Throughout Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke’s tenure there have been two constants—inconsistency between the pipes and the lack of a number one centre.
Without question, both organizational needs are imperative to the teams success which, to the surprise of few, is yet to materialize as the Maple Leafs are yet to make the playoffs since Burke’s arrival in November of 2008.
Head coach Randy Carlyle will give off-season acquisition James van Riemsdyk a shot at centre this fall, but with JVR lacking experience at the position there are still plenty of questions to be answered.
Tyler Bozak did a solid job as the Maple Leafs de facto number one centre last season, but he too has his shortcomings. Meanwhile prospects like Nazem Kadri and Joe Colborne have yet to demonstrate that they are up for the task. There is hope that Kadri may emerge as a centre of consequence as early as next season, although Kadri looks better suited as a winger.
Anaheim Ducks star centre Ryan Getlaf has been rumored to be on the trading block, but thus far all the chatter about Getzlaf has been nothing more than fodder. With Getzlaf seemingly staying in Anaheim that means in order to fill the number one centre role Burke will have to rely on JVR, Kadri or Colborne to make the huge step, find a trading partner or get lucky in the free agent market next summer.
The smart money suggests Getzlaf will not be traded as the Ducks, while rumored to be in a money crunch, would probably be better served trading Bobby Ryan, who is not a centre.
Few NHL teams are lining up to trade their top centres, which means Burke’s best bet will likely be acquiring a centre via free agency. According to capgeek.com several centres will be UFA’s next summer with the likes of Getzlaf, Patrick Elias, Mike Ribeiro, Andy MacDonald, Derek Roy and Travis Zajac leading the way as the best centres available.