Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Deciphering the Burkian Code

Tex and I have worked long and hard to put together this thorough state of the roster address as it relates to the early remarks of Brian Burke. Then Damien Cox comes along and engages in a similar project and steals our thunder on his blog. Life's a bitch eh? Nonetheless, we will proceed with the second part of our article analyzing the upcoming future of the Leafs - hopefully with more style and substance than the "Cox Block" specialist that the Barilkosphere is well aware of. I'm not even going to post a link to it I'm so disheartened.

Since Burke is a ‘shoot from the hip’ type of GM, we believe you can learn more from his remarks than a PR wizard like Brian Colangelo who soothes us with comforting yet bland statements, or a jackass like JP Ricciardi who tries to keep our hopes and dreams in the cellar by bombarding us with pessimism.

So when Toronto’s Burkian Revolution evolves into a proper ‘reign of terror’ come January, who will be the first to meet the guillotine? Based on a few of his quotes, we think we have come up with a basic criteria to help us make well-educated guesses on who stays and goes. It is our modest attempt to decipher the Burkian code. Actually wait, fuck modest, our code-cracking speculation is so sophisticated it makes Dan Brown and his Da Vinci Code look like Marty York. Let’s begin…


Burke said on the weekend, “The bottom six forwards are expected to fill and perform hard-hat functions, the plumber's function. The other guys (ie the top six forwards), maybe they're the guys sitting on top of the float in the parade. These are the guys that keep the engine running.”

It seems his vision is to construct the forward unit with a symmetrical vision of six muckers to go with six snipers. This theoretically create a cohesive whole amongst the forwards without any confusion about roles. The “Plumbers / Muckers” put in the blue collar work required to wear down opponents and provide the safety and open ice necessary for the “Guys on the Float in the Parade / Snipers” to score goals.

But as we know, not everyone who wants to sit on the float in the parade can have a spot. Who are the most likely to keep their jobs as “Top 6” or “Bottom 6” players in either of Burke’s categories? Time to separate the wheat from the chaff…

Fancy Boys on the Float in the Parade (Vying for the Top 6)

Revving the engine: Nik Antropov, Niklas Hagman, Mikhail Grabovski and possibly Nikolai Kulemin.

Frosted tips and a popped collar: Matt Stajan, Lee Stempniak, Jason Blake and Alexei Ponikarovsky.

As we see it, those “Revving the Engine” of the parade float have a decent shot to stick around under Burke based on their inherent talents. Meanwhile their wannabe “Frosted Tips and a Popped Collar” teammates have a super chance to be traded at any moment – maybe even this week. Stempniak is the one exception in the latter category because of the fact he only just arrived. We also have a sneaking suspicion that Antropov may be on his way out as well, but not because he lacks in talent. That possibility will be dealt with further down.

The Plumbers (Scrapping for the Bottom 6)

Can lay pipe: Dominic Moore and John Mitchell

Not likely to unclog my toilet: Jamal Mayers and Ryan Hollweg

Currently in college trying to get certified plumber status: Andre Devaux

Moore and Mitchell have both been very solid players for the Leafs this year and are the kind of teammates you want on your side when going into battle. Hollweg is a giant douchebag liability and needs to be disposed of. Meanwhile, Devaux is an unknown commodity at this point in time.

I expect that after seeing the Leafs get physically abused by the Sharks that Burke will be looking to bring in some new reinforcement Plumbers as soon as possible to try to turn around the team toughness and culture.


Likewise for the defense, Burke requires complimentary skillsets. Those designated for fighting duty will not likely be manning the point on the powerplay. Pretty basic, simple enough. In addition to this, all we need is to look to the past to see the aggressive manoeuvres he has made to acquire the likes of all-world defensemen Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer to lead his teams on both ends of the ice. It does not appear any present Leafs will ever fit into that category. Will Burke be able to acquire one?

What do we have in the cupboard presently?

Luke Richardson on ‘roids: Luke Schenn

The Spirit of Salming: Tomas Kaberle

Oh so tradable – if only: Pavel Kubina

The Aki Berg Club: Ian White, Jeff Finger, Mike Van Ryn, Anton Stralman, Jonas Frogren.

The defenseman are a bit harder to decipher who plays what role. We know Shenn is a keeper and the foundation for the future, but any of the rest could have a one way ticket to somewhere other than Toronto pretty soon. There is an argument to be made for trading Kaberle and/or Kubina if you could get them to agree to waive their no-trade clause and grab a top draft pick. As much as we all love Kaberle, his skillset is in serious demand and he could be worth a lot on the market. Kubina as well – only to a lesser extent.

Ian White should be retained based solely on his mustache and the recent Finger signing implies he will stay a while longer. As for the rest… they could easily find themselves getting a similar phonecall to the one Carlo Colaiacovo received a couple weeks back.


Possibly the most difficult move to evaluate is the goalkeeper. To trade or not to trade Vesa Toskala? That is the question Burke must answer. When posing such a quandary to the Barilkosphere heavyweights the Pension Plan Puppets on Tuesday morning it seems the jury is hung. If he can maintain his recent hot streak his trade value will soar – which would be a great time to trade him says the “sell high” mentality. If he stinks it up, the Leafs should logically keep him for next year as there is no backup ready to take his place. You gotta love it. If he’e good, unload him – if he sucks, keep him! Yet it does make perfect sense in Leafsnation. Not all is as it seems when cracking the Burkian code.

So if Burke does sell high, then the question becomes who takes Toskala’s place? Cujo is lucky if his knees can hold up for one game a week. Pogge is surely not ready for the crucible of the Toronto hockey media. I implore the Leafs not to toss him in the cauldron like Allan Bester had to suffer through. The “catch 22” of the Toskala quandary provides no easy answer.

But let’s come up with one anyhow. Sometimes you just have to put your balls on the table, so here we go... Trade Toskala. Problem solved. That was cathartic.


This is what gets the fans riled up. The BIG TRADE. Does Burke have a mega-deal in the works as we speak? Something of the Leeman for Gilmour, plus half of each roster, style trade? This is where you separate the men from the boys because to be successful it requires trading top-end talent for elite talent. Pat Gillick’s master stroke of McGriff and Fernandez for Carter and Alomar is another fine example.

The rumours out there in Leafland are swirling around players like Boumeester and Nash. Let’s be serious, you don’t get these sorts of players by trading Jason Blake. It took Wendel to get Mats – as painful as that was. As Tex mentioned the other day, the Leafs do not currently have a leader on the ice in the wake of Sundin’s departure. How can the Leafs fill the void? Who is the commodity that could be swapped? I got my money on Antropov.


We submit this to the Barilkosphere. Comments, questions, critiques, death threats and wisecracks are encouraged. Has this state of the roster address in any way helped to decipher the GM codes that Burke spoke in? Have we resolved the dialectical forces of Leafland and thus ended history? Or should our crystal ball be smashed and defecated on? Have our heavy handed gropes in the dark led to awkward moments and a general lack of satisfaction? Worst of all, has Damien Cox made us his bitch?


Pension Plan Puppets said...

Cox made no one his bitch because his analysis consisted of 4 lines.

I think that the big deal will be with Kaberle though. Antropov can anchor a second unit in the top six and play big.

The rest of the analysis is really good though. I think that Poni is going unless he starts hitting more and gets put in a checking role.

On defence, I think Kubina will be traded before the beginning of next season. Van Ryn will probably stick around long enough to assure teams that he's ready to go (again).

richie said...

I agree in theory on your point about Kaberle being in the big trade. The only problem is the damn no trade clause.

Makes me cringe to think that when he flexed his muscle with fancy contract last season it meant the Leafs missed out on acquiring Jeff Carter from Philly. His speed and scoring abilities are definitely in need.

Just to clarify - you think that Kubina AND Kaberle are getting shipped out? IF that happens I really hope Toskala stays and Pogge gets to stay in the minors to avoid the swiss cheese defense he would be workin with.

Tex said...

@PPP - agreed that Poni is gone. A hitting/checking role just isn't in his repertoire. I also think he'll try to deal Stajan while he's hot. I just don't see the guy being a legit top-6er for years to come.

@ Richie - I agree. I can't see a defense anchored by Schenn, Finger, White and co. Or, to put it more accurately, I can't see a competent D anchored by those guys.

What to do with Kabs is going to be Burke's biggest decision. He's arguably one of the most talented guys on the roster - meaning you can build around him, or you can cash him in for a young player + pick(s). For Kabs though, its one thing to stand up to JFJ and Grandpa Cliffy, but I think it'll be quite another to flex the NTC when Burke is running the show.