2011, Hockey, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke: The Second Versteeg Trade

Burke trades Versteeg for Philadelphia’s 1st and 3rd round picks in 2011.

So Burke has made another move that again looks like he is trying to fix his past mistakes, and again he is trying to fix a relatively minor move (one that I wouldn’t necessarily call a mistake at this point).

He has now given up on two players he signed over the past two summers but he has yet to properly address the real disastrous move(s) that he made that put the Leafs in their current awful position. (Provided, of course, they don’t somehow manage to fight their way out of the depths of the conference by the end of the season.)

Burke has done what I like GMs to do when rebuilding, given up less assets for more. But it’s the particular assets in this particular trade that concern me. Versteeg is 24 and, though he is thought to be having a bad year by pretty much everybody in Toronto, this has as much to do with Burke’s and the Leafs’ publicized expectations of Vesrsteeg as it does with the player himself: Burke (or Nonis, I can’t remember) told us we should be expecting 30 goals at some point from Versteeg. What they were basing this on, I don’t know.

Anyway, Versteeg, playing more than he ever has in his career, was on pace to pretty much match his career highs of 09-10. So in terms of production, despite some slumps, nothing has really changed. The glaring number is his -13, but then he is on a team where only five players have managed to stay +, and two of those guys have only played half the games. Versteeg’s -13 is alarming, for sure, but he is a young player on a young, bad team. Given that he has been a + player through his brief career on the Blackhawks, it stands to reason that he would return to these ways on a better team with better linemates.

However, this is the 2010s, where nobody believes in longterm thinking. (Witness Ian White being traded 10 games into his new contract because he was minus.) And so I guess it is slightly understandable that Burke would give up on Versteeg 56 games into his contract.

The trade nets two draft picks, a 1st and a 3rd, which excites me. But these two picks are from the Flyers, who currently sit first in the East and second overall. Though this in no way means that the Flyers’ first round pick will be #30, it certainly will be low and, as Scott Cullen has pointed out many times, the chances of getting a regular NHL player from that far down are also low (anywhere between 7 and 23%). The hope must then be that the Flyers get embarrassed in the first round as the best the Leafs can hope for from that is the #15 pick. That’s still better than what they had before they traded Versteeg, but it’s hardly what they really need (i.e. a #1 centre, preferably before February 28th). Burke is apparently still looking for this player and perhaps these picks are merely being acquired to make that move, but I can’t be sure.

I must say that I am of two minds about this trade:

  • On the one hand, I like the acquisition of draft picks given the Leafs’ need to draft a star.
  • On the other hand, the best pick in this deal will probably be low and Versteeg is hardly Beauchemin, in that he is six years younger.

What the Leafs really should be doing, in addition to desperately trying to make the playoffs this year to repair some of the Kessel trade damage, is acquiring expiring deals and picks together, so they can start from scratch this summer and next season. (Is there really any reason to expect the Leafs to be much better next year based on the current roster?) But that’s not going to happen, as Burke seems content to merely address this piecemeal, which rarely, if ever, works.

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