Brian Burke Firing Coverage

By TSM

What a wild day.

I think the consensus that I’ve heard that makes the most sense is that people aren’t shocked that MLSE fired Burke, but rather that they did this today.

Every article I’ve read, every interview I’ve listened to all has at least alluded to the question, why now.

With all due respect to the MLSE Board’s puppet, Tom Anselmi, no good answer has been provided.

I think it’s safe to say this decision was predicated upon an some sort of recent event. Something must have happened for this rush to judgement. If not, why do it this way? Something happened to make this a must happen ASAP thing. A fight, an argument, something.

If this was strictly a performance issue it could have been done along time ago. It could have been done months ago. Ok, there are new owners, why not right after the deal closed?

The timing screams of an event. Something triggered this. There is no other reason to do so today, in this manner with no member of the board present.

Multiple sources told me as the news broke that Dave Nonis would replace Burke on an interim basis. The way the new owners are behaving, I guess we could say everyone is on an interim basis. John Shannon told PTS tonight that he doesn’t think Nonis will be the GM come September. I tend to believe him. Perhaps Shannon’s best point, was that ownership doesn’t want Burke to be the focal point of the team anymore. A player should be, and not the GM. Shannon said that it was fine when Burke arrived, and the hope was that Phil Kessel would assume that role but he hasn’t and it was time for a change.

Anyways, enough rambling from me….

From Steve Simmons in the Toronto Sun:

“But it does come back to image as much as it comes back to hockey. An image that Leafs ownership was uncomfortable with. If this decision was only about hockey and nothing else, it is unlikely Nonis would be the Leafs’ new general manager. He was part of every decision Burke made. He made some of them himself. In some ways, depending on who you ask, he was already the de facto general manager.

Now he has the title to go along with it. And he no longer has to answer for what Burke might have said, how Burke might have reacted.”

Nonis is a Burke guy. They’ve worked together in multiple places and while they may not always agree, they are, at least in reputation aligned.

“He didn’t win on the hockey side. But the new owners of the Maple Leafs ­— the media rivals Bell and Rogers — wouldn’t have fired him necessarily for that. Not this soon, anyhow. They fired him because he feuded with anyone in the media who had an opinion. They fired him because they were tired of going to receptions and hearing: Did you hear where Brian was last night, or how he acted, or that, apparently, he was in places he didn’t need to be apparent?”

That’s a little too personal for my liking, but I assume Simmons has his sources on the cocktail party stuff.

From Damien Cox of the Toronto Star:

“One, at least half of the new MLSE ownership team, Bell, was seemingly prepared to fire Burke during the summer. The boss there, George Cope, reportedly disliked Burke’s management style and brash public comments, and thought he was “bad for the brand.”

Two, both Bell and Rogers are keen on a deal for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo and Burke was resisting such a move. He said repeatedly of late that he was “90 per cent” certain he wanted to go with the combination of James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in net and had talked several times about his frustrations of dealing with Vancouver GM Mike Gillis, particularly since he wasn’t sure dealing for Luongo was the right move.

Clearly, it wasn’t anything Burke had done lately because the lockout had prevented all NHL general managers from making any moves since Sept. 15th.”

I can’t speak for number one. On the issue of #2, once the CBA deal is signed we will know right? I mean if there is an offer on the table that Burke refused but Nonis is willing to do then once the green light is given the deal will be done right?

Jeff Blair of the Globe and Mail:

“Time caught up to Brian Burke on Wednesday morning. It’s one thing when a general manager lets himself be branded as the face of a winning team, quite another when he’s still the face of an NHL franchise after four years without a playoff spot.

The fact that Burke’s firing as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager could come as a palpable shock speaks to the larger-than-life quality of the man and screams the failure of his tenure. That Burke was still very much the face of the franchise when he was fired – more than his leading scorer, Phil Kessel, or his captain, Dion Phaneuf – reinforced what a waste the past four Leafs seasons have been.”

A waste? That’s open for debate. I was fortunate enough to attend summer camp in Northern Ontario when I was much younger. We were always told to leave things in better shape then we found them. While perhaps not in terms of accumulated wins, I think Burke has done that.

David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail:

“The firing of Brian Burke proved one thing – no matter who owns the Toronto Maple Leafs, sooner or later they succumb to Harold Ballard disease.”

Enough said.

Bruce Arthur of the National Post:

“The decision to fire Burke after four years on the job was not made because of any reluctance to trade for Roberto Luongo; that, at best, was the convenient final straw, though one source told the Post that was “total BS.” No, this decision was made months ago, multiple sources said; it was a clinical corporate bloodletting, not a moment of fury.

Essentially, the new owners, Rogers Communications and Bell Canada, didn’t trust Burke with the most important part of their billion-dollar bauble. He didn’t fit their vision of a chief executive; he didn’t fit in with the new guys, who trade in image as well as product. The man tasked with transmitting their decision, MLSE president Tom Anselmi, said that over and over, as politely as he could.”

To which I ask, why rushed this morning?

“But then, there is also a sense that a bigger housecleaning is coming at 40 Bay Street, perhaps in more than hockey. The new owners have to stand next to the product in a way that the Teachers Pension Plan never did, and they will want results.

And Wednesday sent a powerful message: Nobody is safe. Brian Burke came to Toronto promising to slay the dragon, to conquer the city, to be the guy whose name would be etched on a school. He was larger than life at the beginning, and a battered man at the end. Anyone who watched can still remember his first news conference, that grandiloquent statement of intent, full of truculence and pugnacity and testosterone and belligerence, and all those other words that never quite managed to leave the page.”

I think that’s bang on. Anselmi certainly placed Colangelo under the bus if not throwing him directly under it.

Sean Fitz-Gerald of the National Post:

“Richard Peddie was on the phone, on vacation, in Florida.

“I think Brian is still the best general manager in the NHL,” the retired chief executive of Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment said Wednesday afternoon, hours after his choice for general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs was suddenly and summarily fired.”

I wonder if I would be writing this story if Peddie were still in place. We will never know.

Michael Grange of Sportsnet:

“But really, why did the Toronto Maple Leafs biggest star get fired three days before training camp opens?

Sportsnet’s Mark Spector confirmed via sources what seemed to be the unsaid: That Burke’s unwillingness to manoeuvre to trade for the Vancouver Canucks Roberto Luongo was the final straw that precipitated the axe falling. There were other sources saying that Burke’s overall foul-mouthed act — a rogue charm when things are going well, a brand risk for a bad team — had finally worn thin with Burke getting a talking to after the last MLSE board meeting in late September or early October.

Not that anyone would say so in any official capacity. Requests for interviews with George Cope of BCE and Nadir Mohamed of Rogers and Tanenbaum were declined.”

It’s nice to see a Rogers employee call a spade a spade.

Nicholas Cotsonika Yahoo sports:

“But same, old question: Does MLSE know how to do it?
This is the second straight time the Leafs have changed GMs after changing coaches. They hired Burke after hiring his buddy Wilson. Now they’re hiring Nonis after hiring Carlyle late last season. This is another corporate ownership group giving another example of how to do hockey business backward.
Perhaps we shouldn’t be so shocked.”

MLSE hasn’t given it’s fans in any sport any reason to believe they have a clue how to do win.

Greg Wyshynski Yahoo Sports:

“In their first major move as owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Rogers and Bell consortium fired Burke after four seasons as general manager. The timing will be criticized, as it happens days before a brief training camp opens and just over a week before the NHL season.
But to not do it now would be to delay the inevitable: Clearly, Brian Burke was not the guy they felt represented what they wanted out of the Leafs, and not the guy they trusted to bring this sorry franchise back into contention.
The Leafs said it wasn’t the product of one incident. “Once you get to a decision like this, it’s only fair to act on it.”
The decision feels both personal and professional.”

Interesting perspective, I don’t agree but I respect the opinion.

Tim Wharnsby of CBC sports:

“But what they did glean since last August, when telecommunication giants Bell and Rogers officially closed on its $1.07-billion US deal to purchase 75 per cent of the team, was that Burke and some of the members of the new board did not see eye-to-eye. The veteran hockey man did not react kindly to the hockey-team related free advice he was receiving from new board members.

After several of these get-togethers between Burke and the MLSE board, the latter finally decided it was time to part ways with its bombastic hockey GM.”

Now that makes sense. Why today? Still not sure.

Elliotte Friedman of CBC sports:

“So, here’s a question: how many times do you see a GM on a run of regular-season disappointed get fired – but the rest of his staff survive untouched?

It doesn’t happen. You get an interim replacement or a complete Mr. Clean-style changeover. And that’s the proof that whatever happened with Brian Burke was personal. Whether on-ice or the boardroom, someone important didn’t want him around.

There is no question Burke was in trouble. While Burke has supporters for the work he’s done with the team’s prospect base, another season without a playoff performance probably meant the end. But this move was a total stunner, coming hours before the NHL ratified its new CBA with the players.”

BINGO. Something happened.

Talk about bad timing. I understand that the fan590 lost some sort of connectivity today as the news was breaking. Oooops.

Bob McCown with Anselmi, Nonis and Shannon made for great radio. Look up the segments, well worth it.

More as news comes out.

About the Author