There are no guarantees the acquisition of Phil Kessel is going to be the cure for what ails the Toronto Maple Leafs. Not only that, the potential exists for the whole thing to become a disaster.
After all, the Maple Leafs have invested three draft picks and $27 million in a mercurial talent who scores in bunches and endures long periods of low productivity, has displayed little inclination for two-way play and orchestrated his departure from Boston, essentially because he couldn’t get along with a demanding coach.
While these issues do raise red flags, more than anything though, Brian Burke’s acquisition of Kessel is another indication that less than 10 months into the job as Leafs’ GM, Burke is taking the once-turgid franchise on a bold and exciting direction and is doing it decisively.
In fact, the Leafs haven’t seen this kind of creative thinking in the front office since the late 1990s when Mike Smith was running the hockey department.
There was a day in Leaf land when a decision of this magnitude would have had to be ruminated upon, discussed ad nauseam with the board of directors and hashed out repeatedly. By that time, of course, someone else would have landed Kessel and the Leafs would have once again been on the outside looking in. That’s clearly not the case with Burke in charge and it’s a refreshing sight to see.
Of course, Burke has his shortcomings, but he has demonstrated he doesn’t just move pieces around for the sake of change. There is a plan in place and, while there’s no guarantee the plan will be successful, at least there is a sense of direction this franchise hasn’t seen in decades.
He has changed everything about the culture of this team on and off the ice and his recent additions to the team’s scouting staff will be even more vital now, given that the team doesn’t have a first-round pick in the next two drafts.
And now Burke has Kessel, a player who did score 36 goals last year, but also carries major shortcomings. Did you know that of Kessel’s 36 goals last season, just seven of them were scored against teams that qualified for the playoffs?
Yet, in the end, the Leafs received a potential game-breaker they so desperately needed. As well, the Kessel deal was just another indication Burke is willing to take this staid franchise into places where it has never been before.
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