Should the Toronto Maple Leafs Have Fired Brian Burke?


by Kolby Solinsky

Editor, White Cover Magazine


Um, no.

That’s easy. Too easy. Did Brian Burke made some bad trades and sign some overhyped players to overpaid contracts? Yes. It’s almost in his job requirement as a general manager, and it’s almost a guarantee as general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Mike Komisarek. Mikhail Grabovski. Colby Armstrong. Jonas Gustavsson. Tim Connolly. Burke has always had a tendency to love some players too much and then pay them accordingly, and all of the above qualify for that category.

But, Brian Burke is the end game.

He understands how to win. He hadn’t figured it out yet in Toronto, but you won’t find another GM in the league who understands the bottom line more than him.

In Brian Burke, you’re not looking at a rookie. You’re not even looking at a veteran. You’re looking at a leader, and at a guy who’s won it all before.

Critics will be quick to point out that he inherited the team he won with in Anaheim, which is ridiculous. Burke may have walked into a team already set with Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf, but he brought in the coaching staff (Randy Carlyle, ahem) and the people to make it work. He brought in Bobby Ryan. He trusted in Jean-Sebastian Giguere.

He brought in Scott Niedermayer and Chris Pronger, for Christ sakes…

The general manager’s job isn’t really about trades and free agents. It’s about knowing which players not to trade and knowing which players to keep.

There’s nobody better at this than Brian Burke. There never has been.

Some will say he left the Vancouver Canucks in a bad situation, but these sorts of people are lost before they set out on their journey. When Burke took over the Canucks, they were at the bottom of the league. When he left, they had a top line of Markus Naslund, Todd Bertuzzi, and Brendan Morrison, a second line of the Sedin Twins — who would later win a Hart Trophy, two Art Ross Trophies, and serve as captain and alternate captain for their team — and the Canucks had won a Northwest Division title and made the playoffs for four consecutive seasons.

And now, with the NHL set to resume and the Leafs looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2004 — which is so long ago that even the Columbus Blue Jackets and Toronto Raptors have made the playoffs in that time — Toronto was willingly thrown themselves into the wilderness.

Time to go Walk About, ladies and gentlemen.

“Brian Burke is gone, the Leafs have been thrown into even more uncertainty than usual and they only have 10 days to get it figured out,” wrote The Score‘s Jake Goldsbie on Thursday.

“By all accounts Dave Nonis will take over as interim GM and, justifiably so, questions will be asked about the timing, the reasons, and the circumstances that led to Burke’s dismissal. Now, there are rumours that Randy Carlyle is going to see himself fired as well adding even more uncertainty and a lack of stability to a team that was on anything but steady footing. All that is known for sure is that training camp opens on Saturday and there are only seven days after that to acclimate a new(ish) general manager and possibly a new coach to the harshest market in hockey. This will not go well. Any faint hope that Leafs fans held of making the playoffs in a shortened season, in putting together 48 games like last year’s first 48, have taken a serious hit.

“Stability in a team may be an overrated commodity but on a team like the Leafs that haven’t had anything resembling it for years, it can’t help.”

(I assume Goldsbie meant it can help at the end, but I’m not sure. The Score‘s blogs are always ripe with errors and constipated thinking.)

Brian Burke is a winner. He’s exactly what every team is always looking for.

It’s Toronto’s loss, but something tells me they already know that…