Thursday, August 12, 2010

Brian Burke vs. A Wheel of Brie

Prompted by Curt’s Brian Burke Backslap I have taken it upon myself to post this rebuttal. I do so on behalf of two vastly underrepresented groups on Maple Leafs blogs and message boards: Non-Leafs fans and Leafs Fans Who Recognize Brian Burke’s Incompetence.

Curt’s thesis, if I understood correctly, was that Brian Burke has improved the prospect depth of the organization since he took over in November 2008. Apart from some shady logic (the existence of a “Top 10” prospects in the organization doesn’t mean that those 10 prospects are necessarily good), maybe that’s true – heaven knows it couldn’t get any worse than it was then. Does that mean, however, that Brian Burke has done a good job? I say no. And to prove it, I’m going to stage the Ultimate Face-Off:


Given the job of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager in November 2008, which of the combatants would produce the better prospect pool? I’m going to look at it in the three ways you can add prospects: trade, free agency, and draft.

Brian Burke has acquired the following “futures” (prospects or draft picks) via trade:
2009 2nd, 2nd, 4th, 2010 2nd, 4th, 5th, 5th, 7th, 2011 2nd, 7th
Keith Aulie, Luca Caputi, Chris Peluso, Ryan Hamilton, Matt Jones, Bill Sweatt

He has traded away the following:
2009 4th, 2010 1st, 2nd, 5th, 6th, 6th, 2011 1st, 2012 7th
Viktor Stalberg, Jiri Tlusty, Philippe Paradis, Chris DiDomenico, Tim Stapleton, Robby Earl, Richard Petiot, Jimmy Hayes

Brian Burke’s body of work shows better-quality draft picks given away than retained, and almost certainly worse players coming in than going out. The Wheel of Brie would have retained all the draft picks (Seguin included), retained the better-quality prospects, and been delicious on crackers.

EDGE: Brie

Free Agents
Bombastic Burkie has enticed the following prospects via free agency:
Christian Hanson, Tyler Bozak, Robert Slaney, Jonas Gustavsson, Brayden Irwin, Jussi Rynnas, Ben Scrivens

The Wheel of Brie would not have put the Leafs up against the 50-contract limit but may have missed out on some quality prospects. The Brie is also high in trans fats.

EDGE: Burke

It’s unscientific, but let’s look back at Burke’s drafts as GM (’09 and ’10) and compare the picks he made to the player available at that ranking by the Central Scouting Bureau, who would have been the default pick of the cheesy competitor (I only did the first three rounds because after that it gets silly to try to look these kids up and project them at all).

7 - Nazem Kadri (Burke), Magnus Paajarvi-Svensson (Brie)
50 - Kenny Ryan (Burke), Alex Hutchings (Brie)
58 - Jesse Blacker (Burke), Tyson Barrie (Brie)
68 - Jamie Devane (Burke), Taylor Doherty (Brie)

43 - Brad Ross (Burke), Ryan Spooner (Brie)
62 - Greg McKegg (Burke), Justin Faulk (Brie)

Unfortunately we won’t see a clear winner here until 2-3 years from now but looking at the centerpiece (Kadri vs. Paajarvi) and the 2nd rounders in ‘09, it would be hard to argue that the Big Irishman is ahead of the Big Wheel – and I’d rather hang out with the Brie after it gets baked.

EDGE: Brie

So there you have it, Leafs fans, a 2-1 decision for the cheese. Two milky-white chunks of fat enter, only one remains. You can pat Burkie on the back all you want…me, I’d wish my team had kept the millions of dollars in GM salary and just sent me the brie.


Anonymous said...

Umm, whether the top ten prospects are good or not, if he's acquired people in the top ten list, he's improved the depth... even if it's an improvement from awful to bad. Idiot.

Destroyko said...

Or, he's been around for two years and has seen enough prospects graduate (or traded them) that by default his input has been upgraded to top-10 status. There was a top-10 list back then, too, y'know.

Curt S said...

@ Destroyko

Who graduated from the old top ten list...? Luke Schenn and nobody that would make the list to begin with. I stand by my statement that he's deepened the prospect pool. So does Hockey's Future and until they say that our system sucks, their word is law.

Mr. Koolaide said...

Uhm when did he trade away Sweatt? Gotta get your facts right, like baked brie is great but only if you have a hot chick making it for you.

Hilleraj said...

So how come you list Stalberg as a 'prospect', but don't list Versteeg or Kessel on there? Last time I checked, Stalberg is older than either of these two guys (and that probably won't change, based on my understanding of, uh, time).

The Wheel of Brie wouldn't have got that one wrong, dude. Looks like you're down 1-0.

Destroyko said...

I used GP, not age, as a sort of barometer for prospects. Stalberg is less than half a season so he's a prospect. But now that you bring it up, by that measure Bozak should be out...but whatever.

@mr. koolaide
Quite right sir, quite right. Wasn't an issue of fact-checking, I knew he was on the other side of the ledger, I just put him in the wrong list (Blogspot has an...inelegant input format). Good catch.

My point is not that the prospect pool didn't deepen, it's that Burke deepened it LESS than he would have if he had done nothing. His actions stemmed the flow of depth into the prospect pool but didn't stop it entirely.

Unknown said...

Heh, I don't think people got that some of this was tongue-and-cheek...

Only big thing missing is, especially in the "Trade" section, there only includes the prospects gotten back... Missing players should include Kessel (22yo), Versteeg(24yo), Phaneuf (25yo), Giguere (33yo).

He did give up some youth, but other than Giguere those aren't exactly old men. And Versteeg is actually younger than Stalberg.

Hilleraj said...

Hmmm, so someone qualifies as a 'prospect' to you if they haven't been good enough to play more than a handful of games in the NHL by the time they're in their mid- (Earl) to late- (Petiot, Stapleton) twenties?

I understand the frustration with Burke's methods, but he's definitely upped the quality of young, controlable talent in the Leafs system. It's easy to make up your own categories, give them even weighting, and then rip on Burke when he doesn't register as a success across them all (and I'd have a real hard time buying into your draft argument, seeing as it looks more like a cut-and-paste job, than real analysis... Hutchings fell to the 4th round on draft day - I guess the Brie didn't do his homework). But the fact of the matter is, the players he's brought to the team are poised to have much bigger impacts on the league than those he shipped off... and isn't that what building a contender is all about?

Destroyko said...


Its awl juss a spot o' fun, eh? ;)

Of course there's a case to be made that Burke made the Leafs "younger and better" (I don't agree with that case either but it's very arguable), I just had to put the line for "prospect" somewhere and chose a half-season of NHL experience. If you don't set a line somewhere, you end up in a place where Sam Gagner is a prospect, Carl Gunnarsson isn't, and that way dragons be...

Curt S said...

@ Destroyko

I was refering to the, "Apart from some shady logic (the existence of a “Top 10” prospects in the organization doesn’t mean that those 10 prospects are necessarily good)" part, not the thesis of your own article. Engaging in a little self-defense.

Destroyko said...


Yeah I gotcha. What I meant was "good enough". Even if you accept that the Leafs have the 6th-best prospect pool, I say it should be better.

Pensky said...

wait, let me get this cleared up because trying to read your blog gave me a DON'T like Brian Burke as GM of the Leafs?

if thats true then you are dumber than a box of rocks