Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke emerged looking like the good guy after being criticized by the Sun’s Steve Simmons for visiting Canadian troops in Afghanistan rather than backing up the Brinks truck for the oft-concussed Brad Richards. While the Globe & Mail’s Jeff Blair doesn’t take issue with Burke’s goodwill gesture, nor his recent appearance at a Toronto Gay Pride event, it’s the Leafs’ willingness to compete rather than the GM’s work ethic he finds questionable.
Burke no doubt sees these criticisms as code for people believing he is not fully focused on the task at hand, and without question that rankles. What he must also understand is the underlying hockey reason for the questions: the notion that he somehow has not used the full economic might of team owner Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment to the betterment of the franchise. Sentiment is growing – including in this corner – that it’s time for Burke to stop upbraiding his peers about circumventing the salary cap and using offer sheets as little more than a threat and commence throwing around his team’s financial weight.
It’s true nobody uses offer sheets – the owners’ drunken spending in other areas is for this reason a good thing, otherwise the National Hockey League Players’ Association might start musing publicly about collusion – and there are restricted free agents such as Steven Stamkos whose teams would likely match offers. But why not push those teams to the brink? Since when did the Leafs modus operandi become being thy brother’s keeper?