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Your! Call: Who deserves credit for the Leafs' 2013 success?

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Shane McNeil, TSN.ca
3/8/2013 3:07:32 PM
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It's been an intriguing time of transition in Toronto.

In the span of just under two months, the Maple Leafs have gone from a team scrambling for an identity as the Dave Nonis era officially began to a solid playoff contender within reach of the top spot in the Eastern Conference.

The Leafs' play thus far in 2013 has been consistent: The team has not lost back-to-back games in over a month and has not lost more than two in a row all season.

The Leafs have also avoided leaving points on the table as one of only two NHL teams without an overtime loss and one of only three to have not participated in a shootout this season.

So, who deserves the credit?

Brian Burke, speaking at the annual Conn Smythe dinner to support Easter Seals Thursday night, took a good chunk of the credit for himself.

"Sometimes you do the hard work and set the table and somebody else eats the meal," Burke said in a candid speech.

It's true that – aside from waiver addition Frazer McLaren – every member of the current Leafs squad was acquired by or is playing on a contract they signed with Brian Burke.

The team's top five scorers include one draft pick (Nazem Kadri), three trade acquisitions (Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk and Cody Franson) and one free agent (Tyler Bozak) all acquired by Burke.

But how much credit does Burke deserve?

Dave Nonis was in charge when it came time to select the 2013 team and coach Randy Carlyle certainly had some say.

The decision to play the likes of Kadri and Matt Frattin (when healthy) over under-performing forwards like Tim Connolly and Matthew Lombardi – who were waived and traded, respectively – was Nonis' call.

The team has enjoyed somewhat of a make-over this year with character additions from the American Hockey League.

Six players from Thursday night's line-up have logged games for the Toronto Marlies this season, including defencemen Mike Kostka, Mark Fraser and Korbinian Holzer in addition to Kadri, Leo Komarov, and Ben Scrivens.

Trusting those three former AHL defencemen for 15-plus minutes per night over established vets like John-Michael Liles and Mike Komisarek was another decision not made by Burke.

Another man who should not be overlooked for the success the Leafs are currently enjoying is Burke's predecessor, John Ferguson Jr.

Though much-maligned by fans during his tenure for player personnel decisions at the pro level, his fingerprints are still evident on the 2013 Leafs.

Seven members of the Leafs' current roster were drafted by the club.

Of those seven players, six were drafted by Ferguson: Nikolai Kulemin, James Reimer, Holzer and Komarov in 2006, Frattin and Carl Gunnarsson in 2007.

Only one member of the current Leafs squad – Kadri - was drafted by Burke, despite having helmed the club's last four drafts.

Again, many of the Ferguson picks were signed or re-signed by Burke but not every GM possesses the ability to draft multiple everyday players out of the same draft, especially when looking outside the first round.

Or is it Carlyle's influence?

The team has burned through two head coaches since its last playoff appearance in 2004 and while there is still plenty of schedule left before the 2013 Stanley Cup playoffs begin, the season is more than halfway done and the Leafs are in good shape.

It is Carlyle that is putting the liens together and allotting ice time and he deserves plenty of credit for getting the most out of a cast of call-ups, as well as having players like van Riemsdyk and Franson on-pace for career years despite the shortened schedule.

So, is Burke right? Did he set the table for Nonis to succeed? Or, have the efforts of the men that preceded him and followed in his footsteps been overlooked?

Who really deserves the credit for the Leafs' 2013 success thus far?

As always, it's Your! Call.

Brian Burke, David Nonis (Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

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(Photo: Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)
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