November 29, 2008

The Leafs get their man

by Dan Bilicki In: Ice Hockey

Every Toronto Maple Leafs fan had their wet dream come true — they’ve finally landed Brian Burke to GM their team. Personally, I don’t get what is so great about this guy. He’s shady, he’s horrible with a salary cap, he’s only won one Stanley Cup (Yes, I do realize that’s one more the Leafs have won since 1967) and it’s pretty easy to tell he dislikes the majority of European players.

This is a guy who has been wriggling his way out of his job with the Anaheim Ducks for months now. The reason behind that? Because he didn’t like the West Coast. So why did you accept a job there Brian? A man of your “talents” surely could have been employed anywhere in the league, yet you chose a place that you were destined to hate since your family lived on the East Coast. A guy shouldn’t be able to break a contract because he misses his family; did he ever even think about moving them to sunny California? It’s not like he’s broke.

He’s also left that Ducks team with a bunch of players set to become free agents after this season and saddled the team without much room under the cap resign players or to fill those holes. Historically, Burke has always signed players in ways that would allow to the Ducks to be pressed against the cap and while this gives the illusion of utilizing every dollar you can play with, it can be detrimental if you want/need to bring anyone in in case of injuries etc. Trading is also very hard since you’d often have to give more contracts away to make room.

Everyone in Toronto is acting like Burke is the best General Manager and hockey mind on the face of the planet, but the reality is that he’s not all that impressive. He’s a better than average GM, has a great sense of talent in players and has had some teams with great regular season success in Vancouver and Anaheim, but he’s only won a single Stanley Cup and other than that, his teams have flamed out in the playoffs. I guess when you have a team that hasn’t made the playoffs for a couple of years now like Toronto, eighth place is better than lottery-bound.

As for Burke’s preference for North American players over imports? Well take a look back at some of his rosters and while there are a few Europeans scattered around, there isn’t a very high percentage at all. Now, look at the Leafs current roster which features nine imports, well it looks like Burke has his work cut out for him.

So, let’s not get all too excited about the latest hockey saviour in Toronto, but at least you can expect a first round exit in the playoffs next year instead of no post-season at all.

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