The Brian Burke Rebuild Twitter Style


It’s funny how quickly things change. Last week, the silence in the Toronto Sports Media world was deafening. Now, with the Buds eliminated from another spring dance, the media has come to life. There are some who are calling for Burke to follow Ron Wilson out the door. There are a few who are preaching patience. David Shoalts had a great piece yesterday and followed it up with a less quality one today. Damien Cox wrote a piece today that sparked quite a debate on Twitter and one that I think solidifies the importance of Twitter in the life of an avid sports fan.

I know the comment that’s going to be coming so let’s get it out of the way, Cox last week suggest the Buds should consider trading Phil Kessel to optimize the value of that asset. Today he is preaching patience. Sorry folks, but in Damien’s defence I don’t think there’s a conflict there. No, I am not in the trade Kessel camp at all. However I can see how he thinks they should trade Kessel at the same time suggesting that Burke stay the course in the building process.

“There was this assumption, apparently, that when Brian Burke arrived three years and four months ago, not only would he make it happen, he would make it happen with dazzling speed and without making some pretty messy errors along the way.?

He would not only be the person who brought the Stanley Cup back, he would travel a smooth, straight, unbroken path. He would trip no land mines; there would be no moments of terrible regret and doubt.?

Apparently, that’s what some expected.”

Now, may I remind you of what Brian Burke has told the public on a couple of occasions:

“I’m not interested … in a five-year rebuild like some of these teams have done. Maybe because of my age, maybe just because I know it doesn’t have to be five years because it wasn’t in Anaheim.”

So, I took to twitter and posted the following:

” I like reading @DamoSpin columns. The reason people thought he’d do it faster is he said he would ”

Damien’s response was:

“I’d be interested to see the quote.”

So, I provided that same quote from above.

Damien’s response was:

” So where’s the guarantee and the promise? And given that we’re less than 3 1/2 yrs in, so what?”


“Can’t imagine anyone would seriously read that as a guarantee.”

Now, I don’t think Burke was making a guarantee when he made the statement. He didn’t look into the camera and say I will deliver this. He clearly was stating what his intention was.

My response to Burke was:

“it’s not a guarantee. However, he set the expectation.He could’ve said this will take years to rebuild and that’s what were doing”

So, if anyone is to blame for unrealistic expectations or the impatience of where Leaf fans are now, it’s Burke himself for setting the bar too high.

Damien’s response was:

“That’s certainly fair.”

Having achieved some common ground, I reiterated what I’ve said here and on twitter before.

“what I’d like to hear him (Burke) say is something like, it’s going to take longer than I thought and we are going to keep at it.”

Damien’s response was:

“Yup. Agreed.”

Now, that ended things for several hours. Until Michael Grange entered the conversation:

“just saw this, but Damo there is no way to spin the fact that Burke rejected a ‘traditional’ (slow, 5yr) rebuild.”

Which is accurate. That is exactly what Burke did on numerous occasions.

To which Damien’s response was:

“you say it’s a fact. I say that it’s opinion.”

I obviously disagree. There is no opinion in what Burke said publicly. What can be debated is whether Burke really had any choice in saying what he did. Could he really come out and say this is going to take at least 5 years? I don’t know the answer to that. I can think of several reasons why he wouldn’t. Most importantly, what kind of message does it send to the players that you are already giving up on the next 5 years; basically accepting losing.

No, I am not going to list tweets much longer, however Bruce Arthur then got into the action too:

“Well, except I asked him about two years ago why he tried to build fast, and he said he didn’t think he needed to.”

Then, Mike Brophy jumped into the action:

“in Ana he got Pronger, Niedermayer, so in Toronto all he needed was Chara and Weber”

Let’s just say that it was great to follow and makes for really interesting reading. Grange chimed in at 745pm and the banter ended at 9:17. It is exactly what Twitter is best for. It allows ordinary folks like us to interact with those who are paid to follow our teams. Tonight provided great entertainment and insight into what some of the best local media members think is going on with our hockey team. It’s one thing to watch or listen to that debate on radio or television. It’s another to witness it electronically and more important to be able to be part of the discussion. That’s cool. So to those who participated, from those of us who followed, thanks!

If anyone can tell me the easiest way to link to or capture all the tweets in the exchange I’d be happy to post them here.

Personally, I think there are a couple of things that are of interest here:

1. Burke set the bar, he told the world his plan, the reason people are upset with where things sit today in terms of the plan is that they were supposed to have already happened. He was interested in a long rebuild and it’s looking like that’s what we have. That’s on Burke.
2. The biggest question is what exactly does he have. Some argue he has valuable pieces where he inherited very little, others say that the cupboards remain empty. Are the Marlies a good AHL team only, or are they a team made up of some young future NHL players. By players I think we can agree that in order to count as future players they have to be of some significant quality. If they are all 4th liners or 6/7 defencemen, are they “really” prospects?
3. What is he willing to say or admit to at his end of season press conference. People need hope. Right now leaf fans feel there is no plan, no hope. He has to try to re-establish that hope.

It will be very interesting to watch what happens over the next couple of weeks.

If you don’t listen to sports radio, you may have forgotten Stephen Brunt. He has an excellent column on the state of the Leafs on First he discusses ownership:

“It’s not that they don’t care. They care at least as much as all of those long-suffering fans, and have way more on the line.It’s just that they’ve been incompetent.”

Then he tackles Burke:

“It is no small irony that Burke’s biggest lapses in judgment have come in those moments when he was thinking not like a soul-less suit, not like a bean counter, but like one of the team’s desperate supporters.
Consider the Phil Kessel deal, the signature moment of his Maple Leafs’ tenure, a dice roll born of impatience, the need to fast-forward the rebuilding process. Ask a Leafs fan in that moment if they’d be willing to take a similar risk to speed up deliverance, and most of them would have said yes.”

Then on firing Wilson:

“But aside from enacting vengeance, you make the move then in the belief that it might give the team an emotional kick-start and get it into the playoffs. It didn’t — not by a long shot — and now you’re left with a roster and a coach that seem stylistically incompatible, operating in a system in which it’s darned near impossible to turn the roster over quickly and start all over again.”

and back to ownership:

“Plus, winning, even for rich guys who can only get richer, is a whole lot more fun than losing, and so they — and you, the Leafs’ suffering flock — all dream the same dream.”

It’s great perspective. It’s too bad we don’t get more Brunt isn’t it?

Did you see the Feschuk piece on Tie Domi?:

“I played in every one of those playoff games like it was my last,” Domi said, pounding his chest with a big fist for emphasis. “I just don’t see that every shift from this team. I don’t see every guy playing hard every shift. They’ve got to start getting accountability in the room.”

So, I am thinking Domi won’t be checking into the Leafs locker room anytime soon. Oh well, he can hob knob with Mario right?


photo available here

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