Today was the long-awaited day when Brian Burke was finally introduced to the Toronto media and fanbase. Highlighted below are several important quotes that stuck out to me as I listened to Burke outline his plans for building a championship calibre team here in the capital of the Hockey Universe:
“We play an entertaining style. We believe in aggressive pursuit and possession of the puck in all three zones. We believe in answering the physical challenges and playing a style that allows our young players to play and develop in a fear-free environment.” – Burke Press Conference
Thought: The last comment is particularly interesting as Burke mentioned during the press conference that he wasn’t particularly happy about a rookie like Luke Schenn doing the dirty work and sticking up for the rest of the team. This seems to imply that he’s going to look for a true veteran heavyweight type presence.
“We build our team from the net out. We require from our team the proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence.” – Burke Press Conference
Thought: This is the Brian Burke team that we’ve come to expect. The big and physical model was certainly very effective in Anaheim and seems well suited for playoff style hockey. Building from the net out is interesting. Does Burke see his future franchise goaltender as Vesa Toskala or Justin Pogge? Or will he go outside of the organization to address this need.
“Our freeze here in Toronto goes in on December 9th. So for me to evaluate this team, make some judgments and do something before December 9th is probably going to be hard to do. So for those waiting with baited breath for something to happen may want to wait past that deadline.” – Burke Press Conference
Thought: Very commendable on Brian’s part. I’d imagine that Fletcher has probably laid the preliminary groundwork on a couple deals, and now Brian’s going to take his time to look over those plans and make some decisions. It should make for an interesting Christmas break filled with rumours and speculation. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him hit the ground running with a quick deal or two right away in early January.
“My scouting philosophy is simple. We want to identify character people, useful people, people that can do more than one thing well, people that have tenacity, people that have coachability, people that have excellent work ethic, high hockey IQ. We look for a different player; not always the fastest skater or hardest shot, but someone who can help us win.” – Burke Press Conference
Thought: This is the mantra that Burke is going to come in and implement on his scouting staff. It seemed to start with Cliff Fletcher last year when Toronto opted for size and character this past June with selections such as Luke Schenn and Jimmy Hayes. My gut feeling says Brayden Schenn is probably very high on Burke’s wish list as of this moment.
“I don’t think we profile as a team that he (Mats Sundin) is gonna sign with. If it was just for money, he’s already turned down $20 million dollars. I think he’s going to go somewhere where he’s going to win, and I don’t think we profile as a team that he’s going to sign with. Not yet.” – Burke Press Conference
Thought: Brian mentioned that he’s already had some conversations with Sundin and this was what he came away with after those discussions. I think it’s the right move at this point in time to part ways with the former captain, and the ushering in of a new coach and now new GM (who doesn’t possess ties to Sundin like Fletcher did) signals the end of the Sundin era in Toronto. Obviously this was a very political answer and a very smart one to put the spotlight on Sundin choosing a team as opposed to the Leafs deciding whether or not they want Sundin.
“They (Toronto) haven’t drafted that well because they haven’t had the high picks. They’ve never had those top 2 or 3 picks because they’ve had good but never great teams. That perpetuates the inability to get better. Does that mean we’re going to tear everything down right away? No. We’re going to have to evaluate the team first and see. I do think a team should either be ascending rapidly or descending rapidly. I don’t believe being ‘good’ is not the solution. This is about having the parade.”Â – Burke TSN interview
Thought: Not really too sure how to read into this one. History shows that if Brian really, really wants someone badly at the top of the draft, he’s going to do whatever it takes to land them (see Chris Pronger, Bobby, Ryan, Sedin twins). He brings up an interesting point about the perpetuation of mediocrity if you’re neither going up quickly or down quickly. From what my impression of what he’s saying, I get the feeling that he’s not too pleased with the core group of players (Toskala, Kaberle, Antropov, etc). I think he’s going to continue what Fletcher tried to do, and that’s move up in the draft to get your guy, while also parlaying veterans to get picks and young players like Carter, Ryan, Grabovski, Stemps, that can form the core of future Leaf teams. So not exactly a scorched method of icing an all-rookie team, but a definite makeover of the team’s identity. It seems like Brian is committed to the rebuild, which was one of my concerns prior to his hiring, but if this is indeed the case then that’s fantastic.
So, what do you think after hearing what Brian’s had to say so far? Considering how often he’s avoided the camera and how quickly he shot down any Toronto related comments or questions in the past, this was the first real opportunity to hear Mr. Burke talk about long-term objectives, planning, and decision making. As a graduate from Hardvard Law School, there’s no doubting that he’s one sharp cookie and it showed in today’s interviews and press conferences. I was very impressed with his political yet honest responses, as well as the eloquence and intelligence of the words he spoke.
The Brian Burke era in Toronto is officially under way!
Always a pleasure,