With the negotiations of Luke Schenn ongoing and speculation running rampant (well, as rampant as it can be in the middle of August) of the Leafs potentially inviting Chris Drury and/or Trent Hunter to the pre-season camp, I thought we could all take a look back at what Brian Burke had to deal with and what he has acquired.
Leafs Roster in 2007-08:
Forwards: Mats Sundin - Nik Antropov - Jason Blake - Alexander Steen - Alex Ponikarovsky - Darcy Tucker - Matt Stajan - Kyle Wellwood - Boyd Devereaux - Chad Kilger - Jiri Tlusty - Dominic Moore - Mark Bell - John Pohl - Simon Gamache - Jeremy Williams - Kris Newbury - Wade Belak - Robbie Earl - Darryl Boyce - Ben Ondrus - Alex Foster - Bates Battaglia.
Defense: Tomas Kaberle - Pavel Kubina - Bryan McCabe - Ian White - Hal Gill - Anton Stralman - Andy Wozniewski - Staffan Kronwall.
Goaltenders: Vesa Toskala - Andrew Raycroft - Scott Clemmenson.
At the trade deadline in 2008, newly returned Cliff Fletcher came to push the Leafs in a new, and needed, direction. Unfortunately, none of Tomas Kaberle (which would turn into a year to year storyline for the media) Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker, Pavel Kubina, nor Mats Sundin would waive their no-trade clause. They were named the Muskoka 5 by former Leaf Tie Domi, and were considered the problem childs of the Leafs. When Sundin refused to waive his no-trade clause, Fletcher addressed the media.
"There's not much you can do when a player chooses to exercise his no-trade or no-movement clause," Fletcher told TSN. "You have to respect it. We will have to look at other options and do the best we can under the circumstances. Mats just didn't want to be a rental player and he's not prepared at this time to sign a new contract. I am sure he will do what he usually does and wait until the summer to make his decision on what he's going to do (for next season)."
In case you did not read between the lines, Fletcher essentially informed the hockey world that the Leafs no longer have an interest in Sundin because Sundin no longer has an interest in the Leafs, but would not allow himself to be traded in order to help the organization. Why people consider Sundin to be one of the greatest captains in team history, despite the way he left the organization (lying about everything) is absolutely beyond me.
"I have never believed in the concept of a rental player. It is my belief that winning the Stanley Cup is the greatest thing you can achieve in hockey but for me, in order to appreciate it you have to have been part of the entire journey and that means October through June. I hope everyone will understand and respect my decision."
Sundin eventually signed a contract with the Vancouver Canucks, mid-season, not in October. I could go on and on about Sundin and his poor decision making (which I feel greatly diminished his talent by the time he got back on the ice) but I'll end it there.
After the Leafs allowed Sundin to negotiate with the Canadiens (in a deal that would have earned Toronto a draft pick and Mikhail Grabovski) he became a UFA and left the organization there-after by signing with the Vancouver Canucks. The Leafs then swung their 2nd round pick in the 2010 entry draft, along with the rights to prospect Greg Pateryn (who?) for Mikhail Grabovski, effectively relieving the "dressing room disater" personality from the Habs organization as Grabo had many conflicts with the Kostitsyn brothers.
Cliff Fletcher finally got the ball rolling, and did not stop until Burke took over.
Moves by Fletcher (the Silver Fox):
Leafs claim Dominic Moore off waivers from Minnesota Wild on January 11th, 2008. At the deadline, Toronto dealt Wade Belak to the Panthers for a 2008 5th round pick (Jerome Flaake). Defenceman Hal Gill was shipped to Pittsburgh in exchange for a 2008 2nd round pick (Jimmy Hayes) and a 2009 5th round pick (then dealt to land Ryan Hollweg [sigh], which then was re-acquired later by the Penguins from the Rangers and use to draft Andy Bathgate). Toronto dealt Chad Kilger to the Florida Panthers for a 2008 3rd round pick (Jori Lehtera) which was then shipped to the St. Louis Blues for Jamal Mayers. Chad Kilger, for those that remember, refused to report to the Florida Panthers. He now works as a fire fighter in Cornwall, Ontario. Cliff Fletcher then dealt the Leafs 7th overall pick (Colin Wilson), 2008 3rd round pick (Shawn Lalonde) and a 2009 2nd round pick (Matt Clark) to the Islanders for the 5th overall pick (Luke Schenn). On June 24, 2008, Cliff Fletcher began dismantling the Muskoka 5 by buying out verteran agitator Darcy Tucker. On September 2, 2008, he continued by moving Bryan McCabe and a 2010 4th round pick (Sam Brittain) to the Florida Panthers for Mike Van Ryn (who would later retire from hockey due to a serious leg injury. He is now an assistant coach for the Niagra Ice Dogs). Fletcher's last (and likely worst) trade came in the form of sending youngsters Carlo Colaiacovo and Alex Steen to the St. Louis Blues for the projected "goal scorer" Lee Stempniak.
Insert the Saviour:
Brian Burke, despite his and the Leafs attempts to downplay the rumours, became the Leafs general manager on November 29, 2008, effectively ending the part-time tenure of Cliff Fletcher. In his first few months, Burke did not make a single change on the squad, allowing the players to "prove" they belonged on the team.
On January 7, 2009, Burke made his first move by swinging a conditional 6th round pick to the Anaheim Ducks for veteran Brad May. He then made a minor-league trade by sending Robbie Earl to the Minnesota Wild for Ryan Hamilton. In February, Burke gave a gift to defenceman Stafffan Kronwall, who would not be able to crack the Leafs top six defence core, by waiving him. This allowed the young blue-liner to be claimed by the Washington Capitals. He then waived forward Mark Bell, who was claimed by the New York Rangers. Burke then made some claims of his own at the trade deadline by snagging goaltender Martin Gerber, which allowed Vesa Toskala to be shut down for the remainder of the season due to a groin injury, and Mark Reitz, who filled in a few holes on the Toronto Marlies. Then came the few surprise deals. Toronto acquired a 2009 2nd round pick (Kenny Ryan) and a conditional 4th round pick in 2010 from the New York Rangers for forward Nik Antropov. He then moved Dominic Moore to the Buffalo Sabres for Carolina's 2009 2nd round pick (Jesse Blacker). He then closed off the deadline by aiding the Tampa Bay Lightning's financial issues by dealing Richard Petiot to Tampa for Olaf Kolzig, Andy Rogers, Jamie Heward, and Carolina's 2009 4th round pick (a pick that was forfeited by the Leafs due to the violation of Jonas Frogren's contract. The following selection in the draft was Byron Froese, who last season scored 43 goals and 81 points with the WHL's Red Deer Rebels, on behalf of the Chicago Blackhawks).
That off-season, goaltenders Olaf Kolzig and Curtis Joseph retired, and the Leafs drafted Nazem Kadri in the first round in a rather unusual and comical form as Brian Burke selected the Ottawa Senators preferred forward. During the summer, Burke inked Colton Orr, Mike Komisarek, Francois Beauchemin, Tim Brent, and Joey MacDonald. On the opening of free agency, he also moved another of the Muskoka 5 from the club by dealing Pavel Kubina and Tim Stapleton to the Atlanta Thrashers for Colin Stuart and Garnet Exelby.
On July 27, 2009, he moved the recently acquired Colin Stuart, along with Anton Stralman and a 7th round pick in 2012 to the Calgary Flames for Wayne Primeau and a 2011 2nd round pick (Brandon Saad). Toronto dealt that 2011 2nd round pick to Chicago to re-acquire their own 2nd round pick in 2010 (Jared Knight). On August 10, 2009, Burke moved Justin Pogge out of the system by moving him to Anaheim for a conditional draft pick in 2011 (Denis Robertson). Toronto then moved their recently re-acquired 2nd round pick in 2010, along with 2010 (Tyler Seguin) and 2011 (Dougie Hamilton) 1st round picks to the Boston Bruins for forward Phil Kessel on September 18, 2009, after a summer-long rumour event that involved Tomas Kaberle and the Bruins.
Burke's next trade did not come until December 3, 2009, when he moved Jiri Tlusty to the Carolina Hurricanes for Philippe Paradis. He then returned to the trade-front with a bang on what will likely be a history-marked January 31, 2010, for the Leafs when they executed a blockbuster seven-player deal with the Calgary Flames. The Leafs moved out Niklas Hagman, Matt Stajan, Ian White and Jamal Mayers and made room for Keith Aulie, Fredrik Sjostrom and Dion Phaneuf. Hours later, Jason "the enigma" Blake was shipped to the Anaheim Ducks with goaltender Vesa Toskala for Stanley Cup champion netminder, J.S. Giguere.
On February 13, 2010, Burke claimed Jamie Lundmark off waivers from the New York Rangers. At the deadline, the Leafs shipped Alex Ponikarovsky to the Pittsburgh Penguins for prospect Luca Caputi and defenceman Martin Skoula. Skoula was then sent to the New Jersey Devils for a 2010 5th round pick (Sam Carrick). Then, Lee Stempniak's time as a Maple Leaf came to a close when he was dealt to the Phoenix Coyotes for Matt Jones, a 2010 4th round pick (which was re-acquired by the Coyotes in a later deal) and a 2010 7th round pick (also re-acquired). Burke then dealt a 2010 6th round pick (Joe Rogalski) to the Pittsburgh Penguins for Chris Peluso.
On day 2 of the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, Toronto dealt Jimmy Hayes to Chicago (where he joined his brother in the Blackhawks system) for the 43rd overall selection (Brad Ross). The Leafs 5th round pick in the draft (Christopher Wagner) was dealt to the Ducks for forward Mike Brown. Toronto acquired the 79th overall pick (Sondre Olden) from the Los Angeles Kings for a 2012 3rd round pick. Toronto then dealt the 4th round pick (Philipp Grubauer) they previously acquired from the Coyotes for Stempniak to the Washington Capitals in exchange for the 116th overall pick (Petter Granberg) and the 146th overall pick (Daniel Brodin). Burke then dealt the 7th round pick they acquired from Phoenix in the Stempniak deal to the Edmonton Oilers for a 6th round pick in the 2011 Entry Draft (David Broll).
On June 30, 2010, Burke made another splash trade by acquiring Kris Versteeg (and Bill Sweatt who eventually skipped town as a free agent) from the Chicago Blackhawks for prospects Chris DiDomenico, Viktor Stalberg and Philippe Paradis.
During the summer of 2010, Burke inked Colby Armstrong, Joey Crabb, Danny Richmond, and Clarke MacArthur. On August 27, 2010, he dealt Alex Barry and Stefano Galiati to the Tampa Bay Lightning for defenceman Matt Lashoff. He then provided his club another four month opportunity to show progression before making deals. His only transaction between October of 2010 and January of 2011 was moving prospect Mikhail Stefanovich to the Dallas Stars for bust-prospect Fabian Brunnstrom.
In February, Burke continued what I refer to as his "steal deals". On February 9, 2011, he shipped defenceman Francois Beauchemin to the Anaheim Ducks for forward Joffrey Lupul, prospect Jake Gardiner, and a conditional 4th round pick in 2013.
Five days later, Kris Versteeg's short tenure as a Leaf would come to an end as he found his way to the Philadelphia Flyers in exchange for a 2011 1st round pick (Stuart Percy) and a 2011 3rd round pick (Josh Leivo). Toronto then acquired Aaron Voros for their Marlies from the Ducks in exchange for a 2011 conditional 7th round pick.
On February 18, 2011, the Kaberle-Bruins rumours found their conclusion as the Leafs shipped the final piece of the Muskoka 5 to Boston in exchange for prospect Joe Colborne, a 1st round pick in 2011 (Rickard Rakell), and a conditional 2nd round pick in 2011 should the Bruins make it to the Stanley Cup Finals (they did) or win the Stanley Cup (they did). This, to say the least, shocked the hockey world as no one expected Burke could achieve that big of a package for an aging defenceman on the final year of his contract.
At the deadline, Burke was quiet, and moved John Mitchell to the New York Rangers for a fresh start. In return, the Leafs acquired a 2012 7th round pick.
On June 24, 2011, Burke swung the conditional 2012 2nd round pick the Leafs acquired from Boston in the Kaberle trade to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for offensive blue-liner, John-Michael Liles. He then packaged Boston's 30th overall pick with the 39th overall pick for the Anaheim Ducks and in return received the 22nd overall pick (Tyler Biggs).
On day two of the draft, Burke swapped the Leafs 160th selection (Josh Manson) for the Ducks 6th round pick in 2012.
Burke then avoided the circus show that was the Brad Richards sweepstakes by travelling to Afghanistan with Luke Schenn and comic Rick Mercer to spend time with the troops on Canada day. This received unnecessary and ridiculous media outcry for his lack of efforts on the top available asset in the 2011 free agency crop.
On July 2nd, Toronto inked the much cheaper, though injury prone, centerman to fill the hole between Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul in Tim Connolly. He later signed forward Philippe Dupuis to fill the gap at center for either the Leafs fourth line or Marlies absence of face-off men.
The following day, the Leafs "helped" the Nashville Predators with their cap situation by trading defenceman Brett Lebda and prospect Robert Slaney to Carrie Underwood's favorite team in exchange for season-long injured Matthew Lombardi, and highly touted youngster Cody Franson.
Burke has not-so quietly rebuilt an aging club to one of the youngest teams in the league. He's re-tooled what was once considered the worst farm team in the NHL by earning the Leafs legitimate prospects, and managed to secure multiple first round picks despite the costly Phil Kessel trade.
To look back only three years ago and view the team for what it is today, it's a remarkable transition, and one I feel Leafs fans should be excited about. To say Brian Burke changed the face of the franchise is an understatement.
Projected (Healthy) Leafs Depth Chart:
Clarke MacArthur - Mikhail Grabovski - Nikolai Kulemin
Joffrey Lupul - Tim Connolly - Phil Kessel
Nazem Kadri - Matthew Lombardi - Colby Armstrong
Mike Brown - Tyler Bozak - Matt Frattin
Extras: Jay Rosehill, Colton Orr, Darryll Boyce, Mike Zigomanis, Philippe Dupuis, Luca Caputi.
Dion Phaneuf - Keith Aulie
Luke Schenn - J.M. Liles
Cody Franson - Carl Gunnarsson
Extras: Mike Komisarek, Matt Lashoff, Jake Gardiner, Juraj Mikus, Simon Gysbers, Korbinian Holzer.
Extras: Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens, Mark Owuya.