Brian Burke: The Buck Stops Here

Top of the morning. Lots coming up later. I will provide as many have asked for a recap on the day that was with Greg Brady and the Richard Peddie story. I am quite amazed at how the day unfolded.

So, something struck me this morning as I was listening to the radio and then reading through the morning papers and I wanted to get it off my chest. Disclaimer: It is entirely possible that I am too naive or gullible to believe that which I hear and am told. With that said:

Andrew Krystal was on my radio this am talking to the sports media guy at the Globe. The topic I was interested in was the current state of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was talking about the current state of the team and the Phil Kessel trade. He said to the sports media writer at the Globe the problem with the Maple Leafs is not Brian Burke, it’s MLSE, the owners. They’ve told Burke – in essence to fast track this and that is why the Kessel deal was made and that is why Phaneuf was made captain.

At some point yesterday, Damien Cox wrote a really good story on the Maple Leafs. He too raised this issue:

“No one can quite explain Burke’s sense of urgency that apparently led him to make the Kessel deal, his stated belief that he has a window of only three to five years to deliver a contending team before the sand fills up the hourglass. Few fans see it that way. Nobody in the media does.
Burke’s apparent haste either comes from some personal timetable — does he imagine he won’t want to be here any longer than he was in Hartford, Vancouver or Anaheim? — or from MLSE internal pressure to simply get back to the playoffs as soon as possible. The first possibility would be disappointing, the second despicable. If he thought he’d be able to quickly augment Kessel’s talent with other marquee players because he understood the new rules of engagement in the post-lockout world better than others, that has proven to be incorrect.”

Damien doesn’t go as far as Krystal did. Damien suggested it a possibility, where Krystal stated it as fact.

So, I took to the blackberry and presented the evidence to Mr. Burke. My question to Brian was:
“were you told that you needed to make the playoffs in x of years? Were you hiredin part because you were able to convince the board that you would be able to turn the titanic in X of years?

Here is his response:

“I have been given no timetable. At no point in time has anyone from ownership interfered with me since I arrived. I take full and sole responsibility for every Hockey Ops decision that has taken place since I was hired.

Any suggestion to the contrary is patently false.”

You’ve seen the above disclaimer. You can decide what you want to believe for yourself.

Personally, here is my 2 cents. Every single person I spoke to during the search for a GM told me the same thing. Whomever was going to be GM needed to be able to manage up. This person would have to be strong enough to keep the board happy yet at the same time be able to tell them politely where to go with any suggestions as they pertained to any on ice decisions. Call me crazy, but I am going with Burke on this one. If the Kessel deal (or any other deal for that matter) was a mistake, it was Burke’s and Burke’s alone. I just get the sense that there is no question who runs the hockey department. I find it hard to believe that Burke would have taken the job in Toronto without having complete autonomy. Again, my disclaimer stands. That’s just how I see it.

Damien’s article on the leafs is here

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mike (in boston)
mike (in boston)
November 11, 2010 11:45 am

why are we looking for complicated explanations? MLSE makes plenty of money whether the Leafs win or lose.

Brian Burke, like so many before him, overvalued the assets on the roster, overestimated his own talent evaluation acumen, traded valuable draft picks for a handful of extra regular season wins, and basically thought he could fast track success by being smarter than everyone else.

we’ve seen this all before. he gets credit for taking risks, but he also has to wear the failure associated with his decisions.

fire the coach, call up the kids, trade any vet you can … we know the script.

johnny OOOOOO
johnny OOOOOO
November 11, 2010 12:50 pm

Too naive and gullible

Pension Plan Puppets
November 11, 2010 3:33 pm

People will believe what they want but even a cursory look at Burke’s record suggests that he’s not a fan of tanking to win. Did that attitude play a part in his hire? Sure. Do I think MLSE is meddling? I don’t think Burke is the kind of guy to countenance it.

infield pete
infield pete
November 11, 2010 4:13 pm

Seeing as Cliff Fletcher hired Wilson, this is a non-denial denial that any lawyer would be proud of.

“I take full and sole responsibility for every Hockey Ops decision that has taken place since I was hired.”

November 11, 2010 6:28 pm

You shouldn’t take anything that Krysal takes at face-value. He’s a shock-jock and one can tell from listening to him that he knows too little about sports to be on a sports station. His act involves relating to listeners who have ADHD. And the sports media guy at the Globe would be his friend Bruce Dowbiggin, who doesn’t live in Toronto and rarely talks to his sources. (By the way, what kind of a sports media critic appears on sports shows to talk sports? Isn’t that like having a restaurant critic own and critique his/her own establishment?)

November 11, 2010 7:18 pm

Adam Proteau wrote the same BS in the Metro the other day, don’t blame Burke for any of his mistakes. I with you on this and here’s my reason.

The media is covering their own ass.

What do I mean? Remember during the search, the media repeatedly said that Brian Burke was the only choice. I mean most everyone wrote something to the effect of MLSE has to get Brian Burke and anyone below him would be considered a failure. Those archived stories don’t disappear.

Fast forward to Burke’s third season in Toronto. The team looks headed to another low finish with no 1st round pick again. Next year’s playoff odds are probably no better than 50/50. Clearly this is not how it was suppose to go and the blame needs to go somewhere.

But the media can’t blame Burke because Burke was THEIR guy. To do a 180 on this would prove that those keyboard smashers know even less than the suits sitting on the board at MLSE do. So a conspiracy is created and now the board forced Brian to make those moves through some sort of blackmail or whatever. The dolts created this alternate reality so they can still defend their pick of Burke because obviously in their clairvoyance they never saw Brian Burke freely trade away 3 draft picks for Phil Kessel.

November 11, 2010 8:03 pm

Just the way I envision Burke, but to me the Kessle trade has Burkes’ personality all over it. Trading for a known valuable commodity vs betting that you will finish last at the end of the next draft year is calculated and gutsy. So don’t see this pressure from outside, at the very least I would believe that it was driven by personal ambition or a timetable.

And further, how does making Phaneuf Captain fast track this plan?

November 11, 2010 10:30 pm

Lighten up guy,s. Burke is doing a great job of building a cup contender. Probem is, it’s the Bruins.

November 12, 2010 8:29 am

I agree with Mike in Boston and have been saying the same thing since the trade for Kessel was made. Burke and his surrounding advisors clearly believed that adding Kessel made them playoff bound or at worst just outside the playoffs in year 1 post trade. That was a huge mistake and will cost the leafs for another 5 years. Unless Khadri eventually really blooms ( and it is too soon to judge him) there is no bonafide scoring prospect in the system. Also, this continual denial of asking Kaberle to waive his No trade has grown tiresome. Obviously BUrke has overvalued what he believes he should get for Kaberle. Now that the final year of contract has arrived, the value of Kaberle has dropped further, thus leaving Leafs in position to be Lottery Pick again. Hindsight is 20/20 but a bad trade is a bad trade.

bruce corell
bruce corell
November 12, 2010 3:10 pm

Thank you for a great article in the SUN. Finally someone that is not soft on a guy making millions and millions for nothing….Burke could have just taken his money and gone away and we would be better off. He knows nothing of hockey talent in canada and is US connections are failing.
Lets go back when he made that stupid decision to trade for kessel.. Anyone would have tanked a few years ago and our team would look like this.
Duchenne, Kadri, Tyler Seguin…Would Center Ice be ok for the future then… What a moron….Boston Maple Leafs will win the CUP…

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