Burke Needs to Pull the Trigger

On the heels of a stunning victory over the Washington Capitals, in a shootout no less, Brian Burke shouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on some roster moves.

While it was encouraging to see a collective effort from our boys in Blue and White at the Air Canada Center last night, Toronto Maple Leafs zealots have not forgotten the abysmal display of hockey that was presented to them during the first quarter of the season. As much as I’d like to believe defeating one of the Eastern Conference’s top teams will remedy the Leafs’ woes, it’s simply not the case.

As fans have witnessed since the post-lockout era, the Leafs’ squads have always succeeded, quite efficiently I might add, at following up impressive outings with complete stinkers, halting any sort of momentum. And with the 2009/10 Leafs, that hasn’t appeared to change.

Or… could it?

While I’m not completely on board with The Toronto Star’s suggestion to call-up Christian Hanson, Viktor Stalberg, Jiri Tlusty, Tyler Bozak and Ryan Hamilton in replacement of Jason Blake, Luke Schenn, Lee Stempniak, Nikolai Kulemin and Rickard Wallin, I do think a couple of players from the Toronto Marlies should be given a shot.
Considering Bozak has underwhelmed in his tenure with Marlies thus far, I’d let him develop a little while longer. Tlusty? Well, he’s struggled to translate his success from American Hockey League to the National Hockey League, but he’s only 21 years old, so he’s another player who can afford some more seasoning in the minors.

From my point of view, it’s the duo of Hanson and Stalberg who should be given another shot with the Buds. Both have performed admirably with the Marlies and have smelled blood ever since the Leafs have stumbled–no, self-destructed– out of the gate. While Stalberg struggled to find the back of the net in his first eight games with Leafs, the intangibles he brought to ice–speed and a strong work ethic, specifically– were apparent for the team’s longterm vitality. And for a team that went 1-7 during his eight-game showing, criticism was practically non-existent for the Swede, who perhaps got a free-pass because of his rookie status.

The question is: Who do the Leafs remove from the lineup? Opinions vary, but I’d like to see Blake and Stempniak demoted. Removing marginal NHL players like Kulemin (whose hard work has been noticed lately, mind you) or Wallin won’t do anything. Burke has to send a message by re-structuring the Leafs’ top-six, and removing a former 40-goal scorer (how the hell did he ever score 40 goals, anyway?) and one of team’s primary scorers (as sad as that may be) should do the trick.

After all, this is not a country club, and now is not the time to let the team breathe a sigh of relief. The goal in the off-season was to make the playoffs, and the Leafs are currently a light-year away from achieving the arduous task.

If players are held accountable for their poor performances, the sense of entitlement will disperse for this club, and actual results won’t be such an asinine possibility from outside observers.

The timing couldn’t be more perfect. Follow a big win with a direct message to the players by benching two familiar faces in the dressing room. If that doesn’t light fire under their asses against the New York Islanders tomorrow night, then perhaps outside help should indeed be explored.

Burke, it’s time to take out the whip and lash this team to shape.