Around the NHL: Sun’s Simmons says Leafs are ‘a horrible hockey team’

Here’s a story that should give Bruins fans pleasant dreams tonight even though their team has lost three of its last four games going into Saturday’s match-up with Ottawa.

The Toronto Maple Leafs are 5-7-3, 11th in the Eastern Conference. They rank 26th in power play, 27th in penalty killing, 28th in overall offense. So what does Toronto Sun columnist Steve Simmons think of his hometown team?

“Just weeks away from two years on the job of running the Maple Leafs, this much is now obvious: Brian Burke has been a grand disappointment as president and general manager of the Leafs,” writes Simmons. “For all his sound and all his fury — and if you get to know him you can’t help but like him — the Maple Leafs are again a horrible hockey team.”

Of course, the Leafs’ ugly start and potential disaster of a season benefits the Bruins more than just by eliminating one team from the competition for the Northeast Division title. For the second straight year as a result of the Phil Kessel trade, the Bruins hold the Leafs’ first-round pick. Could you imagine another Tyler Seguin-caliber player joining the Bruins next fall? I know you can.

You have to give Simmons credit. There are certain “sacred cows” around the NHL that never get near the slaughterhouse, and Burke is one of the bigger ones. Yet Simmons isn’t afraid to point out the failures of Burke’s run in TO. Of course, he writes about Burke having won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim, when even Burke has admitted over the years that aside from trading for Chris Pronger, he did little in building that team and Bryan Murray should get most of the credit for the ’07 triumph.

There’s no telling where the Leafs go from here. As Simmons writes, there are no centers on the team or on the pipeline that are going to fix the offense. So the Leafs might be limited to playing trapping hockey and trying to squeak a few out. That could require a change in coach, and Burke isn’t likely to jettison his good friend Ron Wilson.

Unlike New Jersey, Edmonton and the New York Islanders, the Leafs won’t benefit from hitting rock bottom because of their lack of a first-round pick, so it’s unlikely that they’ll just give up. Nonetheless, for the second year in a row, the Bruins have two teams to root for: themselves and anyone playing Toronto.

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