Burke stuck playing the waiting game


Who will be the first to go?

Brian Burke, victim of unmovable contracts, questionable signings, the Phil Kessel trade, his own reputation, and a hockey team gone bad is poised to do something.

Exactly what that is, when that is, who it involves — and clearly, it’s something more significant than the laughable trade request from Jamal Mayers — is on the horizon.
But the horizon may not be present until after the Olympic Games; until the pending trade deadline of March 3. And the forever impatient Burke is instead forced to play the waiting game in a salary capped National Hockey League where the demise of the Maple Leafs is greeted as welcome news.

“I know what fans are saying,” said Burke. “Why doesn’t he do something? The only answer I can tell you it’s not for lack of trying.

“Do you think I like driving home after every game? I understand the fans frustration, believe me. If anyone driving home from (Tuesday’s) game (against Los Angeles) is discouraged, imagine my ride home.

“The fact is, the team’s not winning and I haven’t made any changes. I understand, this is the GM’s problem. I accept that. You want to blame somebody, blame me. It’s my job to get it right. It all ends up on my desk … I thought we had something (a trade) in November. That fell apart.

“Unfortunately, (talking trade) is like being a farmer. You plant your crop and then you do nothing but wait.”

It’s not like Burke has a lot of wait for. The mess of mediocrity he is surrounded by is compounded by the ridiculous contracts he inherited. There is no trading of Jason Blake, Lee Stempniak, Jeff Finger or Vesa Toskala. Tomas Kaberle, maybe the most tradeable commodity, hasn’t asked to waive his no-trade deal.

You can deal the rental players like Alexei Ponikarovsky and Matt Stajan, but last year the Leafs attempted to trade both and came away empty handed. Talking to agents, there does seem to be some interest in Ponikarovsky, but likely closer to the deadline. And Stajan is one of those typical Toronto players who gets overvalued in this market, but not overvalued by clubs that regularly scout the Leafs.

There also may be some interest in Niklas Hagman, who has one year left on his contract, but again, anything that would happen with him would likely occur in March.

Which leaves what?

“I can hang up (on) you and make a bad trade right now. That’s easy,” Burke said.