Tag:Brian Burke
Posted on: March 8, 2012 9:47 am
Edited on: March 8, 2012 9:51 am
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Pregame Skate: Jeff Carter back in Columbus

Carter returns to Columbus, just in black. I guess that's fitting. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Pregame Skate is back. Every morning for the rest of the season we're going to take a look at the games that have the greatest significance in the push for the postseason for you to digest while you drink your java. We'll throw in some miscellany for the fun of it.

7 ET, Los Angeles at Columbus

Sure, there's the story of the Kings' playoff push to watch for in this one. They only enter the night in a three-way tie for the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. So, ya know, the game is pretty important in that regard.

But even at this time of the year that takes a little bit of a back seat to the bigger storyline of the game: Jeff Carter returning to Columbus. Already. Even though he denies it, Carter never seemed to be too pleased to be in Columbus after the summer trade out of Philadelphia. His short time in Ohio was also disturbed by a few injury setbacks that have cut his season shorter.

“Obviously when I got traded from Philly, it was hard on me, something that I didn’t expect. Over time, you get over that," Carter told Rich Hammond of L.A. Kings Insider I came in here [Columbus] with an open mind. There were a lot of expectations around the team, from the fans and the city and stuff like that. For whatever reason, it didn’t really work out that way, and things just started to snowball from there. When you’re losing games, like we did, and giving up leads late, it’s pretty tough on guys. It’s hard to kind of keep going. It was a tough year."

You know the already disgruntled Blue Jackets fans who have sat through that tough year are going to let Carter know how they feel about him, and I can only guess it's not overwhelmingly positive. And while the Carter storyline might be front and center to start the game, once the puck drops it's back to the action.

“Obviously you want to go out and play good and beat your old team," Carter said. "I think above all that is, we’re in a pretty tight race here too. We need two points, for sure."

7 ET, Tampa Bay at Washington (NHL Network)

The Capitals and Lightning enter the night only two points apart in the Southeast Division with a couple weeks left. It feels like last season for one night, at least.

The problem, of course, is that they aren't battling for first in the division on Thursday night. They are fighting for eighth/ninth in the East. That's a position the Caps are in with their current 1-2-1 home stand and the Lightning from a first half of the season of very mediocre play. But speaking of mediocrity, the East has it and so these teams are still dreaming.

It's amazing to think that with a regulation win tonight, the Lightning will pull even with the Capitals in the playoff race. They'll have to await the final between the Jets and Canucks to see where they stand in relation to the last playoff spot.

Of course for Tampa they come in with an injury at their worst position on the ice, goaltending. Mathieu Garon is out and so it's up to Dwayne Roloson and Dustin Tokarski. The good news? The Caps aren't doing a whole lot of scoring this season, so this game could prove to a remedy for either side: the Caps offense or Lightning goaltending.

8:30 ET, San Jose at Dallas

This much we know: The Stars will remain in first place by the end of the night. But what they could do that's even more impressive is open up a five-point advantage on the Sharks in the Pacific and Western Conference race. Now that would be something.

The Sharks have been in a freefall for a few weeks now and it has led them to the brink of slipping out of the playoffs altogether. Imagine that, the Sharks missing the playoffs? It's not too tough to imagine right now. By virtue of having games in hand on the other teams, the Sharks hold the eighth position right now in the three-way tie, but with both the others in action, it's possible the Sharks could be 10th by night's end.

NHL Playoffs
2011 NHL Playoffs
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I'm still trying to figure out which is more surprising, though: The Sharks being on the playoff bubble or the Stars being the division leader.

By the way, this is the third meeting between these teams and the final day of the season, April 7. So they're going to have a few chances to make some big swings in the standings, starting with tonight.

Others worth watching

9 ET, Minnesota at Phoenix: It was only a few days ago that the Coyotes were the surprise Pacific Division leader. Now they have lost four straight, including two to Columbus. They get another bottom feeder in the Wild. They kind of need to win this.

10 ET, Winnipeg at Vancouver: Now we find out how real the Jets are. They did what they had to do and held down the home-ice advantage on their long home stand, but where they will make the playoffs is on the road. It starts at the Canucks.

7 ET, Buffalo at Boston: Another hard to believe sentence: The Sabres can move into the eighth position in the East with a win tonight. This was expected to be the Northeast battle this season, but at least it's a big game with the Sabres' resurgence.

Your promised miscellany

  • Wednesday's Winners & Losers
  • The Canucks have hit a bump in the road, but it's hardly a reason to panic. Just look at the Bruins a year ago. (The Province)
  • Bobby Ryan is looking ahead to life after Teemu in Anaheim and he wants to take that second-line role. (O.C. Register)
  • Did Brian Burke also target Ron MacLean when he complained to the CBC about Coach's Corner. Yes, yes he did. (Pro Hockey Talk)
  • Lastly, I'm a proud American and make no apologies for it, but I'm a fan of Canada ... and it's national anthem. So even I cringe at this from last night's game in Buffalo.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 6, 2012 10:08 am
Edited on: March 6, 2012 10:32 am
 

Leafs re-sign Mikhail Grabovski for five seasons

Grabovski has 20 goals this season for Toronto. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

The Toronto Maple Leafs have re-signed center Mikhail Grabovski to a five-year contract, ensuring that their talented centerman won't hit the free-agent market this summer.

The cost? Well it's going to be a little expensive for the Leafs.

There hasn't been a whole lot of good news coming out of Toronto recently, so consider Tuesday morning's break to be a relief. The team has lost its grip on the playoff position it held for so long, head coach Ron Wilson was just fired and GM Brian Burke has continued to be Brian Burke, making news for something every other day.

This bit of newsmaking is good, though. Very good. Grabovski's name was floated a bit at the trade deadline since he wasn't under contract for next season. But in an interesting phone interview with TSN's James Duthie on deadline day, Burke expressed interest although not a whole ton of optimism they would sign Grabovski. Either way he wasn't going to be traded.

"We are extremely pleased to have Mikhail under contract for the next five seasons,” Burke said in the team's release. “His speed and skill are valuable commodities and fit perfectly with our style of play. He leads by example and his work ethic speaks for itself."

Grabovski is technically the No. 2 center for the Leafs but many would argue he's the best centerman on the team. He helps give Toronto a solid second line. This season he has 20 goals and 25 assists to follow up his 29-29=58 of last season.

The price tag, as you might expect, comes in a little high. But compare it to other recent signings such as Ales Hemsky in Edmonton and it shouldn't be a total shock. Grabovski is a legit top-six centerman and people all across hockey will tell you that's not easy to find. The Leafs have a good one and they had to make sure they kept him.

I get the sense that I'm in the minority on this one in thinking it's not a bad deal for Toronto. Grabovski will still be just 33 when the deal is done and he should consistently give the Leafs 25-plus goals each season at center.

What do you think, good deal?

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: March 3, 2012 9:08 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 9:14 pm
 

Video: Don Cherry sounds off on Brian Burke

By: Adam Gretz

The Toronto Maple Leafs have been the talk of the NHL on Saturday thanks to their decision to replace head coach Ron Wilson with Randy Carlyle.

During the first intermission of The Leafs game against Montreal, Hockey Night In Canada analyst Don Cherry used his Coach's Corner segment to put general manager Brian Burke in the crosshairs and let loose on the type of rant that has become synonymous with Cherry over the past couple of decades. 



Among the things Cherry sounded off on were Burke's apparent attempt to go behind his back and get him fired (according to Cherry), and the fact the Maple Leafs don't have enough players on their roster from Ontario (at the present time, they have zero). He then read off a list of teams that have multiple players from Ontario, including recent Stanley Cup winners, and ripped Burke for having too many American players and players that have come through the NCAA.

No matter what your opinion of Cherry is, this is probably the exact argument that you would expect to hear from him.

This all sounds pretty similar to when there was a controversy in Montreal from a small, vocal minority earlier this season because the Canadiens didn't have a french-speaking coach or enough french-speaking players. Basically, according to Don Cherry math, good teams that have a lot of Ontario players are good because they have a lot of players from Ontario.

Nevermind the fact that they simply have good players, regardless of where they come from. Wouldn't you want to take your chances with a team of great European players or great American players against a team of bad players from Ontario? Of course you would. A general managers job is put to the best possible team on the ice that he can -- not assemble a team made of players from the local city, state or province.

At the end of the day, Maple Leafs fans have been waiting since 1967 for a Championship, and they've been watching one of the longest current playoff droughts in the NHL. I have to imagine they truly don't care about the birthplace or hometown of their players making up the roster just as long as they win games.

(By the way, if you get through all of Cherry's rant he does also focus on the story of Ryan Wood, which is perhaps the saddest hockey story you'll ever see.)

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 3, 2012 12:24 pm
Edited on: March 3, 2012 12:32 pm
 

Burke made decision after fans chants



By: Adam Gretz


During a recent loss to the Florida Panthers, fans at the Air Canada Centre, home of the Toronto Maple Leafs, voiced their frustration by chanting "Fire Wilson," their way of demanding the team replace head coach Ron Wilson.

It's not the first time fans -- for any team, in any sport -- have taken part in a such a chant, but it's not often you hear a general manager admit that it played any kind of a role in the decision to dismiss the coach, as Brian Burke did on Friday evening.

During Saturday's press conference to introduce Toronto's new head coach, Randy Carlyle, Burke admitted that his decision to make the move came, in part, after the fans chants last week.

“After the last home game it occurred to me it would be cruel and unusual to let Ron coach another game in the Air Canada Centre,” said Burke. "I don't fault the fans. If you buy a ticket and you want to boo, you can boo. Fans show their emotions in many ways. But the deadliest thing is when a fan votes [with] their feet and they don't come."

It's not hard to think back to the old Marv Levy quote about how, "the minute you start listening to fans, you'll be sitting next to them." Perhaps Carlyle better hope the fans don't quickly turn on him if things don't get turned around instantly.

The Leafs enter Saturday's game in Montreal in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 65 points, five points behind the Winnipeg Jets for the final playoff spot. They've also lost 10 of their past 11 games.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @agretz on Twitter and like us on Facebook.
Posted on: March 2, 2012 1:49 pm
Edited on: March 2, 2012 2:09 pm
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Posted on: March 2, 2012 11:49 am
Edited on: March 2, 2012 12:01 pm
 

Maple Leafs falling back to earth ... hard

Toronto hasn't been very good lately to put it mildly. (Getty Images)

By Brian Stubits

At one point this season, things were good in Toronto. Really good. General manager Brian Burke and coach Ron Wilson were having some fun with the media it seemed by announcing a new contract extension for Wilson on Christmas Eve.

Now? Not so much. The fans that have actually been patient for years in Toronto began serenading Wilson with "Fire Wilson!" chants at the Air Canada Centre in their most recent home loss, a 5-3 defeat to the Panthers.

"It’s frustrating, but understandable," Wilson said. "Everybody’s frustrated right now."

As good as the month of February was to the Phoenix Coyotes, it was almost as bad to the Maple Leafs. They went 4-9-1 in the month but 1-9-1 in their final 11 games including the current six-game losing streak.

Maybe this better illustrates how tough it has been for them recently. After their Feb. 4 win against the Oilers, the Leafs had a 90.05 percent chance of making the playoffs per Sports Club Stats. As the month of March began? The odds were down to 11.07 percent. 

At the heart of the struggles of course has been goaltending, something they hoped was fixed in Toronto with James Reimer's emergence a season ago. Well, he has fallen on rough times too, including being thrown under the bus more or less by Wilson after Toronto's recent 4-2 loss to the Capitals in what was a huge game in the playoff hunt.

“The two goals early in the game were stoppable chances,” said Wilson. “They [the Capitals] got saves at one end, we didn’t. We dug a hole because of that. And we’re kind of always waiting now for something bad to happen. We’ve got to find a way to get over that.

“You can pull a goalie. I thought tonight I’ll call a time out, tell everybody to relax, that we can get out of this hole. Then you start playing tentative hockey. That’s what happens. With all the other stuff that bubbles around at the outside like trade deadlines, those little things that affect players.

“You worry you’ll be the one moved. It affects a young team.”

It sure would seem Reimer is affected by a lot right now. He has just one win in his last seven starts. He has surrendered a whopping 26 goals in those seven starts, two of which he didn't even finish. And it's not like Jonas Gustavsson has been the knight in shining armor behind him. Let me put it this way: There is a reason why Burke was open before the trade deadline in saying his team was seeking a goaltender via trades. Obviously it didn't happen.

Nothing like a vote of confidence for your goaltenders, eh?

"Yeah, you do get exasperated, and you get frustrated," Wilson said. "But tomorrow’s a new day. The sun will probably come up. We’ve got to pull up our bootstraps and get going."

If they don't, the playoff drought is going to extend into a seventh straight season, pretty remarkable for a market like Toronto with the assets they have at their disposal.

They have already been leaped in the standings by the once-buried Buffalo Sabres and are just one point ahead of the similarly previously dismissed Tampa Bay Lightning. They're currently five points back of that eighth spot they had been holding for some time.

Now they are as close to the East's basement as they are the playoffs. If that isn't saying something, nothing is.

But hey, there is good news, Toronto. The Leafs do actually have their first-round draft pick this summer.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter and like us on Facebook.

Posted on: February 9, 2012 3:08 pm
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:12 pm
 

Winter Classic Alumni Game possibilities

By Brian Stubits

Part of the fun -- and there are a lot of parts to it -- of the Winter Classic is the Alumni Game. There's nothing like seeing some of the best and most iconic players lacing up the skates again in their old, familiar sweaters.

The next rendition will pit some old Norris Division rivals in the Red Wings and Maple Leafs from Detroit's Comerica Park. It's the revival of an old hatefest, one of the great Original Six rivalries the game has.

Quite frankly, the Alumni Game doesn't seem to be all that fair to the Leafs. The Wings have the last 20 years worth of playoff rosters to pick from of guys who are still in good health and shape while the Leafs? Well let's just say they have hit hard times.

But nobody really cares about the competitive nature of the game -- except maybe for the guys on the ice. It's more about the nostalgia, the fun of honoring some past greats on the ice again.

With that said, here is a look at some potential players for the Alumni Game rosters, the Maple Leafs presented by Adam Gretz and myself bringing the Red Wings.

(Just spitballing here and this is in no way a comprehensive list.)

Toronto Maple Leafs

Goalie: Not one of the strongest positions in recent years, but there are certainly some options. It could probably come down to either "the cat," Felix Potvin, Toronto's starter between 1992 and 1998, or perhaps Curtis Joseph (also a Red Wing for a brief period in the early 2000s) who had some of his best days with the Leafs in the late 90s. One of the newest members of the Hall of Fame, Ed Belfour, spent some time with the Maple Leafs as well, so he could be a possibility to work his way into the game if he's interested.

Defensemen: The trouble with trying to project an entire roster for this game a year in advance is that it's not always made up of players that you would normally expect, or players that spent a great deal of time with the organization or had a ton of success. Example: Dan Rosen of NHL.com passed along the word on Twitter that Brian Leetch would play in the game if asked by the Maple Leafs. Leetch, of course, only spent 15 games in Toronto at the end of the 2003-04 season. Borje Salming seems like a pretty easy choice as he was one of the best players to wear a Leafs uniform over the past 30 years, one of the best offensive defensemen of his era and a hockey Hall of Famer. For purely selfish reasons I'd like to see Al Iafrate suit up just to see how hard he can still shoot a puck.

Forwards: The first three names here should be pretty easy to pick: Mats Sundin, Doug Gilmour and Wendel Clark, a nice mix of skill, grit and as Brian Burke likes to call it, "truculence."

Other players to consider: Alexander Mogilny, Tie Domi, Gary Roberts, Steve Thomas, Dave Andreychuk.

Detroit Red Wings

Goalie: Chris Osgood. That pick is too easy. He just retired, hanging up the skates after last season. He spent 14 of his 17 NHL seasons playing for the Wings, which included three Stanley Cups. Hard to imagine Ozzy won't be there.

Defensemen: This is assuming Nicklas Lidstrom will still be active with the Red Wings, otherwise he would be in this spot. So I'm going to go with Chris Chelios for one and let's say Mark Howe for another, even if he only played three seasons in Detroit. Larry Murphy could be another. There's a long enough list of guys who spent some quality time in Detroit to fill out a corps.

Forwards: Here's where it gets fun. Brendan Shanahan will be in town any way, might as well skate up for the event. Apparently he's eyeing it too, and will try to get Steve Yzerman to join him. Can't imagine Stevie Y won't show. The best of all, though, is that Gordie Howe could make an appearance for a shift. The list of guys up here goes on and on.

Others to consider:

Kris Draper, Sergei Fedorov, Darren McCarty (needs to happen), Colin Campbell (Shanny and Campbell? Too good to pass up), Alex Delvecchio, Kirk Maltby, Brian Rafalski.

Others who passed through like Brett Hull could also have spots. So many to choose from.

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

Posted on: February 9, 2012 10:39 am
Edited on: February 9, 2012 3:26 pm
 

NHL announces Winter Classic to be at Big House

By Brian Stubits

The NHL made it all officially official on Thursday in Detroit. The Winter Classic will be held at the Big House in Ann Arbor against the Maple Leafs and Red Wings next New Year's Day.

"It's Hockeytown against the center of the hockey universe" Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke joked at the news conference.

It had been in the works for a while. The talk of the press box at the Winter Classic in Philly just over a month ago was that Detroit was going to be hosting the game. Since then everything has come into focus and the NHL just clarified (and confirmed) it all.

Commissioner Gary Bettman said that there will be about 115,000 tickets available for the game, and assuming they sell them all (they will) it will break the record for a hockey audience, also achieved at Michigan Stadium when University of Michigan played Michigan State.

"I'm all pshyced, I want to get my skates!" Red Wings owner Mike Illitch said. "But I can't skate."

In addition to the big game, downtown Detroit will be hosting events all week with the Hockeytown Winter Festival including the Alumni Game at Comerica Park, home of the Detroit Tigers. The rink in Detroit will be very busy as college and OHL games will also be held there.

In making the announcement, Bettman estimated that the events in Detroit itself will bring 150,000-200,000 fans to the city for all the events.

It will prove to be the busiest Winter Classic held to date, hands down. Not only will there be significantly more action on the rinks, but there will be two rinks at two stadiums. That will be a lot of work. But the good news is that nothing should affect the ice for the NHL game as Ann Arbor will only host the main event.

Personally, I think it's a fantastic idea, even if it will make life a little tough on the behind-the-scenes people and those covering the events, shuffling back and forth between the cities.

Hockeytown hosting the best week of outdoor hockey? Yes, please!

More from Eye on Hockey

Ranking the Winter Classic venues
Alumni Game possibilities

For more hockey news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnHockey and @BrianStubitsNHL on Twitter.

 
 
 
 
The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com