today’s NHL would never allow for any roster to emulate anything close to what the Broad Street Bullies were. And with the enforcer quickly becoming extinct, fewer players bring the level of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence that Burke expects from his bottom-six forwards.

Burke is on the record as labeling his players under two areas skilled or sandpaper. While Burke has done a nice job of bringing in a fair amount of skill in the form of Phil Kessel, Joffrey Lupul, James van Reimsdyk and Clarke MacArthur to play within his top-six, Burke has failed to assemble a suitable bottom-six that brings anywhere close to the level of toughness Burke set on that faithful day in 2008.

Sure, Burke went out and got Colby Armstrong, but he was ineffective due to injuries. Former Anaheim Ducks forward Mike Brown was brought in to man the third and fourth line, and while he is a serviceable player, he puts the fear of God in nobody.

Jay Rosehill has had a few cups of coffee with the Maple Leafs, but he simply cannot play well enough away from the puck to be a consistent producer, while David Steckel (who admittedly is great in the face off circle) is just alright in the physical department.

Joey Crabb did an admirable job as the Maple Leafs key shutdown guy and part time agitator, but Burke allowed him to walk, which might just be a move he regrets down the road.

Outside of Armstrong, Brown, Steckel, Rosehill and Crabb, Burke has brought in a few other players in an attempt to toughen up his roster, but he has had little success.

Now, with the 2012-13 season just a few months from beginning (A new CBA agreement not withstanding), Burke’s roster continues to look void of the toughness he promised.

Sure, Burke added two-way forward Jay McClement this off-season and there is hope that one of Matt Frattin and/or Carter Ashton could fill one of the bottom six roles, but there are no guarantees and Ashton did not impress in the physical department when he was up with the Maple Leafs last season.

The fact is, Burke may not be here when the Maple Leafs finally have the toughness Burke supposedly desires. Prospects Brad Ross, Jerry D’Amigo, Tyler Biggs and Leo Komarov have the collective makeup Burke is looking for in his bottom-six forwards, but most of these kids are a few seasons away from making a contribution to the Maple Leafs.

Perhaps this is why Burke continues to voice his displeasure over the size of his team? “We’re not big enough to play my way. That has to be addressed. That’s not optional. We can’t play the way Randy (Carlyle) wants to play with this group, Said Burke at a recent press conference.

But yet, Burke’s roster fails to look anything like a team that is going to be tough to play against next season.

Burke would be the first one to admit the Maple Leafs lack of size cost him in the points department last season. When you consider Carlyle likes to play a robust style of hockey, Burke will have to find a way to augment his roster with additional toughness or once again be forced to face the music once playoff time arrives next season.

There is no sense in Burke arming Carlyle with a knife if he is expecting a gunfight. Simply put, if Burke does not find the right mix of players for Carlyle to coach the upcoming season will be another heart breaker for the fans of the Blue and White.

So I ask you Mr. Burke, where’s the beef? Or better yet, when is it coming?

Until next time,




  1. Louis Pisano says:

    Solid article bro! A little hard on Mike Brown (=P) hes tough as it comes for the middle weight class IMO and he ain’t ascared to drop em with anyone TBH. Peace

  2. Dave says:

    You know what dude, at this stage of the game – Suter gone, Parise gone,Nash gone, Doan aint gonna happen, Weber gone, etc. I would honestly take a flyer on Semin. Say 2 years 10-12 million. The dude can fill the net more than all of those players. He has a higher skill set when he wants to use it than all of those names put together as well. Will he bring the added beef? No. But I say let one top six dude bring that and let delegate to the bottom six.

    Grabbo had some really similar knocks on him when he came in here. In fact, they were all but obvious – turn over machine, didnt seem to care, seemed to put little effort in unless he was either being fed the puck or carrying it. He’s turned into a pretty good two way pro. In fact in the latter part of last season when our PK was at its best, Grabbo was seeing time on the unit and playing well defensively.

    Surely Kuli and Grabbo can talk sense into this guy. Poni and Antropov did it for Grabbo as did the leadership and coaching at the time.

    At a time when the Leafs are going to need to a: outscore the opposition to win games due to average to sub-par tenders between the pipes and goals and no stars wanting to don the Blue and White – I’d say do it!

    Maybe start a blog on the subject: do the pros outweigh the cons?


  3. MarkRitter says:

    Semin is an interesting player for sure. I read last week that the Carolina Hurricanes were interested on a one-year deal. Burke is a fan of heart and Semin is rumored to have a weak heart. Therefore I cannot see it happening.

    I like the thought of it, but I just don’t see it happening.

    Your thought process was kinda like mine with Luongo— screw it, let’s make SOMETHING happen! and if that means bringing in Luongo’s bloated contract I was ok with that. I keep going back and forth on acquiring Luongo, and I would probably do the same here.

    Maybe you should start your own blog, you have some interesting thoughts bro!

  4. Dave says:

    Thanks dude! Super cool of you to say. I guess I’m a bit of a student of yours, so if thats the case you’re a great teacher! But unless you’re making me an offer…I’ll be content to play armchair here a little while longer 😉

    Cheers b


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