Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager (for now) Brian Burke gave the media some updates on drafting Morgan Rielly of the Moose Jaw Warriors fifth overall in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft. For the benefit of those of you without video capabilities, I'll have a transcript after the jump.
Question: I guess Brian you can never have enough good defence
Burke: Well I think everyone knows my feeling on it, that winning championships begins and ends on the blue line. We had this player rated first overall. Wouldn't say that if it wasn't true just to build up the pick. This is the guy that if we had the first pick in the draft we would have taken him. He has a high hockey IQ, high compete level, smart decisions MUMBLE. The future's really bright for him so we're, we're excited. Our scouts are ecstatic.
PPP: To be honest, I'd like to see this dedication to building the team through the blueline. It's not nearly as bad as hearing that he has promised himself that he'd never be caught short of goaltending (spoiler: that's basically his legacy as Leafs GM right now) but based on moves like bringing in Brett Lebda, Mike Komisarek, Garnet Exelby while ridding himself of guys like Pavel Kubina and Francois Beauchemin (at least, thank God, for a great return) not to mention the contracts for Luke Schenn and John-Michael Liles seem to suggest that he's still working out how to build that blueline in Toronto.
But for now, Brian Burke seems like Sun Tzu waging a war while ignoring all of his supposed wisdom. That's actually a little glib because he has started building the possible building blocks of that future blueline with Jesse Blacker, Jake Gardiner, Morgan Rielly, Stuart Percy and obviously the inherited Schenn and Korbinian Holzer might still have roles to play but he made a lot of promises of building that future while building a team that could play now and obviously he's failed at that.
Question: Do you think that had he been healthy one of the teams would have picked him a little higher?
Burke: Well, I think the injury set him back on some teams' lists. I go back to Keith Tkachuk's year in his draft year he broke his ankle and Winnipeg were able to get him much later than they would have otherwise. So I think it probably set him back on some teams' lists. We checked out the injury and we're not concerned about it.
PPP: I think Pierre McGuire made a good point (I almost can't believe that I wrote that) that we are in a time when ACL surgeries and the attendant recovery are commonplace. Rielly wasn't subject to the kind of butchering that Bobby Orr faced and which ultimately curbed his career. By all accounts, Rielly's skating is both high-end and fully recovered. Personally, I've always said that if a player has to have only one skill it's pretty good if it's strong NHL-calibre skating. I mean, ideally they'd have more than one skill but as a Leaf fan it's hard to be greedy.
Question: Did you explore the possibility to move up to get him?
Burke: Well we felt that he'd get to us and there were other players that we'd like if we weren't able to. I did look into moving up but I didn't like the price. It would have cost us a fortune to move up. The couple of deals that we were offered did not make any sense. We wouldn't have been better as a result. We would have got the player we wanted but we wouldn't have been better as an organization so no.
PPP: There's a lot going on in this statement. The first is that the Leafs really like Rielly. Let's pretend we live in a world where we can take Burke at his word without a thought to semantics. The first thing you'll think is that if they had Rielly as number one in the entire draft and they thought that he would be available at five then they probably had a vastly different draft board from the teams ahead of them.
One thing someone mentioned on Twitter was that it seemed counter intuitive that Burke would not be willing to trade up for a player they thought was the best player in the draft. He mentions that he had other players that he would have been able to pick if Rielly was gone. So "Rielly minus the exorbitant assets needed to move up" was not as valuable as "next best available player + the exorbitant assets need to move up". Was it the right choice? Well, considering that he got his man anyway it sure seems so.
Question: How far away is he from playing?
Burke: That's going to be up to him. This is a guy you don't have to tell where the weight room is. This is a guy you don't have to tell how to work hard. This is a guy that knows how to practice. He's probably going to be fast-tracked is the way he comes but we certainly aren't expecting him to play next year.
PPP: Well, the fact that the Leafs aren't expecting him to play in the NHL next year is a good one. That's probably some pressure the kid can avoid. Burke has said before that if he had been the GM in Schenn's first year that he would have gone back to Kelowna. Whether it would have helped or not is hypothetical but Rielly is going to have to earn his spot.
The way Burke describes him is hilarious because it makes him seem like a dimwit. Oh he knows how to find the weight room? Thank Christ, he's not some kind of slackjawed drooler like Harrison Ruopp. In all seriousness, by all accounts he killed the exercises at the combine for whatever that's worth.
HENNY QUESTION: Seems to be very good in his own zone, doesn't panic with the puck, and can jump into the rush quite easily
Burke: And judiciously too. He's a good skater so he can join the rush but we feel he's not reckless. Mature in terms of his decision making. For a kid his age he makes wise decisions. He's not an impetuous player.
PPP: Burke should have just led with "he's no Bryan McCabe" and we could have all been happy. I'll show more in the Rielly wrap up post but that's what a lot of scouts say which is good because lord knows this team lacks hockey IQ...and regular IQ.