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Leafs GM Burke: “The rats will take this game over”

Jan 5, 2012, 1:12 PM EDT

Brian Burke AP

A day after making the decision to put little-used pugilist Colton Orr on waivers, Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke took to the pulpit today and bemoaned the death of the hockey enforcer. Burke was not only upset about potentially ending Orr’s career — “my admiration for this kid just knows no limits,” he said — but also the current state of the NHL.

“I do wonder where our game is going,” Burke said. “I know the Greenpeace folks will be happy with this, but I wonder where we’re going when Brendan Shanahan’s got six hearings every two days.

“I wonder about the accountability in our game. I wonder where we’re going with it. That’s the only lament I have on this. The fear that if we don’t have guys looking after each other than the rats will take this game over. That’s my fear.

“I see guys that run around and start stuff and won’t back it up and it makes me sick to my stomach.”

It was in 2009 when Burke raised a few eyebrows by signing Orr to a four-year, $4 million deal — a substantial investment in a player with a slim NHL resume…that couldn’t really play hockey.

For his career, Orr has played in 378 NHL contests and registered 11 goals, nine assists, a minus-34 rating and 921 penalty minutes. He’s appeared in just five games for the Leafs this season, though part of that is due to a myriad of injuries, including a concussion that cost him half of last season.

In related news, Orr has cleared waivers and will now suit up for Toronto’s AHL affiliate, the Marlies.

  1. cshearing - Jan 5, 2012 at 1:27 PM

    Burke’s concerns are real. I am not sure I believe them with the same fervor he does, but I have the same fears. Gretzky had Semenko (and others) watching his back. Will the next Gretzky just get pounded out of the league?

    I think a combination of this and the armor-like protection they now wear has led to this lack of respect amongst the players.

    • haterzgonahate - Jan 5, 2012 at 1:40 PM

      that and players not sticking up for their actions and forcing the league to step in and make changes they feel they need to make to protect these players.

      just a few stories down we are reminded of the Bertuzzi-Moore incident, i think arguably we can thank that moment as the beginning of the end. i’m not condoning what Bertuzzi did… but what if Moore had just manned up and fought him? a couple black eyes or a broken nose are much better than a broken neck. and its still dragging on….

      • drewsylvania - Jan 5, 2012 at 2:24 PM

        Yeah, Moore really earned that broken neck. Idiot.

      • danphipps01 - Jan 6, 2012 at 1:46 AM

        Moore fought Cooke early in the first period. He answered the call to battle for the Naslund hit and Crawford kept sending guys after him, showing blatant disregard for the proper enforcement of on-ice justice, for the rest of the game, resulting in the Bertuzzi incident. I’m no fan of Moore’s – I think he’s a slimy little shitweasel – but he took the first fighter who challenged him over the Naslund hit exactly as he should have and Crawford just fucking ignored that and sent more guys after him instead. Get your facts straight.

  2. drewsylvania - Jan 5, 2012 at 2:33 PM

    Cutting Orr has little to do with what Burke is complaining about. One can be a good fighter, willing to stick up for his teammates, *and* a good player. Orr got cut because he’s a lousy hockey player.

    Burke also fails to note that the hearings are what happens at the beginning of the process. Once the players fully adapt their games, the number of cheap hits, and hearings, will go down.

    This just sounds like whining to me.

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 5, 2012 at 2:47 PM

      I think Burkie is trying to do two things – one, provide some cover for Colton Orr to be demoted out of the league without the usual embarrassment that goes with that. Which is pretty respectable.

      And two, Burke is trying to cover his ass here. This isn’t about how the game has changed (it’s been changing like this for years now) so much as it is about Burke making excuses for having to hide another contract in the minors. It’s ironic because other comments made by Burke around this are about how GMs have to remain ahead of the curve, can’t be the last to recognize change, etc – but of course he did not recognize that when he handed out a four year deal to Colton Orr and now two and a half seasons in he’s stowing another contract in the minors because the guy can’t hold down a roster spot.

  3. kennypowersmfceo - Jan 5, 2012 at 2:58 PM

    Well I would agree with everything you just said haterz….but I think that the bertuzzi-moore incident doesn’t exactly qualify for this instance…..what if he just manned up and fought him? That punch came all the way in the third period of a game where every time Moores skates touched the ice, a Canuck was in his face and he didn’t back down….not to mention he had already fought Matt Cooke (arguably one of the dirtiest players in the league right now) in the first period….so to say the Moore could’ve prevented this from happening by manning up is just asinine.

  4. canuckinamerica - Jan 5, 2012 at 3:56 PM

    Well slap me on the ass and call me Nancy. This may be the first time I have agreed with at least a little something Blustering Burkie has said. Take away the instigator penalty and let players “answer the bell” for all these dirty hits and cheap shots.
    Also think BB (Blustering Burkie) may have been not quite honest with his “story” on Colton Orr. It is not the way the game has changed that got him sent to the minors, but rather the nasty beating and concussion he took from Parros that has left him not able to be a real heavyweight nor “deterrence” any longer. BB has some of his “story” right…..he just now needs to find some honesty with which to tell it.

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:26 PM

      I don’t understand all this fluff about the instigator penalty killing off the enforcer – these guys put their teams down by taking idiotic penalties all the time, do you think a two minute minor in the course of doing their actual jobs is going to make any difference?

      (I mean, it could for a team dead last in the league on the penalty kill, but that’s another story..)

      Nevermind the fact that the instigator barely gets called. Players are constantly having to fight after clean hits, and the instigators of those fights rarely put their teams down.

  5. canuckinamerica - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:30 PM

    Obviously not up on the instigator penalty rule, bud. It is 5 minutes and suspensions…which become more severe with each infraction. Suspensions = money lost to the player land team. If it were just the 2 minutes……you would see the tough guys “reprimanding” the cheap shot artists more often.

    • davebabychreturns - Jan 5, 2012 at 5:35 PM

      It’s two for the instigator, five for fighting and a ten minute misconduct at the ref’s discretion.

      Even guys like Max Lapierre and Sean Avery fight most of the time, so you’re talking about a two minute disadvantage, five minutes with both players sitting in the box and a ten minute misconduct (who cares).

      It has to basically be assault for one player to get two, five and ten and the other player to get nothing.

      A player gets a game misconduct for his third instigator of the season and again, who gives a shit. These penalties are barely handed out, do you realize the lengths a player would have to go to in order to get three in a season? They’d have to be a full time enforcer (in which case a team isn’t exactly going to miss them while they server their misconducts) or have a screw loose.

      • davebabychreturns - Jan 5, 2012 at 5:38 PM

        D’oh.. further down in the same rule (but in a separate paragraph) it lays out the suspensions, my bad.

        Nevertheless I still maintain that players – especially players like Orr whose impact on the ice is otherwise negligible – could easily lay down the law a few times a season without suffering too much wrath at the hands of the league.

        And yet they by and large do not.. and even teams with the players who do are not exempt from cheap shots or physical play.

  6. canuckinamerica - Jan 5, 2012 at 4:37 PM

    Damn….Should have wrote…..2-5 and 10 minute misconduct plus the suspension.

  7. barkar942 - Jan 5, 2012 at 6:01 PM

    Maybe he is making room for Avery? He can play and fight!

  8. canuckinamerica - Jan 5, 2012 at 6:07 PM

    Avery Play and fight? Right. Guess that is why every other team in the league put in a claim for him.
    The extra 2 is the killer to any coach who would like to see a cheap shot artist taken care of. Points now with the awarding of a point awarded for losing in OT are just too important to give up any PP’s for.

  9. elvispocomo - Jan 5, 2012 at 6:30 PM

    To be completely honest, I don’t get why he thinks taking a 6’3″ 222lbs enforcer out of the game will allow the rats to run free. He even states it’s the running around and not backing up their actions part that makes him sick. So why does there have to be a big guy who can’t play more than 5 minutes a night to take care of someone like Marchard when anyone else (Phaneuf, Bozak, Schenn, Franson, Steckel, Komisarek, Colborne, Boyce, Armstrong, Aulie – and of course Brown and Rosehill being the remaining ‘fighters’) has the size to deal with him while still being able to play the game. Guys like Carcillo have been taking themselves out of the game on their own and if they don’t have the skill, they don’t play enough to matter anyways.

    Every team has players that are 6′ 200lbs and up and there’s always someone capable of playing and settling scores against the rats that run around. There’s always going to be a handful of players like Lucic who can dish it and take it (size and skill combined with the ability to fight) but that’s the exception not the rule. You can’t stock enforcers just in case you need to take care of 1% of the players in the league that you wouldn’t be able to handle with regular personnel.

  10. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Jan 5, 2012 at 10:36 PM

    If a player like Avery can have an NHL career then the rats took over the game long ago.

  11. danphipps01 - Jan 6, 2012 at 2:13 AM

    This is just Burkie looking back on the past with rose-tinted glasses and seeing it as better than it actually was. The rats are hardly new and hardly any more prevalent than before. Marty McSorley, Bob Kelly, Esa Tikkanen, Darius Kasparaitis, Pat Verbeek, Ken Linseman, Dale Hunter, Tiger Williams and Darcy Tucker all come to mind, as do Bobby Clarke (with respect to the fact that he was an extremely talented player, he was also a shameless dirty bastard) and several of his Broad Street Bullies-era teammates. The “rats” have been prevalent for decades and whether Burke is delusional or just bad with hockey history, he’s still wrong either way. I don’t like the instigator rule any more than the rest of you guys, trust me, but enforcers don’t prevent cheapshot artists and other flavours of “rat” from plying their trade. The rules don’t embolden the Cookes and Torres’ of the League, they just straight-up don’t give a fuck to begin with.

    In any event, trying to keep enforcers around is just stupid. When a guy who can’t skate, can’t shoot and can’t block nonetheless makes it all the way to the most elite League in hockey based solely on his ability to fight a couple dozen times a year, we get unskilled guys who are completely out of place. By reducing the enforcer’s role in NHL hockey, it’ll force other players, the power forwards and hard-hitting defencemen of the League, to take up the role and thus increase the skill of the game overall. Elvis has it exactly right – there are plenty of big, strong guys on the Leafs, and on every other team (well, most of them – prove me wrong, Buffalo and Montreal) that can do the job fine. Chara’s an All-Star, Norris-calibre two-way defenceman and one of the best fighters in the League. Iginla’s a top-tier power forward and an Olympic champion – and again, a guy who more than holds his own trading blows. I look at guys like that and think “If they can do it, other skilled guys can step up too. There’s no need to have a guy who can fight, but can’t skate backwards properly. If these guys can do it, there’s no need for enforcers at all.” Fighting’s an important part of the game and needs to stay for certain – but there’s no reason every team needs two or three guys whose hockey skills couldn’t cut it in the AHL getting paid millions to do it and nothing else. I hope there’ll come a time when everyone who makes it into the NHL will do so based on skill at hockey, not bare-knuckle boxing – though for God’s sake, people who talk like “fighting has no place in the League” are goddamned idiots. Of course it does – it just shouldn’t be ALL THAT YOU DO.

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