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Maple Leafs president and CEO loves job Brian Burke has done with team

Oct 7, 2010, 12:28 AM EDT

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toronto_maple_leafs.gifMaple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president and CEO Richard Peddie was asked for his thoughts on the job Leafs GM Brian Burke is doing with the team, and you have to wonder if maybe Peddie’s underlings are showing him tapes of other teams winning and calling them the Leafs.

Shi Davidi of The Globe And Mail gives us the early leader for quote of the season.

“I absolutely love the job Brian Burke has done,” Peddie said moments before a grand opening ceremony for Maple Leaf Square, his company’s gleaming property development project.

“What he’s done, first off, is he’s built a really deep (management) team, with succession. Dave Nonis is a GM all by himself, Dave Poulin is a GM in waiting, Claude Loiselle has been an assistant GM, we’ve got the greybeard and wise man in Cliff Fletcher, really, really a deep, deep team.

“Then he set about changing the culture of the team. I’ve never seen a GM that had a really clear vision of what kind of team he wanted. I’ve worked with seven of them, which might say something about the longevity of GMs at our place, but he’s got this clear, clear vision — goalies, defence, four lines, all that. I’ve never heard it, basketball, soccer, hockey, as clear as him. …

“Did we finish 29th? Was that not good? Absolutely, but I love where he’s at now, what he’s done, so high, high marks to Brian Burke from my perspective.”

If anyone ever calls Richard Peddie a pessimist, just show them these quotes to shut them up. If anyone wanted to call him crazy, on the other hand, this would make for an outstanding Exhibit A. As for Brian Burke, you better believe he knows what was said and you’d better believe he’s got his own take on things.

“We finished 29th, I don’t know how I can give myself anything other than a poor grade,” he said. “You’re dealing with sophisticated sports fans in Toronto — you better be honest. We haven’t had any success, hopefully it starts (Thursday) night.”

The Leafs open up with the Montreal Canadiens in Toronto and while fans may be excited about the start of the season in Toronto, realism is also a bit more in vogue than usual in Canada’s hockey capital.

While things could all click right for Toronto and they sneak in the playoffs, the more realistic thing to believe in is that they’ll improve starkly over last season and just miss out. If the Leafs can turn the corner like that and perhaps even not finish last in the Northeast Division, then people can start believing in the job Burke is doing building the team. Until then, the jury is out.

Of course, whatever tapes Richard Peddie is watching will show the “Leafs” lifting the Cup at seasons end yet again. He might be asking what happened to the red and black jerseys they wore last year are though.

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