At 3 p.m. today, the Sabres’ roster will be set for the stretch run and the playoffs. Until then, general manager Darcy Regier should be working the phones and looking at ways to improve this team. And after watching last night’s game, the list of improvements could be longer than a 9-year-old’s Christmas list.
What we’ve been trying to do with these “Wants and Needs” posts is look for players on non-playoff teams that have expiring contracts that the Sabres could realistically acquire. We’re not looking to spread rumors or theorize about that blockbuster/pipedream Nathan Horton deal, we’re trying to identify the types of rental players Regier has been known to find and surprise fans with (your Stu Barneses and Dainius Zubruses).
One team has been a bottom-feeder for quite some time now and has already started selling assets. However, if I’m Darcy Regier, there’s no chance in hell I’m making a deal with Brian Burke and the Toronto Maple Leafs.
I don’t care if Tomas Kaberle could fill the Sabres’ need for a powerplay quarterback (the powerpoint, as it were). I don’t want to be involved in anything that could make the Leafs better.
Make no mistake about it, Brian Burke is a frightening man. He knows exactly what he wants and will do anything in his power to get it. Read about how he was able to draft the Sedin twins when he was with Vancouver.
“Rick Dudley played it tough,” said Burke. “We’re friends, but you should have heard the profanity over the phone. He said, ‘I’m taking Daniel Sedin and I don’t care what you do.’ I said, ‘You’re going to take a guy you can’t sign? They’re not coming unless they come together to the same team. You have to make a deal.’ Dudley got his back up and said, ‘You don’t run my team.’ If we had been in the same hotel, we would have had a fistfight. That’s how heated it got.”
A frustrated Burke remembers taking a walk around Boston to clear his head.
“It was a beautiful day in Boston,” said Burke. “I bumped into the twins three different times on a 20-minute walk and remember my wife saying, ‘It’s an omen. You’re going to get these guys.’”
Sometime between Friday night and Saturday morning, Dudley realized there was no point in drafting Daniel if he wasn’t going to play in Tampa Bay. A deal was struck.
Yeah, Dudley played hardball, but Burke won in the end. Like he always seems to.
When Burke took over the Ducks, he acquired Chris Pronger in another hard-nosed deal, won a Stanley Cup and changed the style of play in the post-lockout NHL. The combination of skill and speed was replaced with size and speed and those Burke teams had a ton of it.
Look at Team USA this year. He didn’t fill it with the best players, but the right ones. People may have been scratching their heads when Ryan Callahan was named to the team, but his relentless penalty killing during the tournament justified his spot. The team got solid goaltending from Ryan Miller and played well in its own zone. They finished one shot away from Gold.
Now, Burke is in the midst of re-imagining the Maple Leafs. The team is terrible now, but you can see what Burke is trying to do with the team. He walked into an awful situation as the franchise had serious cap issues and what seemed like a dozen players with no-movement clauses.
He’s sloshing his way through the mess and establishing a new core. He’s added Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf and parted ways with Jason Blake and Pavel Kubina.
Regier already got suckered into trading a second round pick for Dominic Moore last season. Fool me once, shame on me. Don’t give Burke the chance to fool you twice. Simply avoid the man at all costs. Tell him your fax machine broke. He’ll believe you. You’ve got a history of that.
Maybe your cell phone died or you’re on the phone with Schwan’s ordering another box of creamsicles (wait…they don’t sell creamsicles? Burkie’s on to you).
Just, please, for the sake of the sake of the hockey world, don’t help the Leafs get better. Burke knows what he’s doing and it’s scary. If there was ever a time to impose a trade embargo on a team, this is it. Just say no.