Burke unveiled as new Leafs president, GM
Brian Burke was officially introduced as the new president and general manager of the Maple Leafs at a news conference Saturday afternoon in Toronto.
Financial terms of Burke's contract weren't released, but his six-year deal — including the remainder of this NHL season — is believed to be worth roughly $3 million US annually.
The 53-year-old American replaces Cliff Fletcher, who was hired as interim GM after the firing of John Ferguson Jr. in January.
"You're talking about the Vatican if you're Catholic, you're talking the centre of the hockey universe, you're talking about one of the most important jobs in hockey, running the Toronto Maple Leafs," Burke said. "It's a dream job."
Burke left the Anaheim Ducks on Nov. 12 after almost four years as GM. The Ducks, who won the Stanley Cup in 2007 under Burke's guidance, offered him a lucrative and lengthy contract extension but supported his decision to leave.
Burke, who has also been GM of the Vancouver Canucks and Hartford Whalers, has four children on the East Coast from a previous marriage and has said that influenced his decision to leave Anaheim.
Burke becomes the 13th general manager in the Leafs' 92-year history and will try to lead Toronto to its first Stanley Cup championship since 1967.
Burke has reportedly been on the radar of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment since before Ferguson was fired in January.
Burke inherits a team that hasn't made the playoffs since the 2004-05 NHL lockout and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
The Leafs have at least showed some pluck this season in their first year under head coach Ron Wilson, who was hired by Fletcher over the summer.
Despite being devoid of any superstar players, Toronto carries a better-than-expected 7-9-6 record into Saturday's home game against Philadelphia (CBC, CBCSports.ca, 7 p.m. ET).
Burke outlined the "three pillars" of his strategy for restoring the Leafs' lustre, citing an up-tempo playing style, fiscal prudence and community involvement as the cornerstones of his management philosophy.
On the ice, the quotable GM said he'll assemble a team that features two skilled lines on forward and defence, with hard-nosed players filling out the rest of the roster. Goaltending will also be a focal point.
"We require as a team proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence. That's how our teams play."
Vote of confidence for Wilson
Burke also voiced his approval of the no-nonsense Wilson, a longtime friend.
"If I had a chance to hire a coach today, I'd hire Ron Wilson… . Ron and I share a lot of the same philosophies as far as how the game is played."
Fletcher, who was absent from the news conference due to a prior family commitment, still has a place with the Leafs, according to Burke.
"Cliff has a job here as long as he wants one," Burke said.
Many expect the new GM to take a sledgehammer to the roster as he attempts to remodel it in his own image. But Burke indicated he's unlikely to make major changes before Christmas, owing to his self-imposed deadline of Dec. 9 for pre-holiday moves.
"Anyone who's waiting with bated breath for that first deal might wait past that deadline, because I believe players deserve to spend the holidays with their families," Burke said.
Don't expect Sundin
One move Burke said fans shouldn't expect is a play for Mats Sundin, who remains a free agent after electing not to re-sign with the Leafs following 13 seasons with the team.
"I don't think we profile as a team that he's going to sign with," Burke said.
"I think this guy's got two dollars less than God already, and I don't think he needs the dough. So he's going to go somewhere where he thinks he has a chance to win, based on my conversation with him."
Richard Peddie, the CEO and president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, which owns the Leafs, suggested that Burke will have full power over hockey personnel decisions in an interview aired on Inside Hockey during Saturday's broadcast of Hockey Night in Canada.
Peddie indicated that Burke's deal grants him powers similar to those held by Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo, who also reports to MLSE ownership.
"They know that they want to make the decisions, they don't want overzealous owners who are fans making the decisions, so they negotiate that, they're smart," Peddie said. "And I can tell you that the clause that the new [Leafs] general manager will have, on hockey, reads identical to Bryan Colangelo's."