What if Burke was Leafs GM?

Brian Burke has become the Toronto hockey media’s favourite pick for the next GM of the Leafs and for the most part he has been heralded by the Toronto media as one of the best GMs in hockey and the kind of GM the Leafs desperately need. But what if Burke was GM of the Leafs. Would Burke get the same recognition?

If hypothetical Leafs GM Burke signed Todd Bertuzzi to a two year $8 million deal, only to buy him out the following off season, would the Toronto media herald Burke as one of the greatest GMs in hockey?

If hypothetical Leafs GM Burke signed Mathieu Schneider to a two year $11.25 million deal and just to put him on waivers the following summer hoping someone would claim him, would the Toronto media herald Burke as one of the greatest GMs in hockey?

Of course not. The deals to Bertuzzi and Schneider are actually far worse than the monetary cost to the team. These deals essentially cost the Ducks team a talented player in Andy McDonald because Burke was forced to trade McDonald to clear salary space. If Burke made such moves while GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs he would be criticized beyond belief. But he isn’t GM of the Leafs so the Toronto hockey media are still in love with him.

If you then factor in that Burke chose to sign Bertuzzi instead of signing a young power forward capable of scoring 25 goals while playing a solid two-way physical game named Dustin Penner and you have to ask yourself, why does everyone think Burke is such a great GM.

If you go back to his Vancouver days he never was able to acquire the goaltender the team desperately needed to seriously challenge for the Stanley Cup and his draft record was mixed at best.

He did win the Stanley Cup in 2007 in large part by his bold move to sign Niedermayer and trade for Pronger but the core of the forward crew was there before Burke arrived.

If Burke were the GM of the Leafs having put Schneider on waivers desperately hoping someone will claim him, my guess is that there would be more than a few in the Toronto media calling for Burke’s firing.

It is always greener on the other side of the fence.

This article has 14 Comments

  1. I think what you’re saying has some truth to it, but there’s other reasons why he’s not been crucified in Anaheim (besides the fact that people only care about the Lakers here).

    There were huge extenuating circumstances with the semi-retirements of Niedermayer and Selanne, and while there’s certainly been messy repercussions, I think serious Ducks fans know that Burke made the right decision — the real tragedy would be that forcing a quick decision cost the Ducks (and the NHL) two supreme talents.

    So, yeah, waiving Schneider for “nothing” or losing McDonald for “very little” (not your quotes) sounds pretty ugly, but there’s payoffs to these moves you’re conveniently leaving out. Losing Schneider to bring back Niedermayer is probably the better way of explaining things, and last year losing McDonald to keep Schneider plus Niedermayer might be accurate. Sure, Toronto media would still probably love to take Burke to task for these issues, it’s not just as simple as saying Burke can’t manage assets.

    Still, on the larger point I think you’re right. Things are kind of being overlooked in the Burke coverage; there seems to be way more focus on his upsides and not so much on his drawbacks (such as his obvious distaste for Europeans not named Selanne or Pahlsson).

  2. David – I couldn’t agree more.

    Earl – Yes the Selanne and Niedermayer situation complicated things for Burke, but he wouldn’t be in this mess if he didn’t acquire Bertuzzi at $4M, Marchant at $2.52M (and a NTC) and Brendan Morrison at $2.75M. Depending on how you slice it, that’s an outlay of $9+M for crap (15% of the cap) or $6+M (11% of the cap) for crap and a buy-out.

  3. Well, I dunno about Morrison yet. He’s played against the Ducks well in the past and probably gets some easy minutes; we’ll see if that’s dead money.

    As for Marchant, he’s been quite serviceable thus far. Sure, he’s got stone hands, but so long as you factor that in, he’s quite a good faceoff guy, PKer, and can legitimize guys like Parros and May on a 4th line. Plus, when called upon, he’s capable to step up — when Pahlsson was injured at the start of last year, or when Kunitz was out on the top line in the cup playoffs. Sure, Marchant might be overpaid, but I actually think this year he’s closer to market value than he was two years ago.

    Bertuzzi sucks, though. There’s no getting around that. I actuallly probably would have preferred not buying out Bertuzzi (I think buy-outs should probably be reserved for rich teams) and just sucking up $4M this year, but I’m certainly glad I won’t be grumbling about him 82+ times this year.

  4. The Marchant acquisition was a part of the dumping of a much more horrible Fedorov contract so I don’t fault Burke for that acquisition.

    Burke isn’t a bad GM but he is far from a great one. Burke is an opinionated and sometimes stubborn person and that comes through in his GM moves. He makes bold moves looking for big returns. Sometimes it works out (Niedermayer-Pronger duo, somewhat on the Sedin draft picks) but other times they back fire big time (Bertuzzi, Schneider).

    Morrison is another Bertuzzi-like gamble though at a lower price and for just one season. But he is another guy Burke is familiar with from the Canucks that Burke is hoping will return to his level of play several years ago. It might pay off, but it may very well be a dud of a move too.

  5. If Burke was currently the Leafs’ GM and he signed Brian Rolston to replace Sundin at his current price tag, would you condone the move? I definitely wouldn’t, as signing Rolston definitely makes them a more competitive team. But if Rolston only manages 20 goals this year, would I be singing the same tune as I am now? Probably not. By signing Rolston do I make Sundin’s return harder to fit into my cap structure? Definitely. Am I still going to go ahead and sign Rolston? Definitely, because I know at least by signing Rolston I’m making this team better.

  6. Greg,

    I like Burke because he isn’t afraid to make bold moves but I think his ego gets in his way a bit. That leads to making mistakes. Bold moves can equal big mistakes. I personally think the best GMs are the steady, confident ones that have a game plan to build the organization from the bottom up and stick to it.

    As for who are the best GMs in hockey you have to look at guys like Bob Gainey for what he has done with the Canadiens as well as what he did in Dallas. Ken Holland has done an outstanding job in Detroit. David Poile deserves ample credit for what he has done with the Predators under tight budget restrictions. Lamoriello is probably over rated as a GM but he has done a pretty good job with the Devils keeping them contenders for a long time. Darcy Regier might get my consideration as well. Those are some of the guys I would consider to be the best GMs in hockey. It is difficult to evaluate many of the current GMs because so many of them are relatively new with little track record.

  7. Burke, IMO, represents the fatal flaw of the TML’s. Look, I’m no Leaf fan, but the fact remains that, as a club, they’ve struggled for decades, and the product on the ice is merely the public face of the dysfunctional management group. Why is this group so dysfunctional…honestly, who knows. But what is consistent is the media. And it is my contention that the media, in there self serving (like all of us) desire to capture attention promote “flavour of the week” moves, that the fans lap up, and almost tie the club into. Burke, IMO, is a shinning example of this. Could you blame the media fro wanting Burke in the GTA market?
    But it begs the question, has Burke really been truly made the heir apparent by MLSE? Who knows, but according to the media he is. And in naming him such, the media has also all but made a hockey God of a rather pedestrian GM. Now the fans (not all) are clamoring for his hiring, and if it doesn’t happen, MLSE will look like they can’t do the job, when hiring Burke may very well be tantamount to putting the fox into the hen house. It’ll be great fodder for the media, either way, but probably have disastrous result for the reputation of the Leafs…again.

  8. I believe Burke is on a list of GMs the Leafs would like to bring in. They also wanted to talk to Ken Holland and Doug Wilson as well. I believe those two are rated as high or higher than Burke on the Leafs GM search.

  9. There are many more big name GMs who’s contracts are up at the end of this season.
    Burke, also Rutherford in Carolina, Darcy Regier in Buffalo and David Poille in Carolina are all avainlible at the end of the year (unless the sign exptensions before then)
    Each of them is highl regarded around the NHL for doing a lot with limited budgets, being able to spend to the cap would help any of them cement thmselves as one of teh best in hockey.

  10. Don’t be surprised when Burke is not the Leafs GM next season. I do believe that he will be part of Leaf management but rather more as an executive role as in a president of hockey operations to which he will add a GM beneath him.
    So basically he will replace the beloved Peddie.

  11. Peddie is the President and CEO of MLSE which included the Leafs, Raptors and everything else. He is almost strictly on the business side of things, not the hockey side. I don’t see Burke wanting to take over Peddie’s tasks. He is a hockey guy. The new GM, whoever he is, will have the same role with the Leafs as Bryan Colangelo has with the Raptors. Colangelo is President and General Manager of the Toronto Raptors. It is possible that the role of President and the role of General Manager goes to two people, in that case the President would report to Peddie and would hire their own General Manager.

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