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The Burke era in Toronto’s been rough — but so was the one preceding it

Aug 10, 2012, 9:39 PM EDT

Brian Burke

After James van Riemsdyk was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs, he expressed his enthusiasm by calling the team the  “Yankees of the NHL.”

A better comparison might be the Blue Jays.

That’s a joke, mind you. Toronto’s MLB team has actually won something worthy of mention in the last 25 years.

Mean spirited? Perhaps, but the Leafs are something of a punchline. The big difference between the Leafs and Yankees is that fans of other teams don’t look at Toronto with jealousy. They can barely keep a straight face.

Meanwhile, people within the city are directing their frustration and ire at the club.

Brian Burke, the man they talked about being their GM back when he was still under contract with the Anaheim Ducks, is now a villain. If the Maple Leafs don’t finally end their seven-season long playoff slump this season, he probably won’t be back for 2013-14.

And that’s a shame, because this really isn’t his fault, not entirely. When Burke assumed command in 2008, they were a team without direction. Before interim GM Cliff Fletcher took over a little under a year prior to Burke’s eventual hiring, the Leafs were one of those clubs that strive for eighth place at all costs, and fail at even that.

Since then, Burke’s tried turning a barren wasteland into a tropical forest.

That’s not an easy thing to do and it’s not like everything he’s touched as turned to gold. As good as Phil Kessel has been, it’s hard to look at that deal and call it a win for Toronto and that’s not the only move he’s made that hasn’t worked out. For example, you could argue that his decision last season to not secure a veteran goaltender to help out James Reimer in 2011-12 was a misstep.

Still, Toronto has a young core of already established NHLers and a number of youngsters from their 2011-12 Calder Trophy Finalists Toronto Marlies could step up and play big roles for the Maple Leafs within the next couple of years. That, of course, includes Nazem Kadri.

Toronto still might not make the playoffs in 2012-13 and if you just compare the Toronto Maple Leafs record from the pre-Burke lockout era to the post-Burke lockout era, it’s hard to really see why he should stay around. However, the difference is that the Leafs have a direction now and eventually that will be to their benefit.

  1. t16rich - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:41 PM

    He does himself no favors. Just let the Toronto media be who they are, don’t battle it. Arguing with a fool only makes you a fool.

  2. 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Second youngest team in the league if I’m not mistaken. People need to be patient, a word members of the media in this town don’t recognize.

  3. phillyphever - Aug 10, 2012 at 9:52 PM

    Burke’s been overrated for years. It’s finally caught up to him in Toronto.

    • bjbeliever - Aug 12, 2012 at 1:11 PM

      Ya who needs someone that knows how to find unsigned talent and stock a farm system without any real top flight draft picks…I mean to think he couldn’t rebuild the team bottom up in three years….useless….when you come to a squad that has everybody on no trade contracts just tell them tough beans. Oh and send a memo to Jeff Finger letting him know were done signing players for $4mil a year to play on the farm team.

      Easy on Burke, he gets blamed for everything management did before him, and once the media is successful in scapegoating him out of town, the next GM will get all the credit for the system he left behind. tough gig.

      • phillyphever - Aug 12, 2012 at 2:24 PM

        Yeah, who needs Jeff Finger when you have Mike Komisarek and his albratross of a contract. Face it, Burke has no idea what he’s doing (besides giving Boston a title).

      • bjbeliever - Aug 12, 2012 at 4:34 PM

        granted Komisarek’s contract is at best questionable…but I think implying that Kaberle and Seguin were the reason Boston got the title to be a bit much

  4. j22j - Aug 10, 2012 at 11:15 PM

    The Leafs have come a long way since Burke took the job. Not all his moves have been Gems, but he has the team well stocked for the future, something that was definitely lacking before he took the reigns. I know its hard to be patient, but the massive hole Ferguson had dug for the team is not something you can climb out of overnight. The way he is building the team is not a quick fix. It is a complete renovation that should leave the team in position to not just make the playoffs for a year or two, but to compete for many years and hopefully eventually end the long Cup drought.

    • somekat - Aug 11, 2012 at 12:15 AM

      The thing is, when you trade away those picks for Kessel, you are saying it is going to be a quick fix. If he is asking Leafs fans to be patient, he shouldn’t trade away top draft picks for a single player. To me, it looks like he tried to follow the flyers model (They were very bad, drafted JVR, and traded future picks for Pronger), but failed miserably.

      Overall, he hasn’t been bad. Like you said, they are much better stocked for the future than they have been. But his signature move was not a “give us time” move, it was a move that SHOULD be to make a move now. You don’t trade away those picks wth the plan of having any chance at those being top 5 picks

  5. elguapo12 - Aug 11, 2012 at 12:43 AM

    Ah, now they’re the second-youngest team in the league. Much better than being the youngest, which was the mantra for the last few years. Name 5 players that another team would want…

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 11, 2012 at 2:37 AM

      Gardiner, JVR, Kessel, Lupul, Brown.

  6. cowboyscanada - Aug 11, 2012 at 12:54 AM

    Burke should be fired. This egomaniac shouldnt be in the league.

  7. elguapo12 - Aug 11, 2012 at 3:58 AM

    Kessel and Gardiner, yes. JVR was a castoff as proven by the underachiever he was dealt for. Gardiner sure. Brown? Err, okay. Maybe for my AHL fantasy team.

    • 1943mrmojorisin1971 - Aug 11, 2012 at 11:15 AM

      Any team would want a healthy JVR, although it remains to be seen if there is such a thing.

      Teams also like gritty fourth-line energy guys, and few are better than Brown. Guy gives no less than 100% every second of every shift and doesn’t back down form anyone. A lot of NHL coaches like that kind of player.

  8. craigmaitland - Aug 11, 2012 at 11:18 AM

    Lol at “they have direction now” they haven’t been to the playoffs in a decade yet still have no young superstars to show for it.

  9. cowboyscanada - Aug 11, 2012 at 1:48 PM

    Im all for Burke remaining with the Leafs for years to come! That can only help the Habs. Burkes ego will keep the leafs from winning for another few decades…

  10. blomfeld - Aug 12, 2012 at 3:05 AM

    Both Brian Burke and his “man-woman” c-grade newscaster wife Jennifer Lo are a complete joke … so if there is a season at all, then look for this clown to be liquidated by it’s end …

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