Mike Finewax

The Week Ahead

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Brian Burke is working out

Friday, February 10, 2012


I was talking this week with my brother Larry about the job that Brian Burke has done with the Toronto Maple Leafs since taking over almost 39 months ago.

 

We both agreed that he deserved kudos.

 

He came to the Maple Leafs with the cupboard almost bare. They were not a playoff team and there were few players in the system who would eventually become NHL players.

 

Now most teams recuperate by falling to the bottom of the standings for three-five years, get some great draft picks and in six or seven years are ready to burst through again. . . Burke did not want to take the time to do this, but had another plan in mind.

 

Before the lockout, it was a lot easier to do as there was no salary cap and successful (at least money-wise) franchises could just buy whomever they wanted to improve the squad. But when the hard salary cap came about, teams could not do it.

 

Burke did it the old-fashioned way… Through trades.

 

He inherited two-thirds of his second line with Mikhail Grabovski and Nikolai Kulemin already aboard. He also kept Karl Gunnarsson and James Reimer who were drafted by the previous regimes as well as Luke Schenn who was drafted six months before Burke came to Toronto.

 

He has not had a player that he drafted really contribute, although it appears that Nazem Kadri could be ready to do so next season.

 

So he had to make trades and trade he did. Not all worked out, like the Kris Versteeg deal but he quickly figured it out and traded him to Philadelphia for a first rounder.

 

The Phil Kessel deal has been debated over and over again but there is only one player at this time who has scored 30 or more goals in each of the last four years and it is Mr. Kessel.

 

He apparently robbed his GM counterpart in Anaheim when he dealt Francois Beauchemin for Jake Gardiner, who will be a stud defenseman, and a throw-in Joffrey Lupul who is in the top-ten in scoring this season.

 

He traded a bunch of bottom six forwards in Matthew Stajan, Niklas Hagman and Jamal Mayers and gave up a serviceable defenseman in Ian White, but received Dion Phaneuf and the still maturing Keith Aulie in return, a move that the Flames would take back so quickly at this time.

 

This past off-season the Nashville Predators were unsure whether the concussed Matthew Lombardi would ever be able to play again so Burke got them to throw in a good offensive defenseman in Cody Franson and gave up Brett Lebda and a minor leaguer who is unlikely to ever come close to the NHL. Meanwhile Lombardi recovered and is a speedy third line center.

 

Some of his free agent signings like Tyler Bozak and Jonas Gustavsson have worked out while others like Chris Hansen and  Brayden Irwin have not but he did not give up anything other than money in these deals.

 

There are other moves and all in all he has done a great job.

 

Kudos!

 

Now to The Week Ahead.

 

WEEK OF FEBRUARY 13-19

 

4 Games – Anaheim, Boston, Buffalo, Dallas, Minnesota, Montreal,

St. Louis, San Jose, Vancouver, Winnipeg

 

3 Games – Calgary, Carolina, Colorado, Columbus, Detroit, Edmonton,  Florida, Nashville, New Jersey, New York Islanders, New York Rangers, Phoenix, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, Toronto, Washington

 

2 Games - Los Angeles, Ottawa, Philadelphia

 

Anaheim and San Jose play all four games on the road.

 

Buffalo, Detroit, Edmonton, Florida, Minnesota, Montreal, Tampa Bay and Winnipeg play three games at home this week.

 

Boston, Chicago, Colorado and Toronto play three games away from home this week.

 

Follow me on twitter!

 

INJURIES

 

Jared Boll could be out for the season with a broken foot.

 

 (Click here to see the rest of the injury list.)

 

ANAHEIM

 

Games this week

@ Minnesota, @ Pittsburgh, @ New Jersey, @ Florida

 

Notes

The Ducks play four times this week including three games in four nights  so look for Iiro Tarkki to play possibly once in place of Jonas Hiller. They are tired on Wednesday when they face a rested Pittsburgh team after playing in Minnesota Tuesday.  Anaheim are in the midst of an eight game road trip. They are one of the hottest teams in the NHL with an 11-2-2 record over their last 15 but they were so far back when they started, their chances of post-season action are slim-to-none.  Niklas Hagman has moved down to the fourth line. Devante Smith-Pelly is on a 14 day conditioning stint as he tries to return from a broken leg suffered in the World Junior Championships. Jeff Deslauriers was sent to the minors to get in some playing action and the Ducks recalled Iiro Tarkki to back up Jonas Hiller.

 

BOSTON

 

Games this week

vs. New York Rangers, @ Montreal, @ Winnipeg,  @ Minnesota

 

Notes

The Bruins play three games in four nights as well as four times this week so expect to see Tim Thomas and Tuukka Rask share the net. The Bruins are tired Wednesday against the Canadiens in Montreal after playing the Rangers at home on Tuesday. They are the rested team twice this week, once facing the Jets in Winnipeg on Friday after the Jets play in Minnesota Thursday and then on Sunday in Minnesota after the Wild face off against the Blues in St. Louis Saturday. The Bruins are 2-4 since Tim Thomas refused to go to the White House. Zach Hamill cleared waivers and was sent to the minors.  Nathan Horton, although skating, may not be close to returning from a concussion and coach Claude Julien will not even talk about it anymore until he has a full practice. The Bruins switched up a couple of lines with Chris Kelly now centering Milan Lucic and Rich Peverley, while David Krejci in between Benoit Pouliot and Jordan Caron.  

 

BUFFALO

 

Games this week

 vs. New Jersey, @ Philadelphia, vs. Montreal, vs. Pittsburgh

 

Notes

Buffalo plays three games in four nights so look for Jhonas Enroth to play once in place of Ryan Miller. The Sabres will be tired on Friday when they take on a rested Montreal squad as Buffalo will play the Flyers on Thursday, but will be rested Sunday against the Penguins who play in Philadelphia Saturday.  Thomas Vanek (upper body) is starting to skate on his own and could return this week. Ryan Miller had a couple of wins this past week and is now the Sabres all-time leader in wins, passing Dominik Hasek.  The Sabres have moved Paul Gaustad from center to the wing, figuring he will be more effective there. 

 

CALGARY

 

Games this week

vs. Toronto, @ Dallas, @ Los Angeles

 

Notes

Miikka Kiprusoff won his 300th game in a Flames uniform this past week. Olli Jokinen has been hot of late and never as much as Wednesday when he had a hand in all four goals with a hat trick and an assist in the Flames 4-3 win. He had not potted a goal in 15 games before scoring on February 3. Alex Tanguay is also getting hot with a goal and six points in his last four games. Don’t expect Curtis Glencross to return by the end of February from an MCL injury. Lee Stempniak will also miss at least a month with a high ankle sprain. Henrik Karlsson was sent to the minors on a conditioning stint after missing two months with a knee injury. Leland Irving was recalled to take his place.

  

CAROLINA

 

Games this week

 @ Montreal, vs. San Jose, @ New York Islanders

 

Notes

The Hurricanes are rested on Friday when they take on San Jose who are in Tampa Bay on Thursday. They are tired the next night when playing the Islanders on Long Island. Tuomo Ruutu is eligible to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 and will talk with GM Jim Rutherford in the next few days as to his future with the Hurricanes. If he is willing to re-sign, then he won’t be traded but if he is unsure then Rutherford will deal him as the Hurricanes are not going to make an appearance in the post-season. Justin Faulk leads all rookies in ice time as he is averaging 22:34 minutes this season. Anthony Stewart was placed on and cleared waivers.

 

CHICAGO

 

Games this week

@ Nashville, @ New York Rangers, @ Columbus, v. St. Louis

 

Notes

The Blackhawks finally finish a nine game road trip and it has been disastrous thus far. They play four games this week, including three games in four nights so expect to see Ray Emery play at least once in place of Corey Crawford.  The Blackhawks have currently not won in eight straight road games. The flu seems to be going through the Chicago dressing room as Bryan Bickell, Nick Leddy, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Viktor Stalberg missed practice on Wednesday after Jonathan Toews was ill earlier in the week.  Brendan Morrison still does not have regular linemates as the Blackhawks have shuffled him among the bottom three lines since his trade from Calgary a couple of weeks ago.

 

COLORADO

 

Games this week

@ Vancouver, @ Edmonton, @ Winnipeg

 

Notes

The Avalanche are in Western Canada this week, although they will miss Calgary. Matt Duchene is back skating and actually practice some stickhandling and shooting but his return is still unknown as he has been out of action since December 29 with a knee injury.  Jean-Sebastien Giguere has taken over as the Avalanche’s top netminder as he has played in ten games since the start of 2012, while Semyon Varlamov has started only five. Peter Mueller is getting hot with six points in his last seven games.  David Jones, a UFA at the end of the season if he doesn’t re-sign, could be on the trade block as the deadline nears. Gabriel Landeskog leads all rookies in shots on goal with 164.

 

COLUMBUS

 

Games this week

vs. St. Louis, vs. Chicago, @ New York Rangers

 

Notes

The Blue Jackets will be tired on Sunday when they are in New York to play the Rangers as they are home to Chicago on Saturday. Vaclav Prospal signed a one year extension of his contract so he is unlikely to be traded by the deadline. Columbus may be better off blowing up the team, trading Rick Nash and Jeff Carter and starting over, but the lack of fans over the next few seasons could alter those plans.  Ryan Johansen may be the Blue Jackets first line center of the future but he has been a healthy scratch the last four games. Mark Letestu had the pin taken out of his hand and could return this week. Kristian Huselius has only played in two games this season and his year could be over as he is having a tough time recovering from a groin injury. Look for Nikita Nikitin (knee) to return to action this week or next. The same timetable goes for James Wisniewski who is out with a broken ankle.

 

DALLAS

 

Games this week

 @ Detroit, vs. Calgary, @ Phoenix, vs. Nashville  

 

Notes

The Stars play three games in four nights so Richard Bachman should play once in place of Kari Lehtonen. They are tired Sunday when they play Nashville after playing the Coyotes in Phoenix Saturday. The Stars were high on Tomas Vincour at the start of the season and after a stint in the minors they are starting him on the top line, alongside Jamie Benn and Steve Ott. Brenden Morrow is still out of the lineup with a neck and back injury. Eric Nystrom has taken over for Morrow on a line with Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro

 

DETROIT

 

Games this week

vs. Dallas, vs. Nashville, vs. San Jose

 

Notes

Daniel Cleary will need surgery on his knee for a cyst and he missed the third period on Wednesday when he took a check on said knee in the second stanza. It looks like Ty Conklin is strictly a backup no matter who is starting for the Red Wings. Jimmy Howard went down last week with a broken finger and Conklin failed miserably in his shot in net, so Joey MacDonald took over and has played well, giving up only four goals in two games, winning one. Speaking of Howard, (or at least writing about him) he practiced with the team on Wednesday but did not take any shots so there is no firm date for his return.  Brad Stuart is eligible to become a UFA on July 1, but don’t expect him to re-sign with the Red Wings before the end of the season, if at all.


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Michael Finewax has been covering hockey since 2005 and is the Hockey Editor for Rotoworld. You can follow him on Twitter.
Email :Mike Finewax



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