Well, C-Day has come and gone. Down to ply their trade with the Marlies are Nazem Kadri, Luca Caputi and Christian Hanson. John Mitchell lives another day. That is pretty much how Burke put it. Mitchell is on borrowed time. Burke also recognized the potential unfairness to players who are getting a "demotion" despite outplaying Mitchell during the preseason. The rationale for the decision, according to Leaf brass is that they are evaluating players on the basis of a "body of work".
The stated rationale is questionable. Mitchell's body of work does not stand out against Hanson's, and Kadri and Caputi do not really have a comparable body of work, having spent most of their time with the Marlies. By the way, in the NHL body of work they do have, which is mostly from this preseason, Kadri has scored 2 goals and 1 assist in 5 games, while Caputi, scored 1 goal with 3 assists in 6 games. (Hanson scored 1 goal in 5 games). Mitchell hasn't been on the scoreboard in his 4 preseason games. For more preseason Leafs stats: http://www.cbssports.com/nhl/teams/stats/TOR/preseason
Statistics do not tell the whole story of course. Mike Brown and Tim Brent, both rightly lauded for their preseason play, registered no points. And although Kadri has more points than Mitchell, his points all came in his one good game (he also scored a penalty shot). He had more bad outtings than good.
Kadri has the skills to be a 30+ goal scorer in the NHL within the next two years. Spending time in the AHL will get him there sooner than he would otherwise. The rationale does not hold as true for Caputi and Hanson, whose upside is more limited (although Caputi was the best player of the three through the preseason). Still, there is nothing wrong with these guys spending some more time in the AHL. They will continue to develop and they are destined to be back to the big club, likely within a few months.
The main reason it makes sense to keep of Mitchell in the NHL is not his body of work, as Burke tells it. Unlike Kadri, Caputi and Hanson, Mitchell would have to be placed on waivers to play for the Marlies because his is a 3 year veteran. It makes perfect sense to keep Mitchell up with the club. If his game does not improve, or perhaps even if it does, he can be moved for something, rather than letting him go for nothing. You will ask rhetorically - what could we get for Mitchell. The answer is, of course, "not much", but let's remember that the Leafs number one center (Bozak) went undrafted. The Leafs have good scouts. Coal can be turned to diamonds.