I recognize how difficult it is to win in the NHL, especially when you are also trying to make significant changes. Just ask anyone connected to the Toronto Maple Leafs and their fade in the last two months.
When Brian Burke was hired by Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment on Nov. 29, 2008, I was over- the-moon excited. I have watched his management career for years and find we are often on the same page.
I'm not going to say I've been in favor of all his moves during his time in Toronto. However, I can usually see his logic. A few have simply been busts, but a number have been worthy of high praise.
When he's recognized a mistake, he has have been humble enough to admit it and move forward. I use the word humble because the media often focuses on Burke's outspoken, confident side. He does have a larger-than-life demeanor at times.
I've heard the calls for his tenure to end in Toronto, and I can safely say that makes no sense to me. The work he's put in to build the organization from the shambles he inherited gives me faith for the near future.
The past two months have caused many to focus on what we don't have yet instead of what is in place. That being said, this collapse shows some changes are needed at the top.
The tough decision to fire long-time friend Ron Wilson as head coach was a move that showed me a trait I respect. That showed me Burke is the type of executive I would love to work for.
Management in all fields hides behind the expression, "It's not personal, it is only business." But that is a lie. It is personal, and when you create loyalty to people, it should be difficult to make a change.
Wilson has a solid resume, but I admit he was not my favorite coach. Randy Carlyle fits much better into the way I like the game played. For me, he also matches what I see as Burke's style.
After the terrible ending to this season, and with an eye toward changing the roster to better fit Carylye's style, here are my 9 recommendations to Burke.
1. Keep the first-round draft pick. The Maple Leafs need Alex Galchenyuk, although I hope he spends next season back in Sarnia to make sure he's ready for the next step in October 2013.
2. Make the trade to get Jonathan Bernier as the No. 1 goaltender. Bernier is the real deal. His age and blue-chip status make him ready for the lead role. Proposed offer: Carl Gunnerson, Nik Kulemin and a fourth-round pick going to LA.
3. Hit the free-agent market full throttle. Spare no expense to sign Zach Parise. The cost will be high, but the addition of a player like Parise will pay off 10-fold.
4. Give Dion Phaneuf the ideal partner on the blue line and sign unrestricted free agent Barret Jackman and have a shut-down pair. Barret is also a nice mentor for Luke Schenn.
5. See if unrestricted free agent Dustin Penner can be acquired at a bargain-basement price. He is that big-bodied winger often talked about in Leaf Nation.
6. Clear out bad contracts! I liked the Colby Armstrong and Mike Komisarek signings originally, but their health and production hasn't matched their contracts.
Komisarek is tough to move since he has a limited no-trade and a no-movement clause, which means he can't be hidden in the AHL.
But if Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake could be cleared out, I'm sure it can be done here, too.
Matthew Lombardi also can go. He plays too much on the outside and isn't a Carlyle-type player.
7. Make room for the young guns. Jerry D'Amigo and the recently added Carter Ashton are ready to play third-line roles next year, and their contracts will help the roster fit under the cap.
Joe Colborne will need one more year, but he will follow nicely behind when David Steckel and Tim Connolly's contracts are done.
Korbinian Holzer is ready to make the jump to the big team's blue line.
8. Find a way to get Rick Nash without moving our first-round pick this summer. It may not be easy or even possible, but that move will send waves of confidence to break whatever funk hit the locker room in February.
The Nash idea may be too steep of an idea, but as a fan it would be a very impressive notch for the Leafs. Proposed Offer: Matt Frattin, Cody Franson, Nazim Kadri, Clarke MacArthur and the first-round pick in 2013.
9. Let Jonus Gustavsson and Joey Crabb walk.
In the end, this may seem like a lot of changes, but I feel the groundwork is done.
Now is the time to go after the big fish!
I'm still a believer that Burke is the man to lead the Leafs to the promise land.
Despite the Canadian government killing the penny, that's still my two cents.
Here are my intended lines so it doesn't seem like I'm just throwing names all over the place.
First Line: Parise, Grabovski, Nash
Second Line: Lupul, *Bozak, Kessel (*Galchenyuk in 2013)
Third Line: Ashton, **Connolly, Penner (**Bozak in 2013)
Fourth Lin: D'Amigo, ***Steckel, Brown (***Colborne in 2013)
Top Pair: Phaneuf, Jackman
Second Pair: Gardiner, Schenn
Third Pair: Liles, Holzer
Starting Tender: Bernier
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