Three fixes for the Maple Leafs

Updated: August 3, 2012, 1:20 PM ET
By Doug McIntyre

With Craig Custance on vacation, ESPN The Magazine's Doug McIntyre fills in to provide a quick take on what could be ahead for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

When Brian Burke was hired as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2008, it was supposed to signal a new dawn for one of the NHL's flagship franchises.

The former Anaheim GM was just 17 months removed from winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks, and he was expected to be the man who would finally return the Leafs to glory -- or at least respectability -- by painstakingly building them into a tough, balanced, contending team.

But almost four years into the five-year plan Burke spoke of at his introductory news conference, the Leafs are no closer to competing for a playoff spot, let alone a title, than they were when Burke took over.

The NHL's richest club still hasn't qualified for the postseason since 2004, and a Toronto player still hasn't hoisted that silver chalice above his head since 1967, two years before man first walked on the moon.

Not that Burke deserves all the blame. He was never going to turn Toronto around overnight, and although the Leafs have had the cash, cap space and ambition to sign blue-chip free agents like Brad Richards last summer, their struggles combined with the scrutiny that accompanies playing in the center of the hockey universe (with all due respect to Montreal) has left the Leafs without any marquee names.

Still, to say Burke is behind schedule is a fair criticism. In a league driven by parity, how has the Leafs' rebuilding project failed to make any significant headway? More importantly, how can the Leafs salvage a summer marked mostly by inactivity? The following three keys are a good place to start.