Much of the hockey world is still in shock with the recent and very sudden firing of Toronto Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke. Burke took the job back in November of 2008 and after failing to get the Toronto Maple Leafs into the playoffs, the newly appointed owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Bell and Rogers decided that they had enough with Burke and made the decision to fire him.
Now many reasons for the firing have been suggested including some belief that Burke was no longer interested in acquiring Vancouver goaltender Roberto Luongo, but the reason that has been stated is that the owners were not pleased with Burke’s “style”, but what is his style? What type of style did Brian Burke have that just didn’t sit well with ownership? Well let’s take a look.
Brian Burke has run all his teams in a very similar fashion, which means that he brings certain personal rules and guidelines to the front office that he stays true to. Unfortunately for Burke it is these rules that may also have been part of the reason for not just his firing, but also for the lack of success in Leaf Nation. One of the biggest downfalls for Burke is that he has tried to mirror creating his teams the same way he did when he was the GM of Anaheim and won a cup with the organization in 2007. Burke has tried to bring in the same coaching staff (Randy Carlyle) believing that the same pieces that worked in the past have got to work again. He has tried to bring in as many players from the winning Ducks team that he can feeling, once again, that what has worked once before has got to work again. Names such as Mike Brown, Joffrey Lupul, and J.S. Giguere have all been brought to Toronto and besides the breakout year that Lupul had this past season, both Giguere and Brown have not contributed much to the Maple Leafs organization.
Another rule that Burke stands firm on is refusing to go after players who have lengthy contracts. Burke has believed that towards the end of the terms of these contracts the players tend to simply milk money out of the organization. Now although, this may be true should he not also look at how these, usually superstar calibre, players can bring an immediate lift and spark to a team that needs one. One recent example of Burke failing to do so was when it became apparent last year that the Columbus Blue Jackets were shopping Jeff Carter. Carter is one of the strongest power forwards in the game and Burke refused to go after him because of his lengthy contract. Eventually, Carter would get shipped to Los Angeles, where Carter was a huge factor in the Kings winning the Stanley Cup.
Burke has also been afraid to spend the big bucks during free agency losing out on players such as Rick Nash and Brad Richards, despite having the cap room to do so. Burke has also failed during free-agency season, believing that trying to get in on the frenzy during the first few hours or even days of the free-agency period is not necessary, despite that being the time when all the other teams are doing there hardest to ink the high-end players as soon as possible. In fact Burke was in Afghanistan last July 1st (the opening of free agency).
Burke has also acted in a similar fashion when it comes to the trade deadline. Burke has always believed that teams aren’t going to make themselves that much better during the trade deadline and that moves are best to be made before the deadline hits. However, again most of the teams do their work during the last few hours of the deadline, working as hard as they can to add the pieces that can help make a good team great.
Other odd personal rules that Burke has implemented to his teams are when he hires a new coach he allows that coach to bring in an assistant of their choice. Now although this does seem like an effective way of running a coaching staff, what this sometimes means is that talented and knowledgeable assistant coaches, that might know the team better, lose their job as well. Burke however, has received some praise for another one of his personal beliefs and that is the notion of putting a trade-freeze between the 24th and 26th of December. Burke likes his players to enjoy the Christmas season with their family and not have them worry about whether or not they might be moved at the time. Now although this seems like a grand gesture, you have to think if the opportunity is given to make a deal that could drastically improve the team you have to think that he must jump on that opportunity and make that deal. You can be a liked person, but at the end of the day you are running a business and sometimes you need to do whatever it takes to bring home Lord Stanley.
At the end of the day Burke has always had a reputation as a personality like no other. He has always been known as a player’s GM, having the players’ best interest at hand, but it seems that many of his personal rules and guidelines have got in the way of success in Toronto and ultimately that is why Burke was shown the door last Wednesday.
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