OTTAWA – The rewards of his three biggest trades as President and General Manager of the Leafs, Brian Burke was suitably pleased that Joffrey Lupul, Dion Phaneuf and Phil Kessel were named to the 2012 NHL All-Star Game in Ottawa.
A brief chat with Burke following the Board of Governors meeting in the nation's capital on Saturday afternoon.
SIEGEL: If I had told you a year ago that Joffrey would be an All-Star what would you have told me?
BURKE: I'd have sent you for a urine test. We thought Joffrey could be a solid player on our team and a good addition. He has exceeded and excelled above whatever we had hoped for. He's been terrific.
SIEGEL: Well, when he was drafted – obviously a first round pick – there was expectation, do you think he's evolving into the kind of player people probably thought he could be?
BURKE: The year I traded him – we went to the conference finals that year – and I thought he was our best forward. I thought he had a real good playoff performance, but we needed to put him in the deal to get Pronger. I didn't want to trade him, but we needed to put him in. I've respected him as a player for a long time now so I expected that he would fit in here and help, not at this level though.
SIEGEL: How about Dion? This just seems to be a carryover from the second half last year.
BURKE: I think this is what Dion is; I think Dion is an All-Star. I think he's a powerful, violent force out there defensively, I think he contributes offensively, his leadership skills are unquestioned. This is how many [All-Star] appearances? Second? You'll see more.
SIEGEL: Do you think he's more comfortable in the leadership role? He just seems at ease as a captain now.
BURKE: Keep in mind, he's come in here and he's the captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs; it's one of the most iconic brands in the history of pro sports on the planet. Forget hockey.
SIEGEL: And a lot of responsibility...
BURKE: Yeah. And a huge group he's got to deal with. It was clear he wasn't 100 per cent comfortable even though he wanted that role and embraced it and now yes he's way more comfortable.
SIEGEL: How about Phil? He's on his way to 40 goals. I don't think any surprise really with the way he's taken off.
BURKE: No, he's been a solid performer for us since the day we got him. Last year I thought he took a step forward as being a more complete player and we see more of that this year.