Monday, February 01, 2010

No deal too small, no deal too large, here at Honest Brian's trading emporium!

"You've got to know when to hold em, and know when to fold em, know when to walk away and know when to run... "-- the new motto for GM's everywhere, now that Brian Burke has launched the trading frenzy festivities.

All that was missing on Sunday was one of those cheesy television commercials done along the lines of the old stereo shop ads, where Brian Burke dressed up in some western garb would sit on a barrel and wheel and deal til there was no more dealing to be done.

Sunday, the Maple Leaf's President and General Manager fired off the starting gun for this year's trading deadline frenzy and he did it on a sleepy Sunday afternoon, leaving only Dave Hodge and his panel on the Reporters to handle the interpretations, a reward for rising so early on the back end of the weekend for Hodge and his panel.

It would have been the kind of wheeling and dealing that the sports networks, TSN, Sportsnet and the Score would have loved to have had dropped on their desks during their annual wall to wall trade deadline coverage, but this year, it could be that by the time we get to the deadline in the first week of March all the dealing will have been done.

One wonders if Burke finally signed off on his hard work after viewing his team's complete implosion on Saturday night, surrendering a three goal lead and then playing the pylon to the Sedin and Burrows practice show of the second and particularly the third period of Saturday's nationally telecast game.

Vesa Toskala found that his bags may very well have been packed before the three stars were announced Saturday, he and Jason Blake shipped off to Anaheim bringing J. S. Giguere to Toronto to be reunited with his one time GM and his old goal tending coach, the expectation being we imagine that he will provide a bridge for the learning curve of Jonas Gustavsson, while shoring up the Leafs troubling lapses in the nets this year .

And while moving Blake's salary and Toskala's ineffectiveness might have been enough following Saturday nights destruction, Burke had already served up the main attraction of the day. That being the acquisition of the enigmatic Dion Phaneuf, the hard hitting, cannon firing shot master of the Flames who has struggled rather much this season and seemed to be just the right candidate for a change of scenery, though few actually ever thought it would happen in Calgary.

Phaneuf, despite his struggles this season has been on of the anchors of the Flames franchise since he moved up from the junior ranks. With his legendary body checks and a shot that strikes fear in all who step in front of it, he seemed to be the kind of player that a team would build its franchise around. Yet, he hadn't stepped up this season so far, with some suggesting his omission from the Olympic roster had weighed heavily on him this year serving as the distraction to a less than remarkable season thus far.

With his move to the Leafs, he instantly becomes one of the keys in Brian Burke's instant re-modelling project (just in time for the federal tax credit program perhaps) which will see him as one of the anchors in the Leafs of the future. Burke also picked up a pair of young prospects from the Flames, Freddie Sjostrom and a highly regarded defensive prospect Keith Aulie, more or less the padding in the parcel around the Dion shipment.

It was a bold move for Burke and one that could very well pay off with high dividends providing Phaneuf can get out of his funk and adapt to the rather intrusive nature of the fishbowl that is Toronto's media scene.

Heading to Calgary is an interesting mix of young an old, high end salaries and soon to be free agents, all apparently arriving to shake up an under performing Flames team. It's of interest to Flames fans to note that Darryl Sutter went on with the deal immediately after perhaps the Flames most complete game in the last six weeks a major thrashing of their northern cousins the Oilers.

Moving into the Flames line up will be Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan and Ian White. It's anticipated that Stajan may be introduced into the line with Jarmoe Iginla, and that really is about the only interesting aspect of the trade, if only to see if he can provide the spark to get Iginla and the Flames back on track.

Of the remainder of the new Flames, Sutter has acquired in Hagman, a journeyman forward, a player in Mayers, who only last week went public with his demand for a trade (never a team building exercise) and a young defenceman in White who shows much progress (God knows anyone who could at least show some courage on the Leafs blue line is a prospect) but at the moment isn't of the caliber of a Phaneuf. The rumour mill in Calgary was on full alert Sunday with reports that Sutter wasn't finished yet either, with Olli Jokinnen the most discussed asset that could soon be an ex Flame.

Burke with his moves on Sunday, eliminated some of the luggage he inherited from the previous regime, moving them to teams that at the start of the season were considered to be in the top echelon of potential playoff contenders, so to improve they, Calgary and Anaheim take the discards of the near cellar dwelling Leafs, it is to make you wonder just where they may be heading now.

It's not a wonder that many suggest that Burke won the day, showing the steely resolve to pull the trigger on trades that instantly bring a bit of credibility back to the Leafs. And while it's doubtful that the deals today will turn the Leafs into a playoff participant this year, it offers up a glimpse of the future. Not to mention that it may move them up from the embarrassment of surrendering a number one pick to the Bruins at the draft in June, and that, for this year, may actually be as important as anything else.

Toronto Star-- `Vital building block'
Toronto Sun-- A flickering Flame

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