Brian Burke has been the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs for almost 4 years now and still hasn’t made the playoffs with this team. If you have told him when he came here that he would be in a lottery pick position, he probably would’ve banned you from ever coming to any press meeting because the idea of that happening is so absurd. Well guess what? The idea came true and it has now been 8 years since the Leafs have ever been in the playoffs. With Leafs fans getting very restless, especially after this season’s demise where they were playoff locks at the beginning of February to being playoff no hopes within only a few weeks, they want Burke to do some dramatic moves during this summer but what exactly can he do?
The #1 problem that Leafs fans everywhere can see is Goaltending. Going into the season with Reimer and Gustavsson was a major risk taken by Burke. You had Reimer who had an unreal last half that almost propelled the Leafs into a playoff spot for the 2010-11 season. Next you had Gustavsson who, to be honest, never was a stellar goalie but he had massive potential. His rookie season was pretty solid but then again, you had him backing up Toskala which even an Junior A goalie could play better than him. Other than that season, he always had problems with his heart and his overall play was never that good. Obviously that risk did not work out as Reimer got concussed for half of year and it went on the severely hurt his play. Gustavsson had a horrendous season with golden moments like this:
To put it bluntly, last season was truly depressing as you can see above. Now for the solutions that Burke can bring in for goaltending, he has said on record that they still believe Reimer should be #1. I still have hope that Reimer can be a #1 goalie some day but currently, he isn’t that. He still needs to develop and work on some kinks. In that time, the best option for Burke that he currently get is Roberto Luongo.
Luongo has a rough review in Vancouver. It seems like everyone is pretty much done with him and Lu is also done with them now that he has given a list of teams he would accept a trade too to GM Mike Gillis. The interesting fact about all this is that one of the teams is the Toronto Maple Leafs. This is huge because for Luongo to come here, he would bring actual elite goaltending, something we haven’t seen since Cujo or Belfour. Also, he can bring the mentor role that Giguere and what Burke wants for Reimer. This can help Reimer grow and mature into the #1 that he can potentially become. The only noted problem with this is you have to take on Luongo’s massive contract which lasts til 2022. With a team like the Maple Leafs though, it isn’t much of an issue because they can easily buyout his contract for the last 4 years and be done with it. As well as, the cap hit is really great for the quality of goalie you are getting. For 5.3 million a year and the cap rising to 70 million this next season, that is a steal if Luongo plays like Luongo.
The next problem Burke needs to take care of is L.A.C.K., otherwise known as Lombardi, Armstrong, Connolly and Komisarek. These guys equal to about 15.75 million dollar cap hit. Now this wouldn’t be problem if they were producing and playing well, but they aren’t. Lombardi constantly looks invisible on the ice, Armstrong is injured most of the time, Komisarek tries but just can’t get it done and Connolly played great at the beginning of the season, but sadly became invisible for the rest of the year. Burke needs to start off-loading these guys as they are terrible for our bottom 6. Komisarek is looking like that he will be dealt in the Luongo deal, and if Burke pulls it off, that will look a steal of a deal. Lombardi and Armstrong should be offloaded for draft picks. Now with Connolly, it might’ve seemed like a terrible, overpaid deal but what Burke did really well was that he got him for only 2 years. This is great as the 12-13 season will be the last season Connolly is under contract with the Leafs, therefore I feel that Carlyle should put him on the first line with Kessel and Lupul. When he was on the line last season, he seemed to feel more comfortable and gel well with them two whereas when put on the 3rd line, he just looked like he was put out for nothing and he never produced. Now what do we replace them with? Well with the Marlies having an insane run in the Calder Cup playoffs, I can see Frattin, Kadri and D’Amigo getting much more time with the Leafs next season. Also, with the recent signing of Komarov, he can fill a spot on the 4th line and be that agitator that we haven’t had since the days of Tucker/Domi.
Dealing with the 2 problems of Goaltending and cap-fillers (L.A.C.K.), Burke can really pull off something special here and who knows? With the rumors flying about how he wants Yakupov AND Galchenyuk in the upcoming draft, it could be a bigger offseason then even I can come up with.