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Little Movement Draws Big Attention At Deadline

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

By the time they reach Grade 2 children begin to develop a mature outlook toward money, community and private property.

Their friendships deepen. They grasp the difference between writing for marks in school and for pleasure. Seven-year-old understand the distinction between asking a question and reciting a fact. Grade 2 children are forming lifelong patterns and points of view.

Not one of these children, not one the world over, was alive when Jeremy Roenick reeled in a stunned Sami Kapanen, jumped the board and blasted the Leafs into purgatory.

This might change soon, but it will not change based on what was done Monday, the one day between today and July 1 where the Leafs could radically reshape their direction without benefit of playing a game.

So when Brian Burke says he won’t do the easy thing, the expeditious thing, maybe even the right thing at the wrong time, you know he means what he says to the marrow of his bones.

“We are sticking with the plan,” Burke told reporters. “In my mind there is nothing we could have done today that made us better now. It was all things that will make us better moving down the road. We’ve got to see if this group is good enough to get in and keep the assets we have.”

Burke, who chafes when reminded about the Leafs post 1967-ineptitude, owns this now.

“If we don’t get into the playoffs I’m sure that a lot of things have to be dealt with” Burke said.

That will mean, no doubt, new leadership behind the bench.

“We have not had a discussion about a coaching change,” Burke said to a reporter. “That’s a very popular topic in your circle but not in mine.”

The Leafs made a few minor deals. They sent defenceman Keith Aulie to Tampa for 20-year-old banging forward Carter Ashton. The Leafs also landed six-foot-four defenceman Mark Fraser from Anaheim in exchange for Dale Mitchell. Dividends from those deals will be a while coming.

This trade deadline, the Leafs, certainly for the first time in years, had motive, means and opportunity.

They have two thirds of an accomplished first line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. They have a player marching toward a rarified stardom in Jake Gardiner, a worthy captain in Dion Phaneuf, depth on defence and a pretty good fourth line. They are on the cusp as a playoff team.

The Leafs  have ample trading material. Youngsters Matt Frattin, Joe Colborne and Nazem Kadri are worthy assets.  Burke, like so many the scouts who have traveled to the Ricoh Coliseum, believe the wide-bodied Korbinian Holzer is ready to play in the NHL today.

For the first time, Burke went into the poker game with chips. He understands there will be anger  that he kept them in his pocket.

“I think some people will be disappointed in that but I’m not,” he said. “From my perspective all the teams who are in the hunt with us took people out of their room and brought people in. We chose not to do that.

“If I am a member of the Leafs I look at this as an endorsement that this group is serious about making the playoffs. We got numerous offers, the usual suspects, all the ones you read about.”

“We believe in this group.”


Two players who would have fit nicely into the Leafs first line, Jeff Carter and Cody Hodgson have new addresses.

There is no way, absolutely no way, to ascertain what price the Leafs needed to land those two or Rick Nash. You don’t get to find that out. The fanciful proposals, including the ones that flowed from this corner, have already floated weightlessly away, never to take any real form.

But there are many conflicting Brian Burke visions. The one who stokes the media fire and the one who publicly toyed with the notion of a second Leafs –only trade embargo that would shut the team out of the busiest swap meet of the year.

The Leafs have been rebuilt on the strength of Burke’s superb trading instincts. Every major component, from Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul to the astonishing Jake Gardiner and captain Dion Phaneuf were the result of brilliant horsetrading. But now, with legitimacy within reach, Burke, who has long eschewed the idea of limping into the playoffs is hoping to do just that while impact players who flashed through the market, Nash and perhaps Justin Brown, will tug themselves into their own beds tonight.

A hockey franchise is a dynamic thing.  Last rites are cheap when every team plays like Lazarus.

Maybe the Leafs goaltending solidifies. Certainly the teams around the Maple Leafs, Winnipeg and Washington are drawing few comparisons to the 1959 Canadians.

But what this trade deadline offered was a benchmark, a chance to declare  the club had enough material to gain an immediate difference maker. Yes, the goalies might regain their equilibrium and once paroled, the likes of Luke Schenn and Mikhail Grabovski might regain their games.

Maybe this will be remembered as a trade deadline well worth skipping.

But for those real fans, the custodians of those kids for whom the Leafs are synonymous with  failure, much truth will be found in the words of Brian Burke…”I think some people will be disappointed in that.”

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