Brian Burke has made a lot of noise as the noisy, high-profile general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs, but he hasn’t made much headway on the ice.
The Leafs haven’t climbed into the upper tier of the Eastern Conference. They aren’t especially tough, either. They haven’t found a goaltender. Prospects for next season aren’t terribly exciting.
So it is more than fair to question Burke’s confidence. The criticism is pouring in:
Steve Simmons, Toronto Sun: “After 288 games with Burke as president and general manager, in a dubious place once again, with not one of those games being in the post-season. The past four seasons have been entertaining, mostly because the general manager is always one rant, one speech, one verbal assault, one press conference away from being the lead item on the news on any given day. Never has a team or its general manager made more news for having less success. It is forever loud around the Leafs: But what’s startling and troubling and head scratching after four seasons of Burke in Toronto is how much he sold, and how little he has actually delivered on his promises. Were he a politician and standing for re-election, Burke would have great difficulty defending his record.”
Damien Cox, Toronto Star: “Saw this once with the late Pat Burns back in March, 1996. Nobody knows when its all over faster than the head coach, and after a game in Denver against the Avalanche, Burns' basic reaction was a shrug of ‘what-can-I-do?’ He knew it was over. On the flight home, it was. That's what Ron Wilson looked like last night after his team's ninth loss in 10. The fact that he seemed to lob a soft note of discontent at GM Brian Burke, noting sourly that the team 'did nothing at the trade deadline,' just seemed to accentuate the overall impression that Wilson knows he's getting fired and has no new answers to turn this team around. But he remains the head coach of the Leafs, and this is where the legendary stubborness of Burke, the same stubborness that insisted Dan Cloutier could lead Vancouver to the promised land when he could not, begins to switch from asset to liability.”
Bruce Arthur, The National Post: “Every year Burke has aimed for the playoffs, and it hasn’t happened yet. If it wasn’t a five-year rebuild before, it may be now. There are two teams that have not reached the post-season since the lockout. One is Toronto. The other is Florida. Who would you bet on, at the moment?”
Mike Brophy, Rogers Sportsnet: “Frustrated fans in Toronto are looking for a scapegoat for this organization's continued misery and there are three prime candidates. They are, in no particular order, Wilson, GM Brian Burke and goalie James Reimer. Burke did not deal with his team's goaltending woes at the trade deadline, and in making no significant trades -- and then insisting he believes in his players -- he put a lot of faith in a team that is in a free fall. You might have expected the Leafs players to thank him by stepping up to the plate the following day, but instead, they delivered their GM a slap in the face.”
James Christie, Globe and Mail: “The Leafs’ existence as a business is Burke’s blessing. Then team can struggle on the ice of the Air Canada Centre, but it is a winner in the financial ledger. The Maple Leafs essentially look no different than they did before, apart from a minor deal that sent Leafs/Marlies defenceman Keith Aulie to the Tampa Bay Lightning for Carter Ashton, who will be dispatched to the minors. The Leafs have won only one of their past nine games. Goalie James Reimer has lost five of his last six outings and was ‘held accountable’ (some describe it as Reimer being thrown ‘under the bus’) by coach Ron Wilson for giving up stoppable goals to the Washington Capitals on the weekend. The fans might complain that the Leafs are in danger of missing the post-season Stanley Cup playoffs for another year, yet they fill the place at high prices and subscribe to specialty channels to get their fix of the Leafs. As long as the team is a turning a profit, Burke can wait out the struggles of goalies Reimer and Jonas Gustavsson in the net. He doesn’t have to make desperate deals to get Rick Nash from the Columbus Blue Jackets. Upper management will stay off his back.”