If you are a fan of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, you either like Brian Burke, or you don’t. It’s that simple. There is no middle ground, and I am in the latter group. I will admit, however, that when his name was bandied about as a possible replacement for John Ferguson Jr. I was a little excited.
Windsor - January 10, 2013 - If you are a fan of the NHL’s Toronto Maple Leafs, you either like Brian Burke, or you don’t. It’s that simple. There is no middle ground, and I am in the latter group. I will admit, however, that when his name was bandied about as a possible replacement for John Ferguson Jr. I was a little excited. Not because I didn’t like JFJ, (I did, and I always thought he was thrown under the bus, but that’s another story for another day), but because of his track record. Here was a guy who, as GM of the Canucks, pulled a major coup on draft day by getting the Sedin twins with the first two picks. After rebuilding the Canucks into a contender he did the same in Anaheim, winning a Stanley Cup in the 2006-07 season.
Then came the rumours that the Leafs were pursuing him. Denial after denial was made by Burke, and rightfully so, because at the time he was still under contract with the Ducks. He was happy in Anaheim and wasn’t looking to leave. The next thing you know, the Leafs had their man, and at his first press conference, he used the words “ truculence”, “belligerence” and “pugnacity”. I thought, “Sign me up! I want to see my Leafs take it to the next level.”
Alas, four years later, I’m still waiting. And I’m growing tired of it. This team needs a new vision, as well as results. Not bluster. Not blather. Results. Burke had four years to get this team into the playoffs, and failed every season. Nothing against Phil Kessel, he is a bona fide star, but in my humble opinion, he paid dearly for him. The two first round picks he gave up ended up being Tyler Seguin (2010) and Dougie Hamilton (2011). With the second round pick (2010), Boston took Jared Knight. Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli is still smiling, and will be for a long time.
Burke’s signing of Mike Komisarek and Francois Beauchemin left many Leafs fans scratching their heads. Neither one ever played up to the “truculent” expectations. To his credit, he did manage to unload Beauchemin for Joffrey Lupul and Jake Gardiner. As for Komisarek, the first order of business for Dave Nonis should be a phone call to Ken Holland. Detroit has a way of taking Leafs defensemen and giving them a new lease on life.
There were other things that bugged me about Burke. His handling of young talent, and in particular, Nazim Kadri, was deplorable. He publicly humiliated him on numerous occasions. To me, that’s no way to give a talented kid like Kadri any kind of confidence. Since being drafted by the Leafs Kadri has faced almost as many shots as the goalies. He cut bait early on Jonas Gustavsson, if you ask me, and didn’t give “the best goalie not playing in the NHL” enough of a chance. And speaking of goalies, the very public divorce between the Leafs and goaltending coach Francois Allaire was just plain embarrassing.
Then there’s the Ron Wilson fiasco. What kind of GM gives a coach four seasons to make the playoffs? Any other team would have fired Wilson long before Burke did. No other team would have given Wilson a nice extension only to fire him three months later either.
The only thing “belligerent” about the Leafs over the past four seasons has been Brian Burke.
Today marks the start of a new chapter in Toronto, and I’m excited again. Excited about the new change, and even more excited about not having to hear the GM say he “doesn’t give a rat’s a- -” about what people think.