Forbes Magazine rated Toronto Maple Leafs as the NHL’s most valuable franchise, worth $1 billion. All those resources haven’t helped the franchise build a winner.
Brian Burke earned many headlines since becoming general manager of the Maple Leafs, but the team failed to advance toward Stanley Cup contention during his unhappy reign of error.
In fact, Toronto didn’t even make the playoffs the last four years despite its heavy investment in talent. Burke went “all in” to acquire finesse forward Phil Kessel as the franchise’s new cornerstone player.
What was that all about? Burke promised “truculence” when he took the job and delivered a family ice show instead.
So Burke got the short haircut, exiting into a consulting role to finish out his six-year, $18 million contract. The new Maple Leafs ownership group -- BCE and Rogers Communications -- had been pondering that move since August, when Burke failed to sell his vision for building championship teams in Toronto.
While Burke’s bombastic style was a hit with fans and most media types, it wasn’t as popular with the corporate types controlling the franchise. The GM’s job fell to Dave Nonis, Burke’s acolyte.
His seat figures to remain quite warm, since the new bosses will certainly consider bringing in their own hockey czar at some point. Nonis might as well go for it and acquire goaltender Roberto Luongo from Vancouver to give the team long-needed stability in the nets.
The Maple Leaf owners appear to favor such a deal, despite Burke’s protestations. So keep an eye on that next few days.
Here is what some pundits wrote about Burke’s firing: