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Sunday, January 31, 2010

Burkie Goes Ballistic: Frankie Says Relax

The Litter Box was Johnny (or Janey) on the Spot with this one.  A monster deal between the Flames and the Maple Leafs, not involving Doug Gilmour or Rick Wamsley, went down today.  Elisha Cuthbert's boyfriend gets sent to the friendly (but lately, shitty) confines of the Air Canada Centre, in return for a killing.  Here's the official tally,

Flames get:
- Matt Stajan
- Ian White
- Niklas Hagman
- Jamal Mayers

Toronto gets:
- Dion Phaneuf
- Fredrik Sjostrom
- Keith Aulie

So Burkie takes a big gamble that Phaneuf's first two years were more exemplary of his talent than his last two.  I'll give him the benefit of the doubt; Phaneuf's hitting has maintained itself, and he still possesses a pretty big shot.  They also get Sjostrom, who was an underrated defensive forward for the Rangers last year.

In the end, the Flames made out in a big way.  Ian White's shot is nearly as good as Phaneuf's, and I actually have him rated higher defensively, DV/20 2.77 to Phaneuf's 2.3 (he's much better at takeaways and commits fewer minor penalties).  Stajan's offense is obvious; he might help the Flames spread their shooters (getting Iginla and Jokinen off a line together), as well as provide a solid set-up guy to either player.  Stajan is also relatively sound defensively, with a higher DV/15 than Handzus, Pahlsson, and Saku Koivu, among others.  Hagman adds a solid shooter on the left side, something the Flames don't have (except when Bourque plays the left).

The other two trade chips, Mayers and Aulie, are less interesting.  Mayers was on the block anyway, though that kind of statement about Mayers hasn't drawn interest for years.  Aulie is a project big defensemen, not old enough to drink.  He spent four years in the WHL, only "breaking out" last year with 6 goals and 33 points in 58 games there.  This year he's playing in the AHL, with only 6 points in 43 games.  At 6'5", 210 lbs. (some sources list him a little taller) but only 13 goals in 277 games in the WHL and AHL, he either hasn't figured out how to use his size for shooting, or doesn't plan on it.

In the short term, this likely only slightly boosts the Flames and will definitely not save the Leafs.  It's clear Burke wanted to shake things up, and it's probably relieving for Leafs fans that he's willing to do it now rather than wait for high-priced free agency.  But it does beg the question: is this an open criticism of the lack of physicality on the Leafs' defensive corps?  ...and a second question: should going the "physical route" be the direction for this team?

P.S.  And a third question:  what the hell is Toronto going to do for offense?


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