Don Cherry: Brian Burke was '4 years of a failure'

In the season's first installment of his Coach's Corner segment Saturday night, Don Cherry commented on the recent firing of Brian Burke, and weighed in on who won the 113th-day NHL lockout.

Grapes declares lockout victory for NHL owners

Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke was fired Jan. 9, after four years with the club. (Chris Young/Canadian Press)

Don Cherry wasn't afraid to backpedal from the high hopes he had for Brian Burke in Toronto.

In the season's first installment of Coach's Corner on Saturday, the Hockey Night in Canada star commented on the recent firing of the former president and general manager of the Maple Leafs.

He said Burke didn't show the same truculence and pugnacity he vowed to instill in the playoff-starved club.

"When he first got here, I was the guy. Remember I'd come on, 'Brian Burke really comes here. Boy, the Leafs are gonna be something.' And when he comes, truculent, we're gonna have a team. Truculent, pugnacious," Cherry said, loosely quoting Burke's mandate early in his tenure with the Leafs.

"A week later, he turns right around, instead of getting tough guys, Canadian guys — remember in Anaheim he had all Canadian guys? — he starts getting U.S. college guys, Finns and Swedes."

Cherry pointed out that the move of demoting enforcer Colton Orr to the minors was a glaring sign that Burke's actions were contradicting his words.

"When I saw Colton Orr sent down, who he [Burke] loved, I knew what the problem was. He was loyal to [former head coach Ron] Wilson," Cherry said. "A GM has got to give the [coach] the players he wants.

"These guys got four years," he added. "Four years of a failure"

He also approved of the decision to name Dave Nonis as Burke's replacement.

"Nonis is the perfect guy to fill right in. You can't get a new guy in there. He knows everybody. He was a GM before."

Host Ron MacLean brought up that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tom Anselmi hinted it was Burke's style that caused friction within the organization. Cherry dismissed that notion. 

"All he needed to do was make the playoffs."

Owners came out on top

Also, Cherry finally showed his scorecard on the National Hockey League labour dispute, declaring the owners the winners of the 113-day lockout.

"If this was a boxing match, I would say eight-to-two for the owners," Cherry said. "What did they gain? They really gained nothing. And a lot of people say that the NHL lost a revenue of a million dollars. No they didn't. They didn't pay the player $800,000 [US]. The players lost $800,000 for their pay."

MacLean asked Cherry if he got the impression that the owners "won't quite mess with the players quite the way they thought this time, even though they may have won it."

Cherry said he expected NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to hold firm against commissioner Gary Bettman.

"I knew Fehr would go right to the very bottom and get the last laugh," Cherry said. "They lost, Bettman won."

Luongo should stay put

In his late-game segment, Cherry stood up for Vancouver Canucks goalie Roberto Luongo, who has been at the centre of trade rumours.

"You know I've always loved Luongo. I always liked the guy. They said he never ever did anything. He just put them in the seventh game for a Stanley Cup.

"Now, [backup goalie Cory] Schneider, I like him, too. But as Kelly [Hrudey] said it's an awful big difference when you're the backup. You go in like the hero all the time, you're the hero. It's like being an assistant coach, [it's] the same thing."

Cherry suggested the best option for the Canucks is to take advantage of the goalie tandem and keep Luongo in case Schneider sustains an injury in the playoffs.

"Unless you give him [Luongo] to Florida, he wants to go to Florida," Cherry said. "Guy like [Panthers forward Stephen] Weiss, I've always liked Weiss. You gotta get a quality guy back for sure."