On Tuesday, I found myself in the middle of the media circus surrounding Brian Burke and the failures of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Early that day Leaf fans were treated to an expensive full page apology, paid for by Leafs in Toronto's leading papers. That apology was on everyone's minds as Burke met the media. He insisted he's finding it just as hard to deal with failure as everyone in Leafs' nation to deal with.
He says he's had difficulty sleeping for months in a job where every move is second guessed.
As his news conference was winding down, I decided to fire off a question that has been on my mind for some time.
I'm not sure if fans who have been starving for a Stanley Cup in the city for more than 40 years would go for it.
But I've often wondered if Burke would have been better off if when he took over the team more than three-and-a-half years ago he had pleaded with these long suffering fans for patience and laid out a five-year plan for the Cup.
There probably would have been many struggles along the way and many losses, but the team would have stockpiled top draft picks and with good scouting and by picking the right young players, they would have slowly built a champion.
So as the room went quiet, I piped in with the following question and I'll be the first to admit it was a bit too long:
TK: "Is there anything that you did or said in the years leading up to today that you might have done differently. For instance, I think I remember a news conference like this - one of your first where you talked about the playoffs and I'm curious in a market like this, if people need to hear a bit more of the patience - the Pittsburgh model or the other teams that struggled for years?"
BB: "What's the Pittsburgh model?"
TK: "They struggled for years and got draft picks."
BB: "They won a lottery. They won a God damn lottery. And they got the best player in the game. Is that available to me? Should we do that? Should we ask the league to have a lottery this year? And maybe we pick first. The Pittsburgh model, my ass. I mean they got the best player in the game in a lottery. Ray Shero has done a good job. He's an excellent GM and he's a friend of mine. But I love when people talk about the Pittsburgh model. The simple fact is they got the best player in the draft."
Burke's anger was evident as he glared at me and then continued.
"So are there things that I wish I had said differently? You guys can dissect those. When I get up here, I try to answer honestly. I'm not a patient person. I was born impatient and I'm going to die impatient. I don't like what's happened here. Like our lack of progress. Obviously I'm driving the bus I'm ultimately responsible. I'm not happy with where we are today. I thought we'd be farther ahead than we are right now."
History suggests different picture
I didn't ask the follow up question I had on my mind. There didn't seem to be time. Plus, I was a bit taken aback and surprised at the way he lashed out at me.
I don't want to take anything away from Sidney Crosby, but history suggests a different picture from the one Burke described.
Pittsburgh was struggling as badly as Toronto or worse in the early 2000s.
For five years the team finished out of the playoffs and near the bottom of the standings and there were questions about its future.
Then the Pens drafted star goalie Marc Andre Fleury in 2003 (who by the way struggled early on), star Evgeni Malkin in 2004, superstar Sidney Crosby in 2005, and then Jordan Staal in 2006.
There are other teams, including Ottawa and Chicago, who have built a solid foundation through the draft. Edmonton seems to be well on that path now as well.
So as I sat watching Burke's 30-minute news conference, I had his end of the year news conference from two years ago - a year-and-a-half into the job - running through my head.
At that time, Burke said "I'm not interested in a five-year rebuild here."
And he even suggested the team wasn't far off from making the playoffs using a blueprint that had been successful for him in Anaheim and Vancouver.
He reiterated that again Tuesday, saying the Leafs have the building blocks and the team is going in the right direction.
Burke said it's hard for fans to see that after the way the wheels came off at the end of this season.
He has raised fans' expectations with that kind of talk.
And without results to show for it, it's no wonder many fans' frustrations are boiling over.
It's apparent the "Toronto model" is not winning over many fans.
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