2009, Hockey, Sports, The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke: Deadline Day 2009

Two years ago was Burke’s first deadline day with the Leafs. He made a number of minor deals:

  • traded Antropov for 2nd rounder (Kenny Ryan) and a 2010 conditional fourth rounder (the conditions were either not met or not exercised)
  • traded Moore for a 2nd rounder (Jesse Blacker)
  • claimed Eric Reitz off waivers
  • the weird one: traded Richard Petiot for Kolzig, Jamie Heward, Andy Rogers and a fourth round pick (which was somehow forfeited)
  • claimed Gerber off waivers.

Antropov should have been traded at the height of his value, i.e. fall 2007, when he was the hottest he’d ever been (at least as a Leaf, being on pace for 90+ points at one point). But of course Ferguson was trying to hold onto his job and did not pull the trigger. It’s not Burke’s fault that he inherited this guy, who could occasionally be brilliant but was maddeningly inconsistent. I think many of us were probably happy to get two assets back for a guy who had driven us crazy, but at the same time we wished someone on the Leafs had possessed the balls to make the deal when he could have commanded a lot more.

In retrospect, ’08-’09 was actually his career year (which he would top the next) and so we can wish that Burke could’ve gotten more. On the other hand, I completely understand the sheer lack of interest in re-signing a player like this and I think that it was the right move, even if it happened a year and a quarter too late. (Again, not Burke’s fault.) The conditional pick evidently involved Ranger success in the playoffs, which didn’t occur. So that’s too bad. Ryan appears to not have the junior numbers to ever make the NHL as more than a grinder.

Given Antropov’s first year in Atlanta we might rue this deal. However, he has had a much worse (and far more typical) year this year. We must remember that last year he played with Kovalchuk for part of the season and no doubt had as talented players around him as he had since the good ole days of Antroshit, Mats and Mogilny on the same line. So his numbers were inflated. The minor return doesn’t sting, I think, given that the Leafs shouldn’t have re-signed him anyway and he is now someone else’s problem. Good riddance.

I think the return for Moore also has to be considered pretty hefty. Moore was in the midst of a career year and would have definitely wanted a substantial salary increase to stay in TO. Given that the Leafs got him as waiver trash, they were perhaps reluctant to give him this. At 29, he probably seemed slightly too old (and with his new demands, too expensive) for where the Leafs were going – remembering that the Leafs were supposed to be building around Tavares that summer, so a certain someone claimed. Putting things in perspective, getting that high a pick for a waiver trash player they had no intention of re-signing sounds like a pretty great deal to me. And Moore has not matched the numbers he put up that season. In fact, he barely managed half the next year. Blacker seems like a physical defenseman (there’s a big surprise) and he is still in junior. I think this trade must also be looked on as a good move.

As we might expect, Reitz is a nobody, waiver trash. He played in the KHL last year. No idea where he’s playing this season. Incidentally, both Reitz and Ryan are Americans. (I will not go into the semi-Americanization of the Leafs.)

The weirdest trade of the day, and certainly one of the weirdest Leaf trades of all time is the Kolzig deal. Petiot had been signed as a free agent but had remained on the Marlies. The aim of this deal, which I endorse in general but not in this context, seems to be to take on salary to help another team make trades while getting something back as payment. In this case, the Leafs gave up an impending minor league free agent for two expiring contracts (Kolzig and Heward) to get a prospect and a pick. I believe the league is the body that nixed the pick, as they recognized what Burke was up to.

Incidentally, this kind of thing happens virtually every week in the NBA, which is why it strikes me as a good idea for the Leafs in 2011, not necessarily in 2009. I think this strategy might have worked well at this past trade deadline. But in 2009 it didn’t make a hell of a lot sense, since the Leafs should have traded any and all veterans like Antropov and Moore and acquired none back. The reason they should have done this is because a certain person was promising the Leafs would acquire the #1 pick in that summer’s draft, but the Leafs weren’t nearly bad enough. If Kolzig and / or Heward had actually played, it would have been really stupid, as they no doubt could have helped the Leafs’ win a game or two. (Well, at least Kolzig might have.) And the question remains, is Andy Rogers that good or that young? No. He was last seen in the ECHL and he is in his mid twenties.

If Burke (or another GM) tries this again, he should ask for way more in return than just a minor league D and a fourth rounder. But then maybe the NHL would turn into the NBA tradewise and that wouldn’t be a good thing.

Claiming Gerber off waivers was retarded. It makes what was otherwise a good day for Burke look bad. Gerber helped the Leafs – that is to say he won 6 games for them – and therefore hurt their chances of getting a higher pick than Kadri.

So it was a mixed day and though I like the Antropov and Moore deals I have to think that a certain someone missed the idea of what needed to be done (as he has consistently since he was hired) and I think the Gerber move pretty much invalidates the other trades, as six victories could have been the difference in a number of spots in the draft. (I am saying this off the top of my head and not verifying.) And it is likely that had Antropov and Moore stuck around, they might have also helped produce a few wins. So why make the Antropov and Moore deals if you’re going to try to keep winning games anyway? To get picks back for expiring contracts. But if Gerber hadn’t been signed, the more important pick, which the Leafs already had, would have been better.

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