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Burke already focusing on next season for Leafs

Friday, 04.16.2010 / 5:00 PM / Ice Age

By Phil Coffey - NHL.com Sr. Editorial Director

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Burke already focusing on next season for Leafs
There is plenty happening among NHL teams not in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In Toronto, the emphasis already is on the 2011 playoffs.
Full speed ahead!

Sailors around the globe are familiar with the term, and after hearing Brian Burke's plans for the Toronto Maple Leafs, so too should the fans of the city's NHL team.

In his season-ending analysis of 2009-10, Burke didn't waste too much time looking back. Rather, it's eyes front on what figures to be a busy summer.

"I'm not interested ... in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done," Burke said. "Maybe because of my age, maybe just because I know it doesn't have to be five years because it wasn't in Anaheim.

"I like the group that finished the year, I think just on internal improvement we will be better. I think we will be good enough with this group and a couple additions to say in training camp that the playoffs are a reasonable goal."

Burke won't request a do-over on this season, when he took a lot of criticism for the trade that brought Phil Kessel to the Leafs in exchange for a package of draft picks, one that became the No. 2 selection, which now belongs to Boston, in the talented 2010 Entry Draft.

"All this debate about the Kessel deal -- was it worth it? Was it not worth it? -- I find it amusing," Burke said. "I got news for you, we're all going to know at some point. This is no different than two farmers side by side arguing whether they plant soy beans or corn. And they argue and one guy plants corn and one guy plants soy beans. Guess what, we're going to know at some point who won -- we don't have to argue the whole time while the plants grow for God sake."

In fact, Burke singled out Kessel as among the core group for next season after solid seasons in '09-10. Joining Kessel were goalie Jonas Gustavsson (re-signed Thursday), Nikolai Kulemin, Colton Orr, Carl Gunnarsson and perhaps the most important acquisition, defenseman Dion Phaneuf.

"I've never brought a guy in who had a bigger impact on a team from a personality standpoint," Burke told reporters. "It was like an adrenaline bomb went off in our dressing room. This guy brought energy and a positive approach, he challenges everybody.

"He challenges me, he barks at me sometimes, 'We need this or that.' I haven't had that before."

As for being in the firing line if the Leafs don't make the playoffs next season, Burke said he has no fear.

"I'm immune to fear of being canned," he said. "I've been canned, this doesn't scare me anymore. I'll either get it done here or I won't.  I'll join that long list of souls who haunt the building or I'll be back talking to you folks for a few more years."

Well Said I -- "This guy, he wants to be the best. He practices to be the best. He talks about being the best. Not in a cocky 'I'm better than anybody,' with a sense of entitlement, it's, 'I want to be the best. Don't you want to be the best with me?' What he represents is true grit and character of a winner. No matter what, he's going to give it his all. If it doesn't attract you, there's something wrong with you." -- Sabres defenseman Steve Montador on goalie Ryan Miller

Changing Tampa -- New owner Jeff Vinik wasted little time putting his mark on the Tampa Bay Lighting, opting to dismiss GM Brian Lawton and coach Rick Tocchet after a 34-36-12 season that saw the Lightning finish eight points out of a playoff berth.

"The goal is to be world class in every respect, within the community, the fan experience in the building, on the ice, the organization and the people who work here," Vinik said of his goals for the organization. "Focused on that goal, it was clear to me that the best way to proceed on the hockey side was a fresh start there.

"This is nothing personal against Brian or Rick," he said. "This is not an indictment of the jobs that either one of them did. I just believe that a clean slate moving forward is best for all involved to accomplish this vision."

Tocchet said he understood it was the owner's prerogative to make a change.

"It's not like I'm not expecting it," Tocchet said. "I talked to Mr. Vinik for 15 minutes. He's a classy guy. I like him. He wants a fresh start, and part of me doesn't blame him. If I was a brand new owner coming in, with what's happened the last couple years, why not?"

Well Said II -- "It's a sad day for me and John. He's a very close friend. ... It's a tough business sometimes because I think he did a great job with what he had to work with all year. He kept them competitive. It's unfortunate, but John is a very good coach and he'll land on his feet very soon." -- Washington Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau on John Anderson, who was fired as Atlanta Thrashers coach

Break 'em up -- John Tortorella gave new meaning to the term "breakup day" this week when he spoke about the 2009-10 New York Rangers.

Tortorella was blunt in what went well and what didn't for the Rangers, who were denied a playoff berth on the final day of the season when they lost in a shootout to the Flyers.

"We played a (gutsy) game against Philly in our building and we had zero top guys show up in Philly, which was despicable. I think (Marian) Gaborik's a legitimate star but I don't like the way he has played in big games. I think he needs to cross the line there, but we've got some pieces here." -- John Tortorella

"I wasn't crazy about the room," Tortorella said Tuesday. "That isn't an indictment of Chris Drury or Ryan Callahan or our leadership group. I think some people need to be weeded out of there. It's certainly not our core people.

"I think that room doesn't sustain itself. I don't think the room's a strong room.

"I think some guys need to be bumped out."

That is a pretty damning indictment of the team that finished 38-33-11 and was 7-1-2 down the stretch. But he called the efforts of his team's star forwards "despicable" in the season finale.

"We played a (gutsy) game against Philly in our building and we had zero top guys show up in Philly, which was despicable," Tortorella said. "I think (Marian) Gaborik's a legitimate star but I don't like the way he has played in big games. I think he needs to cross the line there, but we've got some pieces here.

"We need to add to it. Then when you get an opportunity -- hey, I might not even be here -- but when you get there and you're not fighting ninth and eighth every year you might be a legitimately good team for a while."

Well Said III -- "He really has to make some decisions as to whether he wants to continue to play or he wants to start a different type of career in hockey. Whatever that may be, that's going to be open to him. We'll try to make this work for Rod and the team. A job will be offered to Rod whenever he decides he's not going to play. If that's this year or next year, I can tell you he will be part of this organization if he wants. ... I think he's got a lot of things to offer for a number of years here." -- Hurricanes GM Jim Rutherford on Rod Brind'Amour

New role for Modano? -- While mulling over whether to play again next season, Mike Modano also is thinking about a more prominent role, namely being an owner.

Modano has indicated he would be interested in joining a group to purchase the Dallas Stars that includes former Stars President Jim Lites.

Stars' captain Brenden Morrow joked with reporters that Modano is flush enough to make such a move.

"We've been to a lot of team dinners and he's never picked up the check, so he should have a lot of money laying aside," Morrow laughed.

He'll be here the entire week, folks.

"I've been through the bad and the good and the bad again," Modano told reporters Tuesday. "We feel like missing two years of playoffs in a row is unacceptable. We built a real high pride factor here for the last dozen years with the playoff situations and the types of runs we made."

Modano's former teammate, GM Joe Nieuwendyk, knows there is work to do too.

"There is a cloud hanging over us. There's no question about it," Nieuwendyk said. "It's my job to help move that cloud out of here and return this franchise to the pride that I certainly felt as a player here for so many years."

Well Said IV -- "This is another great chance. The two times had disappointing ends, both of them. On the other hand I still consider myself lucky because some great players didn't even go to the Stanley Cup Final. I know I didn't win it but it's the motivation again. It's going to be a great challenge." -- Marian Hossa on going for the Stanley Cup with the Blackhawks

Help on the way -- There hasn't been much to smile about in Edmonton this season with the Oilers checking in at a League-worst 27-47-8 record and defenseman Sheldon Souray going on record that he wants out of town.

But there was some good news Tuesday night when the Oilers secured the top pick in the 2010 Entry Draft by virtue of winning the draft lottery.

Now, GM Steve Tambellini, who said he won't be tipping his hand, has the choice of top prospects Taylor Hall or Tyler Seguin.

"This is a huge opportunity for this organization going forward,"  Tambellini said. "I think it perfectly fits the moment of where we are as a hockey team, as an organization. We're in a rebuild type of phase with this group. This is a huge building block."

The Bruins have the second pick thanks to the Kessel trade with the Leafs and seem assured of getting the forward Edmonton doesn't take.

"First and foremost, it'll give us some more goals, which is nice," Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli said. "It adds youthful energy, youthful enthusiasm. It adds to our forward group."

For the Oilers, it is a building block back to some positive news.

"It's such an important step for us to have the ability to take the first overall pick, especially where we are with our cycle of development," Tambellini said. "We're more into a reshaping, a rebuilding mode right now. Everybody's clear about that. This will be a wonderful building block to add on to some of the other draft choices we have in place now."

Keep in mind the Oilers drafted highly regarded left wing Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson in 2009 and another strong center, Jordan Eberle in 2008, so Hall, a winger, is likely the perfect fit on a future line.

Well Said V -- "This is what passes for my playoff beard. It's a three piece. I got one, two and three patches. It doesn't join up anywhere. It might get dustier as the playoffs go on. And hopefully it gets real bad." -- Colorado Avalanche rookie Matt Duchene on his playoff beard

Remember when? -- Henrik Zetterberg, 29, first played in the NHL in 2002-03. Pavel Datsyuk, 31, in 2001-02. Has it really been that long? But it's true. Looking at the NHL Guide and Record Book, Datsyuk now has 600 games under his belt, Zetterberg 500.

"The first time I saw Hank was in the Olympics in '02 in Salt Lake," Nicklas Lisdtrom told the Detroit Free Press. "You saw right away he had a lot of skill, lot of potential. And Pav, the first time you saw him -- it was just his skill, what he can do one-on-one. And both are just getting better and better."
As the duo earned tenure with the Red Wings, other veterans moved on and Zetterberg and Datsyuk soon became "the guys" in Detroit.

 
"My first year here, that wasn't their job, we had veteran players," coach Mike Babcock recalled, no doubt thinking of Brendan Shanahan and Steve Yzerman. "And the next year, at the start we stumbled a little bit until they kind of decided that they were comfortable with that. They've just come of age. ... We made them go head-to-head every single night, and we believe that's how you win in the end -- your best players have got to be your best players."

"There were a lot of veteran players who'd been here for a long time," Zetterberg said. "Me and Pav kind of found one another on and off the ice, and we went on from there."

Well Said VI -- "It is difficult. I won't lie to you, there's a lot of uncertainty. I'm not stung or hurt because they're looking at other guys; I'm really not. Management here has to do what they feel is best for the organization. This is a big decision for them." -- Columbus interim coach Claude Noel

Say it ain't so -- Jarome Iginla somewhere else? Not a Calgary Flame?

While it seems unimaginable, Iginla told reporters this week he would consider waiving his no-trade clause if asked by the Flames.

"If they don't want me here and they want to move in a direction or rebuild or believed they could do better, I would look at it," Iginla told Vicki Hall of the Calgary Herald Wednesday. "Absolutely. You want to play where you're wanted and have people believe in you.

"I don't want to make them keep me, either," Iginla said. "If the team wanted to go in a different direction, then that's part of it. That's part of hockey. But I do enjoy playing here. And I do believe we can win here."

Now, do not misconstrue this into a trade demand. Iginla was clear he wants to be a big part of returning the Flames deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

"Obviously, they have decisions to make," Iginla said. "If they want me here, yeah, I do want to be here. Again, it's not because it's just easy or it's comfortable. I want to win. I want to win, and there're only so many years. The years go by fast. I believe with some adjustments, we can be a lot better team this year.

"I want to be a part of the team winning," he said. "That's the ultimate goal at this point in my career. That's what it is. It's not about scoring 40 goals or 50 goals or this many points or whatever."

The Last Word -- "I give him a lot of credit. He's a great person. The dealings I've had with him, he's been first class. The Hockey Canada people rave about him. He's been unbelievable here, with his commitment to this area and to this franchise and how hard he's worked are all great things. But leadership isn't about talking, it's about modeling, and he's been great that way here." -- Red Wings coach Mike Babcock on Phoenix's Shane Doan


Quote of the Day

I'm just excited about the opportunity. I've been on the ice earlier than usual and in the weight room, pushing around a little more weights than usual. Every day I go into a workout with a smile on my face and ready to go. When you do have a little more responsibility, you want to take your lunch pail and get ready to work.

— Brian Elliott to Jeremy Rutherford of the Post-Dispatch on being the Blues' No. 1 goalie