Brian Burke owes Mike Gillis a debt of gratitude. In re-signing Henrik and Daniel Sedin, the Vancouver Canucks' general manager might have saved Burke from undoing much of the good he did in a half-year as GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Sedin twins seem like decent guys from a distance, without much in the way of skeletons rattling around in the closet.
But they haven't played for a team with the warped history that the Maple Leafs have. And even though Burke, who brought them to Vancouver in the first place, and his assistant, senior vice-president of hockey operations David Nonis, know all about them, wasn't the whole point of last season to cleanse the Maple Leafs dressing room of Blue and White disease? The sense of entitlement that Burke rightly said made mediocre players feel they were something else just because they'd be surrounded by media every time they practised?
It just seems that in signing the Sedins to matching contracts, any team other than the Canucks would essentially be importing a dressing-room clique with one move. That's not a shot at the Sedins. That's just a fact in these two-for-one things.
What happens if one of them suffers a serious injury that causes one of them to experience a dropoff in his game? How does a head coach handle that situation?
(What if Maple Leafs head coach Ron Wilson were to decide one needs to be benched during a game? Would he have to clear it with the other?)
If you want to talk about no-trade or no-movement clauses, what is "I won't go if you won't take my brother?" That's a living no-trade clause that rivals Dany Heatley's unspeakably selfish and profane attempt to cheat the Ottawa Senators.
Wilson is a fan of the Sedins because they are a one-unit cycling game. He also lauds their ability to blend their game with that of the forward playing with them. They are versatile forwards. But the twins are also a dynamic that makes Wilson's job a little more difficult at a time when the Maple Leafs need to be as light as possible on their organizational feet.
The Sedins are not a bad gambit for a team on the cusp of a Stanley Cup, but a club like the Maple Leafs, which is gosh-how-many years away from realistically contending, would be better advised not to get locked into too many complicated situations.
So don't beat up Burke over "losing out" on the Sedins. Day 1 of free agency went pretty well. Colton Orr is a booty call for a guy like Burke. Mike Komisarek and Garnet Exelby mesh moxie with the physical aspects of their games and most importantly ensure that when Tomas Kaberle is moved, those minutes will be divvied up among defencemen with an NHL pedigree. Minutes are hockey's version of innings pitched.
Komisarek will be useful to the Maple Leafs while they're rebuilding and when (if) they are contending. He is precisely the kind of player who stays healthy and has a skill set that will ensure he does not become surplus to requirements for this management team. And his contract is hardly onerous, especially if the salary cap stays north of $50-million (all currency U.S.) in 2010-11 as some now expect instead of falling as low as $46-million to $48-million.
You can debate all you want about whether Burke over-reached going into the draft when he said he wanted to get John Tavares. I thought it was good, clean fun, a no-autopsy, no-foul thing. It was apparent from Burke's face during the draft that Brayden Schenn was the player he wanted, and my sense is that for all the nudge-nudge, wink-wink with the Sedins and that flight to Stockholm, Burke's target all along during the free-agent season has been goaltender Jonas Gustavsson.
And that's how it should be. That's how Burke ought to be judged this summer: depth on defence and in goal, something that gives his team a chance to steal a few games while it gets a better read on the likes of Tyler Bozak and Christian Hanson. Don't pay attention to what Burke says. Pay attention to what he does.
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