At the very outset, he spoke of the need for top-tier stars, bottom-line grinders and nothing in-between. This season alone, in an era when trades are made about as often as Lost is comprehensible, Burke has acquired a front-line forward in Phil Kessel, a top-pair defenseman in Dion Phaneuf and a Stanley Cup-winning goaltender he trusts in J.S. Giguere.
While the 2010 first round pick he dealt in the Kessel trade may hurt -- it may hurt a lot -- Burke did not give up any top talents from the roster he inherited to acquire Kessel, Phaneuf and Giguere. Okay, so maybe besides Tomas Kaberle he didn't have any; this does not diminish the accomplishment at all. If anything, it makes the dealings all the more impressive.
Since the end of the lockout, Dion Phaneuf leads NHL defensemen in goals (75), power play goals (48), game-winning goals (21) and shots (1,154). He is 24 and under contract for three seasons after this one. Retaining his services for the next decade will not be a challenge for the money-printing Maple Leafs. For Phaneuf, the Maple Leafs moved a package of two borderline second-level forwards (Niklas Hagman and Matt Stajan), a fourth-liner (Jamal Mayers) and a fifth defenseman on a good team (Ian White). Yahtzee.
After being betrayed by shaky goaltending all season, Toronto used some of that green to reunite Giguere with Leafs goalie coach Francois Allaire. By taking Giguere's big salary for next season off Anaheim's hands, Toronto only had to give up struggling forward Jason Blake -- with a contract of his own that Burke was happy to escape -- and Vesa Toskala, who would have had trouble stopping tires rolling towards him at the Air Canada Centre.
Best of all, you can be certain that Burke, deputy Dave Nonis and the Maple Leafs are not done.
The bigger question is whether there is enough time. On the NHL calendar, it will be March in a week and a half. After a dream-like 3-0 win over the Devils on Tuesday -- with Giguere stopping everything like it was 2003 and Phaneuf shooting, hitting and fighting like it was, well, 2007 -- Toronto has just four games before the Olympic break.
It would be an over-caffeinated, inexperienced, Luke Schenn-like mistake to make too big a deal over the debut of Phaneuf and Giguere in Toronto. So let's take a fact-based look. The Leafs had lost their previous six games, four in regulation. But by beating New Jersey on Tuesday, they are now just 10 points out of the playoff race in the wild, crazy and mostly mediocre Eastern Conference.
Five playoff berths in the East would appear to be locked down: Washington, New Jersey, Buffalo, Pittsburgh and Ottawa. Their act finally together -- no really ... okay, probably -- the Philadelphia Flyers look like a fair bet to make the postseason. This leaves two spots for a block of non-juggernauts to make a run for April: Montreal, Tampa Bay, Florida, the Rangers, Atlanta, Boston, the Islanders, Carolina and Brian Burke's three-yards-and-a-cloud-of-dust Maple Leafs.
No laughs. As much as the game continues to evolve, defense and goaltending wins. With Giguere and a defense led by Phaneuf, Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin, the Maple Leafs may not require a lot of goal-scoring to join the pack with 25 games still remaining.
And besides, even Burke made it clear he wasn't done dealing. There he goes, telegraphing every move again.