Leafs GM Brian Burke feels squeeze as pressure builds

Pay up? Give Columbus Jake Gardiner, two other good prospects and a first for Rick Nash?

Or say screw it, refuse to bend under the demands of other GMs salivating at the thought of being able to fleece Burke, and do nothing of importance before the trade deadline.

Save the gunpowder for another, more profitable day.

The complication there, of course, is that untouched and unimproved, this Leaf team is headed for a non-playoff finish.

After saying his team was tired in Vancouver last week after two days off, head coach Ron Wilson seemed to suggest again on Thursday after a loss to San Jose that the hockey club is running on fumes, that players must give “whatever you’ve got left in the tank.”

How can that be after only 61 games for a team that as of now is essentially 100 per cent injury-free?

There is growing public sentiment, clearly, that what Burke has built in Toronto isn’t a good, young team on the rise, but rather a fatally flawed team destined to spin its wheels in the middle of the pack for years.

Three weeks ago it was the former. Today, after seven losses in eight games, it looks like the latter, and even a win over limping Washington on Saturday night won’t change that, at least not before Monday’s trade deadline.