The Kids Are Alright
It's been suggested several times during the first quarter of the Toronto Maple Leafs' emotionally exhaustive season, but it needs to be mentioned once again:
It's time to bring up the kids. No more excuses. Just get 'er done, Brian Burke.
In a tilt against the Lake Erie Monsters tonight, the Toronto Marlies spanked the opposition by a score of 7-1. While it's encouraging to see the Leafs' American Hockey League affiliate break past the .500 mark, fans of the Blue and White should be salivating at the performances from the prospects in particular.
Just take a look at the scoresheet:
Viktor Stalberg: 1 goal, 1 assist, 4 shots on goal, +2
Tyler Bozak: 3 A, +1
Christian Hanson: 3 G, 1 A, 7 SOG, +2
Jiri Tlusty: 3 A, +2
On the heels of a disheartening loss against the Carolina Hurricanes, who can now say they're less mediocre than the Leafs, frustration has officially boiled over in Leaf Nation. Fans are demanding that Burke infuse any sort of energy into the lineup so they don't have to listen to James Duthy make witty remarks about how the Leafs are essentially handing over a potential superstar to the Boston Bruins at this year's National Hockey League Entry Draft in Los Angeles.
Various media outlets are reporting that Burke intends on making changes, and if he's true to his word, then that could mean demoting players on one-way contracts, which would make them subject to the waiver wire. Jason Blake is the most obvious target when taking a glance at the Leafs' top-six, but who knows what Burke has planned.
The point is that Bozak, Stalberg, Tlusty and, most notably, Hanson should all be considered as call-ups before opting for a trade. If Burke plans to send players with one-way contracts to the minors, it'll leave the door open for at least one or two of the youngsters to step in and showcase their skills in a pressured environment (which is not a bad thing).
Personally, considering Hanson leads all Marlies in points (17) and goals (, I'd say it's time to give the 23-year-old a shot on the Leafs' top-six, if not temporarily. Hanson possesses both the offensive skill set and the defensive acumen to be an effective player at the NHL level, so if he could provide the Leafs with some energy, perhaps it'll open the door for players like Stalberg, Bozak and Tlusty to come in and hopefully change the fortunes of this godforsaken team.
No more excuses. This team needs a shakeup and it's obviously not going to come internally. Whether it's by importing youth from the minors or through a trade, Burke has to experiment with a no-holds-barred attitude if he's to purge the Leafs from this extended slump.
While executing these moves may cause complications with the salary cap, the panic button has officially been pressed and it's time for Burke to bring up the youth by any means necessary. Even if Blake gets picked up through re-entry waivers, meaning the Leafs would have to pay $2.0 million dollars until the end of the 2011/12 season, Burke needs to rid the Leafs of its dead weight. Lee Stempniak and Matt Stajan are two other targets who may themselves on the Marlies' roster sooner rather than later.
It's unlikely anything is done, however, before tomorrow night's tilt against the Washington Capitals, who were defeated by the Montreal Canadiens tonight with Ovechkin not recording a single point. But, once the Leafs get massacred on home-ice, Burke needs to get to work immediately.
It's time for Burke to take a page out of Johnny's book:
This is not a damn country club.