There are many reasons Leafs fans can begin to start slowly crawling out of the closet and once again be giving that good old cheer we all know and love: “GO LEAFS GO!” One reason should be remembered by all Leafs fans as a day we stood up and said “Wow, we have our guy!”
It was Sept. 18, 2009, the day Leafs fans thought they can start “beleafing again” as Brian Burke had just traded for a 36 goal scorer – Phil Kessel.
It has now been 5 and a half months since Burke pulled off the deal and now Leafs fans have been having mixed reactions towards this specific trade.
The Toronto Maple Leafs own the worst record in the Eastern Conference (19-32-12) with only 50 points. Now this isn’t always a bad thing for teams because they can bolster their roster with a new “franchise” player at the draft, but unfortunately this is not the case for Toronto.
Back in September in order to get Phil Kessel, Burke had to trade his 2010 and 2011 first round draft picks, and because of this the way most Leafs fans are seeing it is that they sold their future for just one guy.
The way the fans that actually have a clue about hockey see it this way.
Phil Kessel is not just one guy. Last year with the Boston Bruins he scored 36 goals along with 24 assists and a plus/minus rating of 23. This is not just one ordinary guy, this is a young rising star that Leafs fans should be really excited about.
The way Brian Burke and the Leafs Management looked at this deal was either to take a chance on these two first round draft picks and hope that they turn out to be special, or make the Phil Kessel trade and have a guy that has proven himself at the NHL level.
The decision made by Burke is not one that should be viewed by fans as a “terrible mistake,” or even calling for “Burke to be fired.” These are the kinds of deals that can either make or break a team, and by doing this trade it makes the Leafs better because they now know that they have a guy that they can put their faith in and a guy that has proven himself that he can score time and time again at the NHL level.
A few months down the road, after an embarrassing defeat by the Canucks, Burke had to do something to shake up this team and get them going. So a couple of phone calls were made and the next day 7 Leafs had been shipped out of town.
The first deal sent Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman, Ian White and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames in exchange for defensive prospect Keith Aulie, Penalty Kill specialist Fredrik Sjostrom and the star of this deal, Dion Phaneuf. In many ways the Leafs had gotten better. They now had more speed on the wing with Sjostrom and his penalty kill excellence will hopefully rub off on his new teammates. They now have a big defensive prospect to keep up with the big guns the rest of their division has on the blueline and now most importantly they have a second guy along with Kessel that can take on a role to be the “face of the franchise.”
The second deal sent Jason Blake and the fans “whipping boy”, goaltender Vesa Toskala to the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere. The Leafs had brought in a goaltender that won a Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy in 2007. Giguere will be here to lead the Leafs and rub off on Rookie and “Future” goaltender Jonas “The Monster” Gustavsson.
All in all there are 3 big trades made by Brian Burke in his stint so far as General Manager of the Leafs. All of them have done the Maple Leafs some good and will hopefully continue to stay good for the upcoming years.
So Leafs fans start waking up and bring your passion back to our game, because certainly with Brian Burke bigger and better things are sure to come.
Editor’s Note: Colton is making his DailyFaceoff.com debut with this article. He’s a die-hard Leaf homer and welcomes your Leaf talk!