Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke (right) and head coach Ron Wilson at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays Light Fire Under Burke's Seat In Toronto

The 2012-13 offseason has been an exciting one for Toronto Blue Jays fans, and while the NHL season still hangs in the balance, the recent buzz with the Jays could have Brian Burke squirming in his chair.

In the blink of an eye, Blue Jays General Manager Alex Anthopoulos has become a hero in Toronto, while Burke largely remains a villain.

Needless to say, Leafs GM Brian Burke has been under heavy fire over the last few seasons for not being aggressive enough on the open market.

Anthopoulos faced similar criticism in the last couple seasons.  That is, until he took his conservative, rebuilding-mode image and blew it all to pieces with a blockbuster trade with the Marlins, the signing of Melky Cabrera and a trade with the New York Mets.

In the two trades, the Jays were able to acquire the 2012 National League Cy Young winning pitcher R.A. Dickey, veteran pitcher Josh Johnson, left-handed pitcher Mark Buehrle and four-time All-Star shortstop Jose Reyes.

All while only shipping out the overpaid and under-performing Yunel Escobar along with a score of prospects, which Toronto was overly abundant in.

Anthopoulos effectively turned the Jays from an up-and-coming team to a World Series contender in one fell swoop.  If one looks at the Leafs and Jays last season, the similarities are striking.

The Leafs have had one consistent All-Star over the last few years in Phil Kessel, just as the Jays have had in Jose Bautista; both known for their offensive impact.  Joffrey Lupul emerged as one of the league’s best, as did Edwin Encarnacion for the Jays.

March 19, 2012; Boston, Massachusetts, USA; Boston Bruins center Patrice Bergeron (37) congratulates center Brad Marchand (63) after his goal on Toronto Maple Leafs goalie James Reimer (34) during the first period at TD Banknorth Garden. Mandatory Credit: Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The goaltending woes on the ice could even relate to the disappointment on the mound, with injuries, poor rotation schemes by coaching/management and just plain poor performance down the stretch.

But both teams overall had loads of up-and-coming talent with extraordinary development programs who looked to possibly dominate years down the road.

The differences in the two franchises now couldn’t be any more noticeable.

The acquisitions the Jays have made thus far in the offseason are equivalent to the Leafs going out an getting a top-notch center, an elite goaltender and a high-end defenseman.  All of it for the price of some prospects, a few draft picks and maybe fan-favourite Mike Komisarek and his eye-popping contract which pays him handsomely for either playing in the minors or sitting in the penalty box.

Even if Leafs fans aren’t overly enthused about the baseball world, this crazy Blue Jays offseason will only put more pressure on Burke, whose seat is already uncomfortably heated, to pull the trigger on a deal, any deal… a big deal.

Because much like Anthopoulos last season, Burke is swarmed with prospects; far too many he could possibly put to good use any time soon.  And much like the Jays in recent years, along with every Toronto-based professional sports team, the Leafs’ playoff drought has endured far too long to take a complete rebuilding stage seriously.

In retrospect, a rebuilding stage of any degree should have taken place when Burke first took over.  However, he has done a terrific job in getting the future in line in recent years, and many feel he is doing now what he should have done years ago.

But his job is not dependent on how the Marlies do or how many top prospects he can acquire.  His job rests solely on, not only a playoff berth, but a good run at the Stanley Cup.

In the words of Burke himself, he wants the dance in this city.  I hate to burst the bubble, but that dance won’t happen with all the draft picks in the world.  Veteran talent is every bit as important as young talent is.

Burke has already proven this in his successful campaign with Anaheim.  Even the likes Corey Perry, Dustin Penner and Ryan Getzlaf were not enough.  He went out and acquired future Hall-of-Famers in Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger.  Not forgetting, of course, the Finish Flash Teemu Selanne.

With veterans comes leadership and experience; two attributes which cannot be overlooked.

Apr 3, 2012; Buffalo, NY, USA; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Dion Phaneuf (3) during the game against the Buffalo Sabres at First Niagara Center. Sabres beat the Leafs 6-5 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

The Leafs proved that in the final stretch last season.  They displayed neither experience nor leadership as Leafs Nation watched the playoff season slowly slip away in one of the greatest meltdowns this city has ever seen.

We had neither of these attributes in goaltending, defense or up front.  When the going got tough, the team was unable to respond to adversity.

With a fresh coaching change, much like the one that took place for the Blue Jays, it appears to be a better time than ever to start being aggressive on the market.

Ever since Burke took the helm in Toronto, Leafs fans have been waiting for that move that will blow us all away.  Yet ever year, are disappointed with minimal action by the front office.

Could these Blue Jays acquisitions finally push Burke over the edge?  The reality for him remains if he doesn’t, he could very well be pushed off the edge and into the unemployment line.


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Tags: Brian Burke Joffrey Lupul Phil Kessel Toronto Maple Leafs

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