Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Burke's Dead Line

When Brian Burke addressed the press shortly after the end of trades for the 2011/12 season, he was less than honest with Toronto's media and fans. He served up excuses for his team's recent play, claiming that the trade deadline had played on the psyches of his young athletes. Burke told his audience that he and his consortium of assistants discussed setting an internal trade freeze, similar to the holiday break he routinely affords his players.

While I approve of most of the decisions Burke made regarding transactions yesterday, I have to call BS on quite a bit of Burke's fodder. The truth is that Burke spoke out of both sides of his mouth, he contradicted himself in several ways, and he bungled an attempt to inspire his current roster, in large part to overtly identifying his moves, or lack thereof, as a vote of confidence.

Setting any sort of pre-deadline internal deadline is asinine. It is already a deadline, both to assuage player concerns that they will remain a member of their current club for the rest of the year, but also to ensure that the finale of the season and the playoffs are played under equitable terms for all teams. Burke did acknowledge that attempting such a ridiculous idea essentially removed a valuable opportunity to improve his team, and rightly so, because such egregious management is a fireable offense.

He mentioned also of telling us and proving by action that he tries to make his deals well ahead of the deadline, for every conceivable reason. In saying that, Burke is making a tacit admission that he is aware of this distraction and has always tried to avoid it, thus enforcing an informal freeze on himself. He already does this. The words said today were an appeasal.

Burke simply cannot state that he performs due diligence in researching a player's mental resilience when determining if that player can handle the varied rigors of playing in Toronto, then excuse the team's recent play to them. They can handle it. He made sure of that.

He told us recently that he had no interest in getting to the playoffs to be knocked out in the first round, that he was committed to building a lasting success for this franchise. He has left intact a team that will be very fortunate to make it into the post season, much less survive their preliminary pairing. Burke said yesterday that his focus was on making the team better now, that the fans deserved it, and that he felt that the team's current composition was in fact a playoff capable team.

One of those statements is an entire falsehood. You are not building for the future by securing the present, and you certainly aren't securing the present by making zero changes to a roster that, for three quarters of a season, has failed to demonstrate the ability to win at a reliable rate. They couldn't last year either.

The deal Burke made for Ashton was a lateral one, moving a future defenseman for a future forward. I like the move, but it doesn't reasonably improve our fortunes, now or in the future. It simply bolsters a position of weakness by diminishing a position of strength. Fair enough.

If it doesn't help us now or in the future, it must be considered a failure, and should in no way be considered a vote of confidence for the existing roster. If Burke liked their chances he'd have added to their fortunes, and if not, he would have rewarded some with the opportunity to win elsewhere while providing the rest with  promises of better tomorrows. Doing neither essentially hangs them out to dry.

Calling Reimer the "real deal" insinuates that Jonas Gustavsson is not. Saying that Gustavsson is the reason the team is in the position it is is quite the backhanded compliment. Both keepers should be watching over their shoulders in urban and rural settings, as the coach will throw you under a bus as readily as the GM will put you out to pasture. They'd both do well to remember that their play during this 'justifyable' period led Burke to contemplate (aloud, to media) that he would have to consider investigating the market for help in that department. Not for the future, but for right now.

It's not the coach, because the personnel has never been there for him to work with, but the personnel is playoff capable. He won't mortgage the future to get into the playoffs to lose in the first round, but this team is already capable of that, currently in 10th in the East and holding no candle or torch to hopeful first round opponent Boston. Burke conveys contentment with the team in every way, and gives this group his full endorsement.

"I think the trade deadline is hard on players but I think it's murder on players in Toronto." Good thing we have a good lawyer.


  1. i think abe lincoln said something along the lines of 'it's better to keep your mouth closed and be thought a fool than to open it and remove all doubt.' burke blah blah blah's dug him into a hole the day he signed with toronto, and he's trying to dig his way out by blah blah blahing some more.

    1. I largely agree. 4 years later, we have not seen a build from the net out, we haven't seen much pugnacity, and the "rebuild on the fly" has not shown great promise. The future looks admittedly brighter, but we are far from a contender in waiting.