Brian Burke could have been fired alone on his dismal record at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Four playoff-less seasons were enough. The roster that he constructed for this season didn't exactly stimulate belief that better times were ahead.
Burke simply never did live up to his words when he was introduced as the Maple Leafs new general manager in November 2008. Do we have to remind you?
"We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. That's how our teams play," Burke said.
"I make no apologies for that. Our teams play a North American game. We're throwbacks. It's black-and-blue hockey. It's going to be more physical hockey here than people are used to."
He never did live up to that promise. He never did add or subtract from his roster to build a team along the lines of that initial blueprint.
But did Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment's new ownership group and the new configuration of its board of directors need seven months to figure that out?
No, they did not. But what they did glean since last August, when telecommunication giants Bell and Rogers officially closed on its $1.07-billion US deal to purchase 75 per cent of the team, was that Burke and some of the members of the new board did not see eye-to-eye. The veteran hockey man did not react kindly to the hockey-team related free advice he was receiving from new board members.
After several of these get-togethers between Burke and the MLSE board, the latter finally decided it was time to part ways with its bombastic hockey GM.
Timing confusing part
The timing was the confusing part. It came on the same day the NHL board of governors approved the new collective agreement between the owners and players, 10 days before the lockout-shortened season was to begin.
Burke was supposed to be at that meeting in New York City. But his travel plans were scrapped when MLSE COO Tom Anselmi informed Burke that he was no longer the corporation's boss.
The 57-year-old Burke was in Hamilton on Tuesday evening, watching his prospects with the Toronto Marlies lose a 2-1 decision to the Hamilton Bulldogs.
The official word from Anselmi was the new ownership group wanted new leadership. But again, the new set of directors didn't need seven months to determine they wanted new leadership. They simply learned over this time they needed somebody willing to work with them.
It was not, as some speculated, a difference in opinion in whether the Maple Leafs should make a serious pitch for Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo.
Burke wanted Luongo
Burke wanted to make a trade for Luongo. He was upset that it had been rumoured during the lockout that a trade between the Leafs and the Vancouver Canucks already had been worked out. Whether or not he could have satisfied what Canucks GM Mike Gillis wanted in return remained to be seen.
Burke's dismissal also didn't have anything to do with his remark: "I don't want to sneak into the playoffs in eighth place and then get smoked in the first round." Of course, the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings won the Stanley Cup.
His words came back to haunt him. But in true Burke form, he never backed down. Instead, he called his critics that brought up his remark "ignorant." His reason? The Kings apparently were a special case.
Again, the MLSE board of directors didn't need seven months to figure this out.
It also wasn't that Burke wasn't corporate enough. After all, his replacement, Dave Nonis, isn't in any extent more corporate than Burke.
But Nonis, who was emotional replacing his long-time mentor, is a person who works well with people. The former University of Maine player by way of Burnaby, B.C., is every bit the hockey man as Burke, but minus the bombast.
Don't forget that it was Nonis, now 46, who pulled off a Luongo trade for the Canucks when he replaced Burke in Vancouver in June 2006. It will be Nonis, who will be more patient in rebuilding this sad-sack franchise, who likely won't lose his direction in the way Burke did in Toronto.
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