“Leafs GM Brian Burke insisted today that both defenceman Tomas Kaberle and coach Ron Wilson are safe in Toronto.
Burke, who fielded numerous email requests the past two days with his team on a four-game losing streak, addressed the media this morning prior to the Leafs-Flyers game tonight at the Air Canada Centre.” (source:Toronto Star Sports)
I really respect Brian Burke’s stance that if a player was signed to a no-trade clause, then the team should honour it. As much as fans and media are frustrated with what looks to be another loosing season, Tomas Kaberle certainly isn’t the problem.
Brian Burke Explains;
“I’m glad the question (on Kaberle) was asked because this is the last time I will say it, I will not ask Tomas Kaberle to waive his no-trade clause,” Burke said this morning.
“I think the key part of the success of any team is having players know they are treated fairly. To get a no-trade clause in this league, you have to be an elite player. The Toronto Maple Leafs gave it (no-trade clause) to Tomas and I won’t go out and say I won’t honour it because I wasn’t the GM at the time.”
“It’s for bigger reasons than a trade,” Burke continued. “The notion that players are treated fairly rises above trades.”
The fact of the matter is Tomas earned a bit of respect from the previous General Manager, John Ferguson JR (who was way to eager to give out no-trade clauses to be honest), and in a business like pro sports, where you could have to re-locate your whole life at any minute, some measure of job security is extremely valuable.
You can add to this that Kaberle is currently ranked 3rd in the league in scoring and is a steal at $4.25 mil against the cap, that ranks him 28th in salary among league leaders for a d-man. (source: nhlnumbers.com)
I realize that Toronto needs to get draft picks, and Tomas Kaberle is the most valuable trade chip that Burke has but what kind of message does it send to the players if he’s traded? The guy has more then lived up to his contract, never caused any kind of public issue within the city, and has always remained professional in the microscope of Toronto hockey media. I understood some of the previous decisions to move players out against their will, as I outline briefly below, but to force a career Leaf to accept a trade against his will is crazy. Kaberle is a classy, well respected player and should be wearing the “C” in Toronto.
Given Toronto’s record with buying out players like Darcy Tucker, Andrew Raycroft, and the forced trading of Brian McCabe, the Leafs don’t look like an honourable destination for whichever UFA’s Burke will be coveting in the off-season.
Make no mistake about it, Burke is trying to send a message intended to be heard by all the players considering Toronto for next season. What good is it to offer a no-trade clause (usually instead of top money) to a veteran player who might want some stability for his family, if that veteran player knows you’ve broke your word in the past? Where’s the loyalty to a guy who has actually earned his money?
Burke also went on to say that Ron Wilson’s job isn’t in jeopardy.
To quote Brian;
“I don’t fault our coaches at all for where we are,” Burke said of his club, which is second-last in the Eastern Conference, and third-worst record wise in the NHL.
“I’ll tell you now, there isn’t going to be a coaching change. (Wilson) is as safe as gold in Fort Knox.”
When asked if some people might think his friendship with Wilson — which dates back to their days as college teammates — has anything to do with his loyalty to the coach, Burke said those “people would be idiots if they said that.”
Weather or not their previous friendship is a factor is a topic for another blog, but I’m not sure what people really expect out of Ron Wilson, given the talent he has to work with.
This isn’t an attempt at an excuse for the Maple Leafs (or Ron Wilson) but it should be mentioned that with the Olympic-condensed schedule, where teams are playing at a playoff rate (almost every other night), that a blue-collar team that has to out-work the opposition every night to get a win with little to no offensive talent, it makes little difference who’s behind the bench.