Briere expects boos; Burke negotiations in Anaheim not so clear cut
Thursday, April 24, 2008 | 03:50 PM ET
First, a correction: I got the wrong Dallas guy in my Mike Gillis column. It was Les Jackson, not Craig Button, who was the finalist in Atlanta with Don Waddell. (Button beat out Jackson for the Calgary job.) What makes this error worse is that I mentioned it correctly in an Inside Hockey piece the week Hull and Jackson took over from Doug Armstrong.
One of the comments mentioned Brian Burke. Burke was hired in Vancouver one day before Waddell got the Thrashers’ job, and I’m sure he was a candidate, but I remember talking to someone from the organization who mentioned it came down to Waddell and Jackson.
Here, in Montreal, the big story Thursday night is that Daniel Briere should wear armour to protect himself from what’s going to be thrown at him.
Zdeno Chara received the first-round boos, but he’s a favourite son compared to the Gatineau native. Briere turned down the Canadiens in favour of the Flyers last summer.
There was a good story in The Globe and Mail today detailing the contract negotiations. Basically, agent Pat Brisson was contacted by eight teams, immediately ruling out three of them, and then deciding against two more. It came down to the Rangers, Flyers and Canadiens. The Rangers backed away when they signed Chris Drury and Scott Gomez, so Briere chose the Flyers partially because of his friendships with Martin Biron and Simon Gagne.
At that point, Bob Gainey tried to re-enter the picture, only to be told that a decision had been made.
(Meanwhile a Philly reporter told me the Flyers made similar offers to Briere, Gomez and Drury - and Briere was the first to agree. Obviously, he knew what was happening with the other two.)
This morning, Briere said that if he made a mistake, it was in being “too honest” in his public comments that another major factor in the decision was he felt Philadelphia would be a better team than Montreal. But he also mentioned he was upset with some of the things that were reported in the Quebec media.
After his main scrum was over, I asked him about that. Briere called some of those reports “lies,” specifically that he demanded a spot on the first line with Saku Koivu and Christopher Higgins. Then, he said he would deal with all of that after the season.
He had 11 points in the first round. He’s going to be motivated for something similar in this one.
Thoughts on Brian Burke: Very curious to see how negotiations on a contract extension in Anaheim go. As Damien Cox pointed out in his Toronto Star column today, Burke made a cryptic comment about how he’s never had a problem in Anaheim “professionally.”
That will only increase speculation that a move to Toronto would have helped his family situation. (Burke has a young family out west and older children from a previous marriage in the east.) Haven’t talked to him about it, but you get the sense Burke believed he would at least get a chance to discuss things with the Maple Leafs. Tuesday he said he didn’t know where he’d be in September. It’s clear the 24-hour reversal was not his choice.
It reminds me of an NFL situation years ago involved the Buffalo Bills. Their GM at the time was John Butler, and his contract was ending at the conclusion of their season. He was offered an extension and declined. He wanted to test free agency, just like a player would. Instead, owner Ralph Wilson fired him, questioning Butler’s loyalty to the organization.
And, my immediate reaction was: Why can’t an executive do what players do all of the time?
Playing field different for players, executives
Look at Chris Pronger. He wanted to leave Edmonton, even with four years left on a brand-new contract. Kevin Lowe could have done what Anaheim did, but he realized it made no sense and showed some class to a player who was brilliant despite asking for a trade midway through the year. Lowe was in a no-win situation, but did Pronger a favour.
Michael Nylander faced no punishment for backing out of a deal with Edmonton.
Twenty-five years ago, the Montreal Canadiens traded a future Hall-of-Famer, Rod Langway, because he threatened to retire if he wasn’t dealt.
Now, every organization makes different decisions, but as reports filter in that the NHL didn’t want this, I ask again, why should executives be held to a different standard, particularly when they can be fired at any time? It’s much easier to get rid of one of them than a player.
If I’m Brian Burke, I’m saying, “Look, I appreciate that you hired me when I was unemployed. But, I worked very hard here, finished putting together a champion, and made this franchise as valuable as it’s ever going to be. I think I deserve the chance to at least see if I want the job.”
Dallas did that with Bob Gainey, allowing him to consider a move to Toronto. He stayed and won a Stanley Cup. Anaheim should have done the same here. With Bob Murray and David McNab - or anyone else the Ducks might have wanted - the franchise would still be in strong hands.
It’s probably going to cost Anaheim even more now to keep him now. Burke has one more year left on his deal, and if it’s not extended by September, well, if the Ducks thought it was a distraction in the past few weeks, wait until the fall.
One theory being tossed out there is that if the Maple Leafs want Burke enough, they’ll ask Cliff Fletcher to continue as GM in case Burke doesn’t sign a new deal. Can’t see that. Fletcher has said numerous times he doesn’t want any part of that.
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About the Author
Elliotte Friedman is the host of the CFL ON CBC. Prior to being named host in 2006, Friedman worked on the CFL on CBC broadcasts for the three seasons as a sideline reporter. A Toronto native, Friedman is well known for his additional work on Hockey Night in Canada, as well as his presence on the Torino 2006 Winter Games telecasts as a hockey reporter. Prior to joining the CBC, Friedman worked at The Score network and was widely regarded as one of the best reporters in the country. Friedman used his reporting skills to break stories and file feature reports for high profile events including six Stanley Cup Finals, four Grey Cup Championships, two World Series and one Olympic Games. He is also a regular on the nationally syndicated Prime Time Sports radio telecast, hosted by Bob McCown.
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