Fallen Leafs up in Flames


Brian Burke to be blamed for Maple Leafs’ struggles

By Elliot Chan, Opinions Editor

Formerly published in The Other Press. Jan. 21, 2014

The decisions of a general manager have lasting effects on a hockey team, even after the executive has moved on. In the case of former Toronto Maple Leafs’ GM, Brian Burke, the choices he made in his tenure will undoubtedly make ripples for many years to come. But how much blame or praise should one man take for the achievement or failure of a team? My answer: a lot.

Ask any skilled Monopoly player and they will tell you that luck has very little to do with their success. Sure, once in a while a bad roll of the dice and an unlucky trip to jail decides the game; but negotiation and anticipation, being able to see the possibilities around the bend, all of that is what makes those players so skilled. If Burke was to sit down for a game of Monopoly, I believe he would be the wheelbarrow—and also a very proficient player.

It seems that for every good decision Burke has made, he’s made two bad ones. Thank God he traded up to draft the Sedin twins in 1999 when he was the GM for the Canucks, but why did he trade away the draft pick that could have been Tyler Seguin for Phil Kessel when he was the GM for the Leafs? Why did he renew Leafs’ head coach Ron Wilson’s contract in 2011, despite a three-year losing record? Why did he go and criticize Anaheim Ducks’ Bobby Ryan in such a shameful manner when Ryan wasn’t selected to be on the United States’ Olympic team? Perhaps he did it all to turn up the heat in Calgary.

As president of Hockey Operations and interim GM for the Flames, Burke is hoping to return to his prowess. The man is obviously fearless when it comes to making choices, whether good or bad. If he does end up taking the helm in Calgary, I foresee a different-looking team sooner rather than later—and that is the same reason Toronto no longer wants Burke’s services.

He jumped the gun when he arrived in Toronto and built a subpar team, unlike the one in Anaheim. He was trying to recreate what he did in California and ultimately failed. Toronto was in a rebuilding state and instead of taking time to develop prospects, he traded them. The Maple Leafs’ minor successes are just that: minor. But at the moment, the Flames are just hoping for some fuel, so Burke is greatly welcomed.

The Flames have had a dismal 2013-14 season with 38 points in 48 games. Needless to say, whatever Burke does, things can’t get much worse—so no pressure. That was also the case when Burke took over in Vancouver, Anaheim, and Toronto. Burke seems to have a liking for taking a team going nowhere and giving them some direction. If you trace the history books, you can still see Burke’s fingerprints on all his former teams. So, should Burke be blamed for his teams’ successes and failures? Absolutely, and he wouldn’t have it any other way.

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