Inside Leafs Management 10 Days Before Expected Puck Drop…


Brian Burke has stolen the headlines in wake of being fired as Leafs GM, but it’s the speculation surrounding the event that has everyone screaming a day later.

Burke was fired Wednesday afternoon, just hours before the new CBA was ratified by the NHL`s Board of Governors.  Reports of speculation immediately followed as Leafs Nation was completely taken by surprise by the announcement.

There is no question he’s been on the hot-seat ever since his arrival to Toronto, and never more than after last season’s epic mid-to-late season meltdown.  The question of the matter is not ‘why?’ but rather ‘why now?’  It appeared Burke had survived the rumours of his job being jeopardized after last season’s debacle, but just ten days before the expected puck-drop of a 48-game season, he was given the red tape.

This story takes an interesting twist with speculation that Burke wasn’t willing to pull the trigger on a Luongo deal just prior to his firing.  Couple that with Burke’s recent demeanor towards the media and the brash, somewhat offensive, statements he made, and you may have a man who fell out of the graces with the ownership.

The bottom line is that this move has a lot more behind it than simply a poor record.

Ownership even stated they were looking for “A new voice, a new direction” than what Burke offered.  But even that with the losing record doesn’t amount to Burke’s firing so close to a new season’s beginning.  The timing just doesn’t add up.

If those were the only reasons for his firing, this would have taken place long before Wednesday.  With that in mind, we can safely assume an event occurred to push the ownership over the edge to fire Burke.

Burke has not been in the media, making an array of comments or anything of the sort publicly, so that can be ruled out as a sudden tipping-point.  Therefore, we’re left with a major event which happened behind closed doors that led to his sudden departure.

Behind those doors, what were the main things being discussed?  Of course we can’t know every topic of discussion, but the one they’ve made public and the one that would seem to impact the franchise most, is the Roberto Luongo trade talks with Vancouver.

The event of Burke turning down a potential deal with the Canucks for goaltender Roberto Luongo would serve to be the most likely scenario as to why he was fired so suddenly.

Enough with the speculation, here are the facts:

The entire management who Burke worked with over his tenure in Toronto, still remain in place; not exactly a popular method for changing the direction of the team.

Dave Nonis, a man who should share most of the blame in Toronto with Burke, has taken over as GM.

Nonis said in the press conference that he only heard the shocking news that morning.

After Burke’s release from Vancouver just before the last lockout, Nonis also took his place as GM of the Canucks.  Shortly thereafter, he made a trade to acquire Luongo from the Florida Panthers.

After being relieved of his duties in Vancouver, Nonis rejoined Burke in Anaheim.

If for the vast majority of his career he’s been under the tutelage of Brian Burke, how is this move supposed to change the voice and leadership of the team?

CBC`s Elliotte Friedman posted in his latest blog that the `Burke firing was personal.`  In it, Friedman quotes three unidentified members of the NHL`s Board of Governors who he said were shocked at the news.  All three said something big must have happened to prompt such a sudden event.

Friedman specifically states, “someone important didn`t want him around.“

Sadly, the world of politics doesn`t stop at international affairs or arguing politicians.  It`s alive and well in the sports world.  With the recent ownership change in Toronto, the political struggle was bound to come to a head.  The first to fall victim thus far: Brian Burke.

With no real explanation for this to happen so close to the start of the season, these facts are simply unavoidable.

Even more unexplainable is the fact that the season is a shortened one.  If anything, a short season should have bought Burke some time and given him at least these 48 games to get the Leafs into the post-season.

The Leafs were well on their way to a playoff berth last season.  Burke had no control over the catastrophic meltdown and the fall from their playoff position. Fans fail to regard that the Leafs were having a great season until, then head coach, Ron Wilson decided to rotate the goalies after losses, completely destroying their confidence, which kick-started the travesty.

It`s hardly conceivable that Burke`s right-hand man can propel the Leafs into the playoffs with no off-season and a shortened campaign.  Unless of course he acquires Luongo`s services at some point.

All in all, Burke`s departure from the front office was both unnecessary and unprecedented.  There was clearly no plan of action with the erratic promotion of Nonis to the team`s general managing position.

The last thing this organization needed was a cloud of mistrust moving forward.