Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke did not mince words yesterday.
After cutting two huge deals, one with the Calgary Flames and the other with the Anaheim Ducks, Burke quipped: “We’re still open for business. We’re not done.”
Obviously, Burke has decided that his lousy Leafs were indeed really, really lousy, so it’s time to overhaul the franchise.
On Sunday, Burke shipped out six players and got four in return.
First, the Leafs sent their best player so far this year, Steinbach’s Ian White, along with Matt Stajan, Nicklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers to the Calgary Flames in exchange for defensemen Dion Phaneuf and Keith Aulie and winger Fredrik Sjostrom. Then, the Leafs dealt goalie Vesa Toskala and forward Jason Blake to Anaheim in exchange for goaltender Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Wow! At 17-28-11, the Leafs were desperate. Now they’re younger. But are they better?
“It was definitely a shock, but I’m very excited about going to Toronto and being a Maple Leaf,” Phaneuf told TSN.
“It’s a cliche. If Wayne Gretzky can get traded, anyone can get traded. I was very surprised, but on the other hand I’m very excited to be going to the biggest hockey market in the world.”
I understand that when a player is traded he has to say nice things about his new team. And I also understand that Canadian-born hockey players always say the right thing. I get all that. But in this case Phaneuf is lying through his mouthguard.
Saturday he was playing defence on a team in a big slump, but a team that will still make the playoffs. Sunday, he finds himself playing for a team that won’t finish .500.
The Leafs, after all, are tied with Carolina for last-place overall in the Eastern Conference.
In the end yesterday, the Leafs gave up White (a plus-one on a minus-48 team who was having a career year and always said he was “honoured” to be a Toronto Maple Leaf), Stajan, Hagman, Mayers, Toskala and Blake — six NHL-caliber players — and got Phaneuf, Aulie, Sjostrom and Giguere — three NHLers and a Marlie — in return.
Does that make them better? One can’t imagine.
After all, the Leafs were 11 games under .500 after a loss to Vancouver on Saturday. One day later they’re barely recognizable.