Wednesday, March 14, 2012
Blue and White Disease creeps into the Leafs dressing room
Four years ago Brian Burke vowed to cure Toronto of the cursed 'Blue and White Disease' and end of the culture of complacency and losing. Evidently that's not so easy.
Burke literally cleaned out the roster and started fresh. Everyone is gone except Nick Kulemin, Luke Schenn and Mokhail Grabovski and they began with the Leafs just two months before Burke's hiring. But he also built his roster around players that had worn out their welcome with other teams. Calgary was happy to part with Dion Phanuef, same with Boston and Phil Kessel, Buffalo and Tim Connolly, Anaheim and Joffrey Lupul, Montreal and Mike Komisarek, and Nashville and Matthew Lombardi. These players are the core of the team and represent $28.9 million in cap space. What you have is a different group of players who don't compete hard and accept losing. You can't pin this on Harold Ballard, John Ferguson or any other name from the past.
In stead of rebuilding through the draft, Burke chose reclamation projects from around the league. How many are earning their salary? Not too many. All of these players remain seriously flawed. Not what you would want as your core. In addition, they are all at their prime or even a little past. So don't expect any of these players to improve.
Forget about Burke's inability to recruit a number 1 centre or a experienced goalies. They may have helped make the playoffs but the team would have remained flawed and far from being a contender.
I don't doubt for a moment that Burke is a skilled and experienced executive. But this is the most difficult hockey market on the continent. Rebuilding is never an option when lower bowl seats go for $200. Yet no one has successfully found a short cut to building a winner. Burke's experiment has failed and he might as well contemplate ripping apart this roster.
The Curse of Frank Mahovlich continues.