NHL

Burke not panicking despite Leafs' woeful start

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TSN.ca Staff
10/14/2009 8:13:37 PM
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Despite the Toronto Maple Leafs' woeful 0-5-1 start to the season, general manager Brian Burke says he is not ready to panic.

Burke, who was interviewed by ESPN.com on Wednesday, said that he still believes in the team that he has put on the ice.

"If I didn't think this group could get the job done, I'd be more concerned," Burke told ESPN. "But I believe in the group."

The general manger also took time to say that head coach Ron Wilson's job was safe, and that any talk of firing Wilson was premature.

"Well, I think it's absurd," Burke said. "This guy has coached over 1,000 games in the NHL. Did he suddenly forget how to coach? I can tell you this, there will be numerous, multiple player changes before the coaching staff would even be looked at, let alone considered. The players are at fault here. We're not getting it done. It's not the coaching staff. It's the players not executing."

Along those lines, the Leafs have allowed 10 power-play goals against and have the second worst penalty-killing percentage in the league at 58.3%. Only the Dallas Stars have been victimized more in shorthanded situations.

The Maple Leafs have allowed 28 goals against in their six games, which is the most in the league, and because of injuries to Vesa Toskala and Jonas Gustavsson, the club was forced to dress their third and fourth goaltenders for Tuesday's game.

Instead of pinpointing the blame to one area, Burke stated that the entire team was at fault.

"There's plenty of blame to go around," Burke told ESPN. "If we're going to start pointing fingers, you have to point at every facet of our game right now. Our goaltending hasn't been good enough, our defensemen are not playing aggressively enough in our own end, and they're making bonehead plays and getting beat one-on-one. Our forwards are not sustaining a forecheck nor scoring goals, and our special teams have struggled.

"That's a lethal combination when your four key areas to winning hockey games aren't there."

Burke acknowledged that he understands why some Leafs fans are upset at the prospect of having a losing team, and not having their first or second round pick in this year's Entry Draft, or their first round selection in 2011, all because of the Phil Kessel trade.

Kessel has yet to play a game as he recovers from a shoulder injury, and meanwhile the first round pick the Bruins acquired the rights to is now looking more and more like a lottery selection to some fans.

For his part, Burke says he would make the deal again.

"Well, if I had known we'd be 0-6, I still would have done that trade," Burke told ESPN. "I can't draft a player who is going have that kind of impact this year in this draft. This is about being better this year. But I'm not annoyed at any reaction from the fans. When you're 0-6, you should be grateful they're still coming to the games."

Burke also stated that he has had contact with other general managers with regards to making a move to improve the last place Leafs, but none of the proposals have been up to par.

"The ones that are calling, it's not a helpful group," Burke told ESPN of his discussions with other GMs. "I haven't got anything but anchors thrown at me."

With the Leafs playing next on Saturday against the Rangers, and then having a full week off before they play the Canucks the following Saturday, Burke sees the schedule as a benefit for a team that needs to regroup.

"I think we just have to be patient," said Burke. "As Ronny said last night, we'll try a little reset this week, maybe have a little fun and have a meeting to talk about things."




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