Toronto Maple Leafs fans had some time to think about the moves made in the past couple of days to their beloved hockey team and the buzz spreading around is a common sensation in Leafs Nation: Optimism.
After losing out on the Brad Richards sweepstakes, many Leafs fans pondered about their favourite teams direction in the future. However, Brian Burke is sure to have a back up plan since there is always a Burkie trick during moments like these.
Sure Leafs nation can sulk about not having a name like Richards centering the top line, but at the end of the day, Richards is still a New York Ranger. Where Burke made up for it was by making a couple of exciting moves that generated the buzz.
The signing of Tim Connolly provided them with another option to centre the top line. Connolly, a Syracuse native, has speed and although often injured, offers Phil Kessel his first real playmaking linemate.
The former Sabre tallied 13 goals and 42 points in 68 games last year, despite constant concussions and groin injuries.
Connolly’s greatest asset right now is his speed and experience. He is coming to Toronto after playing in a fast paced and high octane offence in Buffalo, and Burke and Ron Wilson hopes he can help influence this team with the same tempo.
The other move made by Burke was a trade with the Nashville Predators. Burke acquired another speedy centre with concussion issues in Matthew Lombardi and also added a talented young puck moving defenseman, Cody Franson; in exchange for Brett Lebda and Robert Slaney.
In a trade that on paper seems one sided in favour of Toronto, Leafs fans must stay wary when assessing the spoils of this trade.
Matthew Lombardi, like Connolly is a player with injury issues, except his is a lot more prominent than that of Connolly. Lombardi is more to take salary away from the Predators and the Leafs are just going to buy out the rest of his contract once he revives from injury.
Cody Franson is the cornerstone of this trade. He is a young defenseman who effectively combines his size and skill and provides the team with a stronger option than Lebda for back end support.
After recording 29 points in 80 games last year, the 6-foot-5 213 pound defensemen is looking to improve on his offensive numbers while still continuing to build his physical game.
The addition of Franson has raised a few questions about which six-man defence team they will put on the ice come the start of the season.
The likely group would seem to consist of: Dion Phaneuf, Luke Schenn, Keith Aulie, Carl Gunnarsson, draft day acquisition John-Michael Liles and Franson; leaving Mike Komisarek as the apparent odd man out.
Burke knows his needs lie up front and the acquisition of another top six forward is the first item on his list.
With off-season playing out, hockey fans will see many more league shaking deals. Leafs fans in particular are looking to Burke to take another step in the right direction in the upcoming campaign.
For Leafs fans, staying optimistic during another rebuild is tough but they are pushing it to its threshold. Their faith in Burke as the architect of that rebuild appears to stay strong and he should.
Full speed ahead Burke and Toronto, we wish you god speed.
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