Hiring a Decorator to do a Builder’s Job

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    That’s what I think of when I hear the rumors and buzz going on about Brian Burke potentially being the next Leafs GM. Everyone associates him with the ability to assemble a championship calibre core and then win it all like he did with the Ducks in ’07. The reality of the situation is that he is NOT the right man for the Toronto Maple Leafs job, and I’m going to explain why I think so.

    Let’s say you’re Leaf management and are getting ready to interview some GM candidates. As you light up your cigar with a twenty, you sit down to write a couple qualities that you would look for in a GM to take over a young, rebuilding team. My list would look like such:

    1 – Ability to assemble a dynamic core of elite young players

    2 – Ability to surround that core with cheap, quality young talent

    3 – Ability to manage the cap, assets, and long-term contracts

    Let’s take a look at Brian Burke on those 3 categories:

    1 – Anaheim boasts very little high end young talent other than Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry at the NHL level, along with possibly Bobby Ryan at the minor league level. That’s not too bad I suppose, but wait, it gets worse. Getzlaf and Perry are Murray’s boys, drafted in ’03. So what good young talent has Burke brought in? Bobby Ryan, and that was with the #2 overall pick in a loaded draft. The scary part? Ryan is Burke’s only draftee to play more than 3 NHL games thus far. Hmm…

    2 – A team’s long-term success is often indicative of its ability to have a constant pipeline of cheap, young talent to fill in the holes and needs at the NHL level. You have your 1st line snipers and your top pairing D-men, but you still need 5/6 defensemen or grinders on cheap, entry level contracts. How many of Burke’s draftees have made the NHL in the last 4 seasons? Two, combining for a total of 26 games. Ouch.

    3 – This is Brian Burke’s calling card right? Brilliant cap maneuvering and asset management, correct? Anaheim is currently pinned up against the cap, can’t afford to have its top prospect play in the NHL; has already given away PPG centre Andy Mcdonald, starting goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, and 50 pt defenseman Mathieu Schneider for basically nothing because of cap trouble. Imagine where this team would be right now if Burke did not have his ace in the hole of being able to ask a PPG sniper like Selanne to play for $2.6M. Not too good I’d say.

    So what exactly is Brian Burke going to bring to the rebuilding project in Toronto? He doesn’t know how to lay the foundation of elite young players, or how to put up the walls made of cheap, supporting role players, or heck, even keep track of the bills once the house is built. Brian is an interior decorator, someone who comes into a finished product, adds some of his own personal touches and takes credit for the work of someone else. Think about his most heralded moves. Signing an elite free agent defenseman who wanted to play with his brother, an elite free agent sniper with ties to the organization, and then trading away young talent for an elite, 30 year old defender. Those are the short-term finishing touches to a long and arduous building project undertaken by Bryan Murray who drafted the young talent (Perry, Getzlaf), left behind some of the core (Mcdonald, Giguere), and even provided the resources for the Pronger trade (Smid, Lupul, picks). Burke added a new paint of coat and some new curtains.

    That’s all fine and dandy, but that’s not what we need in Toronto. It’s exactly what we’re trying to steer away from, is it not? We’re just barely starting to lay the foundation for what could be a championship calibre core down the road, and yet some people are already flipping through the yellow pages looking for the number to Martha Stewart’s Interior Decorating Hotline.

    No thanks… No thanks.

    Always a pleasure,

    Alex Tran

    [email protected]