It can be argued that Brian Burke was the architect behind the current Vancouver Canucks squad, he was the one that dealt for the top two picks in the draft that netted the Canucks Daniel and Henrik Sedin, two of the top snipers in the NHL these days. It can also be argued that he was the man behind the Anaheim Ducks cup run of 2007, even though he really came on board after they had Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry drafted. However, he was smart enough to draft players like Bobby Ryan and re-sign Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne again and again.
So, he had a lot of cache after a couple of years in Anaheim and of course the Toronto Maple Leafs GM at the time John Ferguson Junior was known as….well lets just say it politely, a fucking idiot. So the Leafs were in desperate need of a strong visionary that had the hockey knowledge and smarts about him to bring them back to a power position in the NHL. They have rabid fans and are the top hockey market in the world so suffice it to say they had their eyes on one and only one man to handle the job once they finally smartened up and fired the man that had made outrageous contract offers with Jason Blake, Pavel Kubina and Bryan McCabe (along with no-trade clauses for all of them). Brian Burke was seen as the star GM in the hockey world and Toronto did everything they could to land him. He would be their way out of the darkness that had enveloped the team.
Or so they thought….
Two years into the journey and Brian Burke is not even remotely handling the job in the proper way. I know when he took the job Burke said he would rebuild the Leafs in a non-traditional way in an effort to expedite the process, but why bother? Do you know how the Anaheim Ducks won the cup Brian? What about the Pittsburgh Penguins? or the Tampa Bay Lighning?
They used their draft picks wisely and built a team around top end draft choices. They tanked the team for three or four years and ended up with 3 or 4 top ten draft picks to build a franchise around. Once you have give your draft picks a chance to get themselves into NHL form through play in the AHL or a couple of seasons worth of learning lessons at the NHL level, start signing some free agents to fill out your roster and patch holes in the defence and forward areas.
Instead he has traded two first round draft picks for a sniper who has no one to play with and has tried to create a formidable blue line which has failed miserably. The first first rounder he traded was promptly turned into Tyler Seguin (the top ranked centre in the 2010 draft) who would have probably been a great fit with their Nazim Kadri selection from 2009. Brian Burke’s calculations in thinking the aquisition of Phil Kessel would be the key to the Leafs making a string of playoff appearances shows about as much mathematical accumen as I did in the pre-calculus college course that landed me on academic probation. His probation will be the Leafs mired in another decade of uselessness as the Boston Bruins reap the riches of the Leafs terribleness instead of Brian Burke.
Unfortunately Toronto hockey fans continue to buy tickets (kudos for not being bandwagon jumpers) which means the Leafs never have the time to tank a season and focus on building from the ground up. Until they change their mantra of “Every year we need to make the playoffs” for a couple of years, they will flounder at the bottom to mid range of the eastern conference. They will soon learn from Edmonton how to take a team from the scrap heap and build it into an entertaining product that sells tickets and has success on the ice.