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Burke to Ottawa, or maybe a return to Toronto some day?

I’m not posting on the Brian Burke “farewell” press conference, if that’s what it was.  I’ve written enough on Burke over the past three plus years here, and don’t have a strong desire to write much more.

I do find it interesting when people speculate he could end up in Ottawa.  I’m sure a lot of Leaf fans would love that, or if Burke took over as GM of a new Toronto area NHL expansion franchise, eh? It’s already being suggested.

A few years back, I believed it would be so electric if ex-Leaf player and coach Pat Quinn had ended up with the Senators as either coach or General Manager.  I was always a bit surprised owner Eugene Melnyk didn't consider it seriously.  I’ve long felt Quinn would have been the one respected hockey guy with a Leaf connection who could have restored the rivalry between Ottawa and Toronto that boiled over so famously the in the early 2000s.  A lot of then young Leaf fans grew up with those playoff series every spring.

(Until this past season, Bryan Murray’s work as GM in Ottawa was, for me, a bit lacking.  He took a team that had been ‘this close’ to a Cup and went backwards—and also made poor coaching hires.  But Sens’ fans seem perfectly content with the situation in Ottawa now.....)

Whether Burke could end up there some day, who knows?

I sense he’ll end up somewhere else first—likely as a GM, though maybe in the NHL league office.  My guess, though, is he will want to manage again, and the league job wouldn’t be enough for someone who thrives on competition and wins and losses—and building something.

One of the outstanding posters here, Sean Pratt (@seandelville) connected with me Saturday night and wondered if Burke could end up back in Toronto some day, if Larry Tanenbaum ever became the true majority owner.  I thought it was an eye-popping thought.  Again, it would take a lot of dominoes to fall, but it could happen. (Who knows if the Bell Media and Rogers "marriage" can last?)

Hey, Cliff Fletcher came back to the Leafs after being fired.  And way before Cliff, Punch Imlach—after a ten-year absence, no less-  returned to run the Maple Leafs in the summer of 1979 as General Manager. (That's a great old photo of Punch from the late 1950s, at left.)

In any event, I’ve said here before that there are some ways in which Burke reminded me of Punch, also someone with a very strong personality in this market.   If you’d like to check out that article, click on the link here.

Meanwhile, feel free to post on the press conference.  


  1. Michael,

    I watched a lot of Burke stuff today on the TV and the internets. Its funny, I didn't always like the things he did, or sometimes the way that he did them. But, today, I came away with a feeling that no matter what, he is a guy that would have my back so long as I had his. Dare to say, that even though I don't know him, I have never even met him. That if I was lucky enough to meet him, I know that I would like him enormously.

    With that being said. I hope he gets another job as a GM soon. I will always respect his honesty. He had no desire to pretend to be someone he is not, or to make nice for appearances sake. Should anyone doubt this, find the press conference from earlier today and listen to the exchange with Steve Simmons. Or find any number of other public disagreements that he had. There are a few, lots of choices.

    I agree that Burke does seem a lot like what I know of Punch Imlach. Cut from the same cloth, as it were. I personally don't see Burke ever back in Toronto. Solely for the reason that Mr Tannenbaum had first right of refusal to buy the shares that Bell and Rogers just bought. I can't see him buying them in the future, as their value is expected to do nothing but increase. I think he missed his chance, and many suggest he doesn't want to be majority stakeholder at all.

    Lastly, when Mr. Burke gets another GM job in the league. I will be finding his press conferences on the internet. Enjoying all the petty feuds and bickering. The world, and specifically the sporting world, needs more honest answers. At the expense of the tired cliches that these guys put forth each and every day. I honestly, find these pat answers to questions incredibly boring. If you need an example of boring, watch a Dion Phaneuf interview. Or do yourself a favour, do anything but that. I hear paint drying is awesome in comparison.

  2. Well Jim for me the Steve Simmons exchange is exactly what I didn't like about Burke. He is gone and as he said he no longer has to talk to the media. I don't know what the problem is between them but that was typical Burke move embarass a guy in a situation where the other guy can't respond.

    All he had to do was just answer the question and then never speak to the guy again. But no he has to take one last poke at the guy. That little exchange, while exciting a portion of the fan base is probably a microcosim of what led to him being fired, it was needless and lacking in class. As for honest answers not really, lots of bluster and smoke blowing but lots of evasions as well.

    I had high hopes for Burke when he was hired. I thought he would have learned from his situtaion in Vancouver. I happened to be living there when he was GM and I remember all the stupid pointless feuds with people. All it was then was a smoke screen to try and take the focus off the fact that those Vancouver teams weren't very good or at least hadn't lived up to expectations. Sound familiar? It is the exact same thing here.

    Burke is a smart hockey guy, but I am starting to think that the job of GM has passed him by. It is a completely different job than it was 10 years ago. What I got from his press conference was a guy who made the same mistakes he did in another high profile job and today said he was refusing to change. Maybe he is a small market GM? A place like Anahiem where the media contingent is small and nobody really cares what he says. The evidence says he is, two spectacular flame outs in big markets and a stanley cup in a small market.

  3. Jim, Willbur- I respect both of you guys and the contributions you make here. We all have reasons for our particular views on how someone else comes across. I understand, I think, both "sides" of this equation.

    I'm glad you both feel free to express yourselves honestly in this forum.

    I'm done talking about Burke at any length here. I'm not a fan of bullying. Never have been, from the time I was a child. I prefer less bombast and more results. I've made my views here on this subject clear in the past. They did not change after the 'performance' on Saturday. You don't have to read far between the lines to see that what some saw as class and "honesty", others would recognize as something quite different.

    Again, we all see things differently. Thank goodness we have the right to express ourselves freely.

  4. Have to agree with you Michael over Murray until this year, however three things make the difference.

    1. Burke said it himself, he did not win enough, GM's have more freedom/forgiveness when they win, and Murray has done that in Ottawa.

    2. Murray, unlike Burke has seen his drafts/trades develop, whereas Burke (due to Kessel deal) created a situation where his high draft picks will not make a mark for several years.

    3. Rebuild failure in general. In four years since he was hired, Burke acquired no top center, never settled goaltending, assembled a competent at best, mediocre at worst defence and if not for some fruitful trades, may have been even worse overall than when he started. At this point they have 1 legit blue chip prospect in Reilly (Gardiner I consider a firm NHLER, not a prospect) and if Kadri fails, it will mean a 4 year gap where there will be no 1st rounder playing for the Leafs longterm. That is unforgivable for player development in a team under a cap system..

    With Ottawa, Murray acquired a No.1 goalie for virtually nothing, created goaltending depth, which includes a potential all-star netminder(frankly unheard of in Franchise history). Drafted a Norris trophy winner, a top 3/4 D, acquired a no.2 center, drafted a significant group of NHL prospects that are now starting to be felt on the roster, including a potential steal in Mark Stone (6th round) all the while making the playoffs 3/4 years.

    (There were many mistakes with Murray as well, but when actual rebuilds are compared, its not even close.)

  5. Some solid points again, Sensfan90. I wasn't a Murray fan (in terms of what he had accomplished in Ottawa) but clearly there have been some results.

    You make some very fair observations about the Burke build approach. Still too many holes, four years in. And Nonis was talking youth and patience today. So more waiting, for sure, in Leafland.

    I'll follow your club with interest this season.