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Burke era in Toronto: Trades, truculence and tirades

Jan 9, 2013, 1:56 PM EDT

Brian Burke Getty Images

As reported earlier, Brian Burke has been fired as president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Burke era began in 2008 and spanned 305 games, with a record of 128-135-42 and zero playoff appearances.

Those are the numbers, but this story is about more.

Much, much more.

Let’s take a look back at some of Burke’s most memorable moments in Tronna.


It’s hard to know exactly where to start. Burke was a perpetual mover and shaker during his time in Toronto, making over 40 trades in what amounted to a total roster overhaul.

He brought in the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, John-Michael Liles, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, Matt Lombardi and David Steckel.

He shipped out the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Luke Schenn, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan and Ian White.

He brought in and shipped out Kris Versteeg, JS Giguere and Francois Beauchemin.

But the signature move of Burke’s wheeling and dealing was the Kessel trade, in which Boston netted two first-round picks that would become Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.

It was his boldest and most contentious move, one that will continue to be referenced well into Dave Nonis’ tenure.


“We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence,” Burke told the media upon being hired in 2008. “That’s how our teams play.”

It’s the line that stuck with Burke throughout his time in Toronto.

While the strategy reaped huge rewards in Anaheim — Burke won a Cup with a roster featuring Shawn Thornton, Travis Moen, George Parros, Sean O’Donnell and Brad May — it never came to fruition with the Leafs.

The likes of Colton Orr, Mike Brown, Garnet Exelby and Jay Rosehill were acquired in an ill-fated effort to get tough and, in perhaps his most egregious “tough” signing, Burke shelled out $22.5 million for Mike Komisarek.

“He’s a respected competitor in this league,” Burke said upon signing Komisarek. “We know that he will bring his hard-nosed approach to our team on a consistent basis.”

Komisarek only appeared in 45 games last year and was often a healthy scratch.

Today, he’s mostly mentioned as an amnesty buyout candidate.


Burke was nothing if not combative during his four-plus years on the job. Fights, feuds and potential fisticuffs were constant:

He ripped ESPN

He ripped CBC

— He said the Penguins were good because they “won a goddamn lottery

He ripped Don Cherry

He ripped Ron MacLean

— He wanted to rent a barn to stage a fist fight between him and Kevin Lowe

He ripped Leafs fans

He ripped the Toronto media

— He called Ron Wilson a “Hall of Fame coach” then fired him three months later

He ripped Francois Allaire

He ripped anonymous player polls

Say what you will about the job he did, or the way he conducted himself — the NHL is going to be less interesting now that Brian Burke’s no longer a part of it.


Leafs fire Brian Burke (!!!); Nonis named replacement

  1. broadstbully33 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:00 PM

    He wasn’t wrong about the penguins

    • killerpgh - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:11 PM

      They also “lost” the lottery and got Malkin.

      • rsl22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:45 PM

        Don’t forget Staal was 2nd overall and M-A Fleury was 1st overall.

        It pays to be absolutely terrible.

      • rsl22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:59 PM

        Pens fans should be a bit scared….not counting 2012 as that would be a bit unfair, only Simon Despres has played in the NHL out of the previous four draft classes. That’s terrible.

        Despres may be an okay player, but he’s not a real shutdown defender and has all of 7 points in 26 games and is a -3, in the AHL.

        Ray Shero should be embarrassed.

      • killerpgh - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:38 PM

        The traded up to get MAF in the draft. But I think that is what started the whole “they won a lottery” thing started with Burke refusing to admitting that blowing up the team and doing a rebuild through the draft was a good thing. Instead his plan of finishing bad but not horrible and continuing to be mediocre/bad or trading multiple high picks for one player when you have as many holes as his team had. Instead of rebuilding theough draft he traded 3 picks for Kessel. Those picks ended up being: Tyler Seguin (who looks like he will be a top forward in the league), Dougie Hamilton (who is probably the best prospect not playing in the NHL) and Jarden Knight. He also traded the pick that landed the Ducks John Gibson – who just won the MVP of the world juniors championship last week.

      • killerpgh - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:51 PM

        And as far as Shero should be embarrassed for his drafting that must be a joke. The 4 years you are talking about: 2008 – no 1st round pick, 2009 – 30th overall pick in Despres, 2010 – 20th overall and picked Beau Bennett who just turned pro this year and has a 50/50 chance to play, 2011 – 23rd overall pick in Marrow who just turned pro this year, but almost made the club last year. Please show me a list of GM’s that are drafting all the quality NHLers making an impact at age 18-22 while dafting in the bottom 2/3 of the draft. Please do. I’ll wait.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:44 PM

      He wasn’t wrong about ESPN either.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 9, 2013 at 10:09 PM

        Or Cherry.

  2. shoobiedoobin - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:04 PM

    He built his rep off of two overblown things-the Sedin deal, and the 07 championship in which the refs handed Anaheim a goon victory over Detroit and a cake walk past the winner of the East, which was an ugly contest at the time.

    This was so predictable.

    • misterchainbluelightning - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      The 07 Championship was a Murray built team anyways, how Burke gets credit blows my mind. It’s like Stan Bowman taking credit for the Championship team Tallon built.

  3. valoisvipers - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:08 PM

    Say what you will about Burke but he speaks his mind.

    • lostpuppysyndrome - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:53 PM

      He spoke a lot of good things, but they didn’t translate into a good on-ice product. He reminds me a lot of Mark Cuban. I agree with a lot of stuff the guy says, but when your face is in the media as often as it is and because of the things you say, you’re bound to stick your foot in your mouth and embarrass/enrage those you represent.

    • beergold - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:11 PM

      Yep they were considering a new CBC sitcom up here in Canada with Burke as the star….It was going to be called “Azzholes say the Darndest Things!”

      Good riddance to him, America can have him back and he can take his franchise -35 as a TML player Kessel with him! (and give us back Seguin and Hamilton)

    • badintent - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:29 PM

      Yeah, he did so much in Vancouver , we shipped his ass out pronto when the new owners ( 2 groups) decided the only thing they could agree on was firing him. This jerkoff taught a night school biz class at UBC. The only reason I didn’t take it was that it was over an hour away. I would have loved to school this fool in NFL Hockey economics 101. He blasted Brain May in the press for over 4 months , then went ahead and signed him for the $$ that May wanted less $25K. Pathetic on Burke’s part. Sorry to hear when his son died but I know he’s in a better place away from his dad.Burke foot is permanently stuck in his mouth..Only Rex Ryan would play with it !

      • nothanksimdriving123 - Jan 9, 2013 at 10:13 PM

        Fine to criticize his actions. Extremely rude to get morbidly personal about his losing his son.

  4. jaybird22seven - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:15 PM

    He made a mistake trading away two first and a second for Kessel.

    • hockeyflow33 - Jan 9, 2013 at 5:36 PM

      Yea but imagine if they had been just a little bit better that season and the B’s didn’t get the 2nd pick but the 10th or 12th. It would have been a great move.

      He was able to ship away Kaberle for Colborne though

      • bearcountry17 - Jan 9, 2013 at 11:49 PM

        If they didn’t trade for Kessel the leafs could have ended up with Taylor Hall/ Tyler Seguin and Hamilton/ Couts/ Shiefele/ Zibanejab/ Strome/ Larsson/ Huberdeau/ Landeskog/ RHN. Not only will it end up being a horrible trade, it was extremely poor timed as well.

        They should of fired him after the team he thought had playoff potential ended up as the 2nd worst team in the league.

      • hockeyflow33 - Jan 10, 2013 at 1:30 AM

        Maybe but you never know how things would have ended up . Maybe Seguin ends up playing that rookie year and they lose out on Hamilton.

  5. mclovinhockey - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:18 PM

    To be fair, winning a lottery when you have your player picked out and ready to move in and having bettman know if your team doesn’t win the lottery they will be sold because of money trouble and not even having a season that year to determine who should win the lottery and THEN winning the lottery just doesn’t seem like 100% luck /:

  6. gbar22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:28 PM

    He’ll be back! I guarantee it!

  7. gbar22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:31 PM

    Ps. NHL Network should hire him in the mean time to be an analyst

    Pss. NHL Network please stop airing playoffs and wj games that I’ve already watched and start airing real shows and press conferences etc.

    • rsl22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:02 PM

      HA. I’ll thumbs up that request. NHL Net, please stop airing the same garbage!

    • phillyphanatic77 - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:30 PM

      It seems like it’s been forever since they actually had live programming. So tired of watching Phoenix v. Chicago and pioneer shows about Stan Mikita. Bring back EJ Hradek.

  8. mclovinhockey - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:37 PM

    Maybe he can head to the jackets… It would be a huge step up

  9. lostpuppysyndrome - Jan 9, 2013 at 2:58 PM

    “The NHL is going to be less interesting now that Brian Burke’s no longer a part of it.” It’ll only be less interesting while he’s not working. His simmering glower will be back before we know it.

  10. gbar22 - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:03 PM

    I do not see jd and Burke working well together but otherwise he would be great for the jackets and any success the leafs have over the next two – three years will have to be accredited to Burke as they will still be his players and his farm system.

  11. somekat - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:22 PM

    Thanks for shipping Luke Schenn to Philly in what amounts to your last signifigant move. I think the change of scenery, and chance to play with his brother, is going to do wonders for both of them. Signed, a flyers fan

    • timsabourin - Jan 9, 2013 at 4:12 PM

      Luke has no confidence…and he’s going to possibly the only team with a fanbase who can turn on a player quicker than Toronto. Not a good combination.

      • bearcountry17 - Jan 9, 2013 at 11:53 PM

        And he’s a turnover machine.

      • timsabourin - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:52 PM

        God is he ever. Not gonna miss that milk bag.

  12. misterchainbluelightning - Jan 9, 2013 at 3:32 PM

    WWII was “less interesting” once Hitler was dead, doesn’t mean the world isn’t better for his removal.

  13. bigbadbruins77 - Jan 9, 2013 at 6:48 PM

    as a bruins fan I would like to thank him for Seguin, Hamilton, and Tukka Rask 😀

  14. pastabelly - Jan 9, 2013 at 9:56 PM

    Agree that dealing Tuukka was pretty bad too, considering their goaltending problems.

    • bearcountry17 - Jan 9, 2013 at 11:56 PM

      Rask was by John Ferguson Jr.

  15. nvillano - Jan 10, 2013 at 12:28 AM

    I feel as if this team is in yet another downward spiral (if it is possible to be any lower)

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