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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