I don’t want to be “that guy” who harps on every baseball opinion thrown out by a member of the mainstream press, but sometimes they’re just too dumb to pass up.
This is Steve Simmons, a guy who works for the Toronto Sun and TSN. He is a full-time sportswriter. He makes well more than I do, yet he talks about sports like that asshole at your work talks about sports: He judges who is good and who is bad based on who the commentators talk about the most.
In the most inactive summer of Brian Burke’s time running the Maple Leafs, you have to wonder: What did his friend, Gary Bettman, tell him about the coming season?
And can Burke’s quiet approach to making over the Leafs be attributed in any way to a belief there will not be an NHL season?
No, I think it has more to do with the fact that Burke, not used to working for a team with a lot of money, still spends money cautiously because he’s looking after his boss’s business interests. A lot of the best players moved in recent years have been moved for very high prices, prices that Burke isn’t used to paying. He’s on record of saying he loves, and is good at, the business side of hockey.
Burke never went out an acquired the veteran goaltender he said he wasn’t going to get at the end of last season. He wasn’t in any way aggressive in the free agent market, which is understandable considering the mistakes made in the past. He never found the first-line centre he hoped for — and has this odd belief that James vanRiemsdyk, a winger with talent and marginal success, can be that centre.
That first sentence is a train-wreck. The rest is harsh, but I think even the more level-headed writers in Leafland would think it’s fair. James van Riemsdyk is not a first-line centreman (although to suggest his success is marginal is an unrealistic expectation) but Mikhail Grabovski is. The team is without a second centreman, a defenceman on each of the top two pairings, a goaltender and several bottom six players.
Anyway, that was the set-up. Here’s the punchline:
The biggest names on the Leafs — Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, James Reimer — are not playing overseas, getting ready for a season that might not be.
Without playing this season, the Leafs don’t have to account for the final years on the contracts of players such as Tim Connolly, Matthew Lombardi, Clarke MacArthur and Tyler Bozak, which frees up $13 million in salaries for starting over post-lockout. A chance to begin anew with youngsters like Morgan Rielly not that far away.
You wonder: What was Burke told about this season? You wonder, with his closeness to the league and his friendship with Bettman, what he’s known all along.
Reminder that Brian Burke bought out Colby Armstrong, who had a year left on his deal. Regardless of whether there’s a lockout or not, those contracts still come off the books at the start of next season, which would make more sense to begin re-stocking the cupboard from a hockey perspective. There will also be better players available and you wouldn’t have to send pieces down to the Marlies.
I don’t know how much longer I can stand to be a hockey writer for, when at least one of the people occupying a full-time position is just full of trash.
Stop trying to think things, Steve Simmons.