On July 1st of last year, Burke let the following players leave the organization: Deveaux, Exelby, Frogren, Matt Jones, Lundmark, Ondrus, Oreskovicc, Primeau, Rogers, Van Ryn, Wallin and Walser. I have no problem with any of that.
Additionally, for some unknown reason, both Mitchell and Brent were left to go unrestricted but then resigned later.
Colby Armstrong was signed to 3 years, $9 million.
At the time, I was very, very annoyed about this. Armstrong is a third liner and that is way too much money.
I must admit I was wrong that he would get suspended for a hit to the head but is anyone happy with the return of 8G, 15A for 23P, -1 in 50 games?
Some of the zanier folks in the Toronto sports media have claimed that the Leafs’ record is substantially better with Armstrong in the lineup. I think that is a very reasonable argument to employ, when discussing a goalie, or a D that plays huge minutes, or even perhaps a top 6 forward. But a guy who plays 16 minutes a game? Are you kidding me? That only indicates a remarkable lack of understanding of cause and effect on the parts of these members of the media. It’s impossible to know all the factors which make a team succeed, but certainly a player contributing 16 minutes to a 60 minute game (i.e. slightly more than 1/4 of that game) – and no doubt some positive reinforcement on the bench – is hardly the determining variable.
He is overpaid. We should all be aware of that. And if he’s just on the team for character, well let’s look at this year’s “character” signings. Are they cheaper? Yes, they are. And Arnott and Langenbrunner have won Cups.
Danny Richmond was signed, I guess to fill a spot on the AHL team.
He had a bad year for the Marlies. Woohoo.
The infamous Joey Crabb was signed.
I say infamous because when he was called up, the Toronto media made some kind of deal about him, as if he was a Player. There was even an article about him facing off against an established star in the league. This was one of the more preposterous stretches in Toronto sports media history.
Crabb’s AHL numbers? 11G, 7A for 18P, -7 in 34 games. A star in the making!
His Leafs numbers? 3G, 12A for 15P, -1 in 48 games. This guy is a star!
Fortunately, he was cheap.
The infamous John “untouchable” Mitchell was re-signed and then waived when he failed to live up to Burke’s outsized expectations.
This is a perfect example of why Burke appears dumb even though I’m sure he isn’t:
- He has a private opinion that most wouldn’t make public and he makes it public.
- Then, we he turns out to be wrong, he looks like an absolute moron.
Aside from Burke, did anyone think Mitchell was that good? I liked his game when he was playing well but seriously. Hopefully, Burke only said what he said to drive up the market price. It didn’t work.
Kulemin was resigned
Proved to be very smart.
Mike Zigomanis was signed, presumably to fill a spot on the Marlies.
He was brought up briefly and posted 1 assist in 8 games.
Brett Lebda was signed.
Even though we now had a glut of defensemen, I must say I thought this was a smart move. I turned out to be very, very wrong. I guess Lebda is one of numerous players who have looked better by playing for Detroit. But fortunately Burke fixed his mistake – which I did not call a mistake at the time because I agreed with it- by making a ridiculously one-sided trade this summer. More on that later.
Brent was resigned, as noted.
Brent became a fan-favourite playing on the fourth line. There isn’t much to say. He works hard. He put up a small amount of points. He is somewhere else now.
Guys like these are plentiful.
The big fanfare that summer was around Marcel Mueller.
One thing I will give Burke is that he is willing to look elsewhere for players. Mueller posted some decent numbers in the AHL (nothing mind blowing, around .5 PPG) but wasn’t given enough time at the NHL level to show anything. So this year may be his chance. I am not expecting too much.
So basically, Burke found some third liners, some fourth liners / minor leaguers, and a 7th D. I respect him for not breaking the bank – like he almost did this year – but he needed to improve the team last summer in order to help minimize the effects of the Kessel deal. He didn’t, and the Bruins got another Top 10 pick.
Funnily enough, it is this year we should hope that the team doesn’t improve because for once the Leafs actually have their own pick.