I don't think that the Lupus/Gardiner trade is a bad one. Both are gambles, but there is good upside, and I don't think we could ask for much more.
What troubles me is the mixed messages we are getting from management.
Building from net out?
The Leafs number one goalie at the moment seems to be Reimer. He may turn out to be very good and has played great so far. He was in the system when Burke came along, however, and wasn't part of the plan at the outset.
J-S G is alluding to the fact that he will likely be moved and in any event is not the goaltender to build around for the future.
The Monster is in the AHL, or at least was until he was pulled because of recurring heart issues.
Are we still building from the net out?
Gardiner is a good (not great) prospect. Gardiner himself seems surprised by Burke's assertion that he has top four D man potential. He is more used to hearing, no doubt, that he has NHL potential. By most counts he is about two years from playing in the NHL, if he ever does. What happened to Burke's "impatience"?
Let's get a clear message and direction. If we are preaching patience (as does Nonis, apparently in contrast to Burke), let's not go out and do a bunch of $4.5 million defence signings.
The rest of the defence? The bright light is Luke Schenn, and perhaps to a less immediate extent Keith Aulie. The one defenceman that contributes offensively in a significant way, Kaberle, is apparently on his way out. (I'm not sure why, I expect he would sign for less to play in T.O. and the Leafs need a puck carrying defenceman of his calibre).
What is the timeline and plan for building a solid defensive core? This is step two in building from the net out, no?
So the Leafs aren't going to make the playoffs. Fine. That was the goal and it has failed. The goal now, according to Burke, is to put together a team that will win the Stanley Cup. Fine. When? Is he still impatient?
A key part of good management is setting and communicating clear goals with timelines. That is what your performance measured against. If you set goals and they don't pan out, communicate this and advise of the alternative plan. The problem with this organization at the moment is that the fans are told everything is going according to plan but there are mixed messages as to what the plan is, and the plan is very hard to discern based on the moves to date.
Is the team better? In my view yes. But it is 25th out of 30 teams. It will miss the playoffs. This latest deal doesn't make a playoff berth, let alone a playoff run, any more likely next year.
So, Mr. Burke, what is the plan? What are the missing pieces and what is the timeline?