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Jason Chen



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I thought I was in for a long night when Phil Kessel scored just minutes apart and Jamal Mayers wired a shot past an uncharacteristically mediocre Roberto Luongo. It always stings to lose to the Leafs on every level, but Vancouver's big line came through and scored 5 straight goals to seal the win. I don't think the Canucks came out flat in the first, but more so that the Leafs really capitalized on what few chances they had. Vesa Toskala was good in net despite letting in four goals and I think this is the first time in awhile the Leafs have played with some jump in their game. The loss shouldn't be attributed to their lack of work ethic but more so the personnel - they couldn't find a single pairing or line that could match up against the Sedins. Admittedly it's difficult for any team to cover the league's leading scorer but the Sedins completely dominated. Andrew Raycroft rubbed it in to the crowd who obviously really relished the win against his former employers and was happy to get some playing time. Don't worry, Andrew, I think we'll see some more of you on this big road trip. The Canucks have started off quite well. There's little to write on on a big win like this, in part because it's easier to criticize after a loss. All hockey teams in Canada know this.

<img src="http://scrapetv.com/News/News%20Pages/Sports/images-2/brian-burke.jpg"class="imageFloatLeftFramed">After their monumental collapse, in which the Leafs fell for the fourth time this season after leading in the first (11-4-3), Brian Burke made some sweeping changes. I honestly thought the Leafs would at least be in the hunting for a playoff spot with their upgrades on the back end and with Kessel coming in, but their disastrous season thus far is worth examining. Anyone who thought this re-building process was not going to be painful and slow should have another drink or two, and let me preface this by saying that I'm a fan of Brian Burke - but you have to like his move to get Dion Phaneuf.

Blowing a 3 goal lead, especially to Vancouver and the big Sedin line, must've hurt Burke than the other 39 losses. So amidst the rumours that Phaneuf was the block, which was vehemently denied by Darryl Sutter, Burke went out and got the big fish for literally nothing (at least in terms of long-term assets). As much as I criticize Phaneuf for his bone-headed play, he is a remarkably talented player with a big booming shot. He's a one of a kind defenseman but really lacks that level-headedness that separates him from the league's elite. The Flames also sent Fredrik Sjostrom, a serviceable depth player and good penalty killer to the Leafs, but I think the name that everyone should keep tabs on is Keith Aulie. The 116th overall pick in the 2007 draft, the towering 6'6" defenseman was a stalwart for the 2009 Canadian World Junior squad and the Brandon Wheat Kings. He's the type of player that Burke loves - big, strong, and full of sandpaper - kind of like another Robyn Regehr, whom he idolized. I have no idea what made Sutter give up on him. Aulie has appeared in 43 games for the Abbotsford Heat this season, along with 6 points, 32 penalty minutes, and +1. It would've been nice for Burke to stockpile picks, but this package is probably better than that. You get an established player in Phaneuf and a potential blue chipper in Aulie.

So what did the Flames get? Quantity over quality in Matt Stajan, Nik Hagman, Jamal Mayers, and Ian White. While I think all four are serviceable players, none of them are what the Flames are looking for - the big playmaking centre for Jarome Iginla. Stajan has the potential to be that guy, especially if he's paired with Iginla, having notched 40 assists in 76 games last season. Inconsistency is a problem here but like Ron Wilson, Brent Sutter demands a lot out of his players and really keeps them accountable. Hagman is a strong two-way player and a hard worker I think Sutter will like, as well as Jamal Mayers who approached Burke about a trade a couple days ago. Ian White is a versatile player and can play defense or wing. White, Stajan, and Mayers are all free agents at the end of the season, although I do believe White is a RFA. The Flames get cap flexibility now that Phaneuf is gone, and you have to wonder if this means more moves are in the works for the Flames, who have been linked to Ilya Kovalchuk.

And as I'm writing this, I hear the Leafs have packaged Vesa Toskala and Jason Blake to Anaheim for JS Giguere, who obviously has waived his no-trade clause. The writing was on the wall with Jonas Hiller's recent extension and this move had been rumoured for months. When it becomes a staple in the mill for this long, it was probably bound to happen, much like Burke's departure from Anaheim to take the Leafs job. Despite what anyone says about Giguere being a pads goalie, check his stats - his .922 SV%, a career high, came after the league decided to cut down on pad sizes. He's now re-united with not only Burke, who helped him out with his baby who had eye problems (which led to the no-trade clause), but also highly regarded goaltending coach Francois Allaire.

Despite the Leafs having zero offense outside of Phil Kessel and Alexei Ponikarovsky now, Burke has really made progress with these trades. He's building a solid team from the net out. Even if Giguere is not the long-term answer he's a great short-term solution until we can really see what Jonas Gustavsson can really do. The back end is good enough for now, although with Phaneuf you have to wonder if there are more moves coming (cue Tomas Kaberle rumours). Up front it's still a mess, but Burke can address those problems in the off-season. This gun-ho attitude has just landed the Leafs a premium defenseman, a good prospect, and a solid goaltending while giving up players that meant little in the long-term.

What does this all mean for Vancouver? Well, for one, we'll really be missing the opportunity to see Phaneuf get completely owned by the Sedins. We also won't be

anytime soon either. I don't particularly like the package the Flames got and in the other deal the Ducks mainly benefit from cap relief this summer. Is this a playoff push by Burke? Well, it seems like it, but it also addresses long-term goals as well. If Giguere does re-sign in Toronto, I highly doubt it will be for the same salary he's earning now, which is $7 million. At 33 he's still got some years in him, enough time anyway for Burke to find a more suitable solution.

But I think an interesting point to ponder here is Burke. After another playoff collapse, he promised sweeping off-season changes but neither him nor protege Dave Nonis had the opportunity. You have to really wonder what sort of changes Burke had in mind - the big Irishman is no stranger to bold moves.

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