Hope and the Fifth Overall Pick

MONTREAL, CANADA - MARCH 3: Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke speaks to the media during a press conference to introduce new head coach Randy Carlyle at the Bell Centre on March 3, 2012 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. (Photo by Richard Wolowicz/Getty Images)

Don't know if I've ever seen Brian Burke quite so quiet or downtrodden. Burke sat almost slouched in his chair during the lottery. Rarely looked up. Unusual to see him that way. - @JonasTSN1050

It's clear that the fortunes of the Leafs are taking a toll on Brian Burke. He's had a run in Toronto that's starting to look more like a footnote in the story of our long suffering fandom than the turning point when a once proud franchise found its way.

It's easy to be sympathetic to Brian Burke, the only time I'll mention his personal life here is to point out how hard that's been for him and he's a strong personality that wants to win. When Burke joined the Leafs in November of 2008 he was a welcome addition; his brash style seemed to be the first step that the team needed to become competitive.

Much maligned for the Phil Kessel trade, probably his best move as the GM of the Leafs, a lot of things are working against Brian Burke. If July 1st is the Leafs draft per Burke it's not hard to point out that every player he's signed in the first week of free agency (save for Francois Beauchemin) has been not just a disaster but a disaster that everyone saw coming.

Mike Komisarek, Colby Armstrong, and Brett Lebda were all terrible signings before they played a single game in Toronto. Tim Connolly has defied all reasonable expectations and been a complete flop. He might be the first UFA Brian Burke brought in who people actually thought would be good and then wasn't.

There's not a lot positive to say about Toronto's goaltending short of laughing and making fart noises or photoshopping beach balls and maybe a Chrysler behind Jonas Gustavsson but Brian Burke didn't stray far from his record of goaltending in running with a tandem of, to be generous, two unproven NHL goaltenders.

I was in a project management class last week and the instructor said "one word you can never use is hope". It's ok to hope for the best as a fan. It's ok to look at your team and hope everything goes right because we're sports fans. It's not ok to be an executive earning millions of dollars who looks at role players and bit pieces and hopes they'll turn around the fortunes of the Leafs. It's unacceptable to be the man calling the shots making questionable decisions crossing your fingers for the best.

Randy Carlyle's talk today that the Leafs lacked confidence and conditioning is yet another statement by the Leafs that makes me pray they don't actually believe these things. "He's in the best shape of his life" will be the cries next September, the same way they are every September in 29 other training camps. The Leafs were one of the fastest teams in the league as noted by everyone all season - suddenly they're not in shape?

When Clarke MacArthur and Luke Schenn apologized to the fans I felt bad for them. You can tell they're genuine guys disappointed with how their seasons went and disappointed that they let the fans down. The unfortunate reality for the Leafs is that their problems aren't due to a lack of heart or consistency; their are due to a lack of talent and an impatient general manager. For the Leafs in the locker room who seem like the genuinely do care the sad reality is that before this club will be a playoff team most of them will be long gone.

Leafs fans aren't impatient. It's ridiculous to say "well people don't want to wait for a rebuild" just as it's inane to suggest that by adding Nail Yakupov the Oilers will somehow score their way out of the basement. Leafs fans have watched seven seasons of meaningless hockey and they'll watch an eighth starting next October. We're nothing if not patient.

Brian Burke's stay in Toronto will be defined by this draft and the free agency period that follows. From today's Globe and Mail:

We've avoided doing those wonky contracts [in free agency] that I think are cap circumvention and it's cost us a couple players. That's not going to change. - Brian Burke

The obvious question is that if Burke thinks tanking for a high draft pick is stupid and also thinks that signing impact UFAs is wrong how does this team get better?

Hope that Toronto's draft pick turns out to be a great player.

Hope that in free agency the Leafs land important contributors.

Hope that this team returns to prominence, but most of all hope that this team's general manager is someone who doesn't hope.

Hope that the GM recognizes this team is more than a piece or two away from winning a Cup.

Hope that over the next few months, Burke acts accordingly to fix the multiple shortcomings of this team, because as bad as Brian Burke's been here so far the only list shorter than "Summer 2012 UFA goalies" is "available NHL GMs".

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