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Ulmer Catches Up With Burke

by Mike Ulmer / Toronto Maple Leafs

Cliff Fletcher will be Brian Burke’s voice of sober second thought for three more years.

The silver-haired Fletcher, who kept the general manager’s seat warm until Brian Burke became available last November, has been rewarded with a three-year contract to advise and counsel Burke.

A hockey Hall of Fame executive, Fletcher undertook his second stint in Toronto when the club fired John Ferguson in January, 2008. In his first incarnation, Fletcher was the architect of Leaf teams that went to the conference finals in 1993 and 1994.

“I think Cliff Fletcher adds a lot of value with his experience and his wisdom,” Burke said.

“I have relied on him heavily since I have been here. I told him right off the bat that I wanted him to stay.”

Speaking of people on their second time around, the Leafs have also tendered a training camp invitation to veteran centre Jason Allison.

The move comes as a surprise. Allison has not played since 2005-2006 when he scored 17 goals and had 60 points for the Maple Leafs.

 “I think people who last saw him play as a Leaf will ask why are we interested.” Burke said.

“He had some personal issues and some major physical issues at that time. He has solved all of those. In my mind he is a guy who might give us a lift and he deserves that opportunity.”

Allison, at six-foot-three, 215 pounds, has also played with the Boston Bruins, Los Angeles Kings and Washington Capitals. With a glut of players at centre already under contract, MIkhail Grabovski, youngsters Tyler Bozak, and John Mitchell and veterans Wayne Primeau and Matt Stajan, Allison faces daunting odds.

Burke sees a rapidly different scenario than the one he inherited as he enters his first full season.

“I think there are two huge differences going into this season. First, we’ve upgraded our player personnel and the blue line in particular by signing Francois Beauchemin and Mike Komisarek and trading for Garnet Exelby. We are much bigger and tougher. We have a lot of young players who we can count  on for internal development, the (John)  Mitchells and the (Mikhail) Grabovskis and that group.

“I think we’ve changed the culture as far as the intensity level and the preparation. You can’t win until you do that. Until people have an attitude that you can and should win, you can’t win.”

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