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

The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke: Clarke MacAthur

As I said last year, signing MacArthur was a great risk. The contract was low, because MacArthur had just won an arbitration award which was then declined. He had everything to prove as he had come in to the NHL after a pretty great WJC but then amounted to not all the much with the Sabres and then the Thrashers. It was a win-win as the Leafs got a potential top 6 forward on the cheap and MacArthur pretty much knew he was finally going to get the opportunity to play top 6 minutes in a year which he had to prove he was an NHLer.

Everything worked out: MacArthur nearly doubled his previous single season high in points and he developed chemistry with his linemates, basically turning the Leafs’ second line into their actual first line (in terms of production if not minutes) for much of the season.

We have discovered that MacAthur actually is a top 6 forward (on a bad team anyway) and also that he is a passing winger (a relatively infrequent skill set). But the idea that he is going to repeat these numbers again seems… well, a bit of a stretch. Fact is, this season he has little of last year’s pressure upon him. Not only is he a lock to make the team, his line is set. (Wilson would be a fool to break it up early on.) So now it’s up to MacAthur to show that last year wasn’t just a contract year. And it was very smart of Burke to only sign MacAthur to two more years, because it is likely that MacArthur will not put up a 60 point average over the next two seasons, even with 17-18 minutes of playing time.

So I have no criticism of Burke here. It was a low risk pickup and re-signing him is necessary since he more than lived up to expectations. The only reason I personally wouldn’t re-sign him is because as GM I would be aiming for the Leafs to miss the playoffs this year. But I’m crazy clearly, and a Leafs team that is trying to squeak into the playoffs on the backs of Reimer and the All-Injury line needs MacAthur at last year’s level.

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