Wednesday, April 23

Burke Says No. Leaf Fans Denied Media Circus

Sitting in his palatial bunker hundreds of feet below the surface of the Earth, Brian Burke ruined his saved his did something to his career yesterday by turning down the position of GM and President of your Toronto Maple Leafs. Or, as I call it: WHAT!!??

Ever the rule breaking iconoclast, Burke snapped shut a chapter in Leafs history before Gord Kirke snapped shut his cell phone. You can see a guy like Burke not want to be pigeon-holed, ever, but seriously Brian, have some consideration! How many identical Fabian Brunnstrom articles can the Toronto media write? I mean, obviously they'll write millions, but still!

We really should have seen this coming. As much as he may have wanted the job, it's just like that type of personality to look at the huddled throng waiting in line to touch the hem of his Leaf Blue garment, and give a hardy "Go fuck yourselves!" and leave it at that. With an ego like his, it's more gratifying to be so desperately desired, and then turn his nose up at the job, rather than take it and (ultimately) be fired. That way, he'll be our perfect savior f o r e v e r It's pretty genius actually.

Remember, it was WE who imagined him hungry for the job. It was WE who voraciously read between the lines when Burke uttered such juicily "ambiguous" morsels as:

"I love Anaheim. I love the Ducks. I love the Samueli's. I'm literally in love with them. I go to the beach in February. I have a contract with the beach. I am never leaving!"

A-ha! We all cried! Proof of his Leafs love! ACC here he comes!

So where do the Leafs go from here? Normally a cliche like "back to the drawing board" would apply, but as anyone whose been following the goings on of MLSE for any length of time knows, they don't have a drawing board of which to return.

Luckily I have this book that will help us. It's a terrific read, I highly recommend it! It's the exciting tale of three plucky teens, who, with the aid of their African guide, Umbuutu, help you navigate through lost cities guarded by armed rebels, and across bottomless mountain chasms in search of the most elusive of treasure: A good Leafs GM.

There are 36 possible endings to the story! Depending on how carefully you choose, you may find yourself in some of these situations:

  • You help convince Wings Assistant GM Jim Nill that Steve Yzerman is a diamond smuggler who wants his job. You trick Stevie Y into giving his loot to an orphanage. Nill takes the Leafs job, rewarding you by trading up to get Steve Stamkos.
  • You find yourself lost in the Pit of Souls where you come across Ron Hextall with his resume in his hand. You tell him he's too inexperienced, so he stabs you with a stalactite, killing you instantly.
  • You come across a sign on a treacherously foggy mountain road that points to the right as the only safe route. You flip it over, so now it points left. Then a tour bus carrying Peddie, Tenenbaum and the Ontario teachers comes along and follows its directions. The bus plunges into a ravine presumably killing everyone on board. The Leafs win the Cup the next spring.
  • You see Neil Smith approaching you on the sidewalk. You cross the street to avoid him.
  • Howard Berger walks up to you at a party and wants to speak with you. You suddenly have to take a call on your cell for the next year and a half.
You see? A real page turner! I can't put it down! Recommended for ages 10 and up.

Moose Droppings

"Mr. Peddie, sock puppet on line two."

Earlier this week, Greener mused about what would happen if Brian Burke "dares turn down the position" as GM of "Canada's (worst) Team." Apparently the Toronto media, MLSE, and Greener double-dog-dared him, because word came down today that he's staying in Anaheim and negotiating a contract extension.

Leaf fans will no doubt be disappointed by the news, mainly because they've been seduced into thinking that Burke was the best candidate. The Toronto media, subscribing to the belief that the next GM must be a "star," merely plucked the name of the guy whose team last won the Stanley Cup, checked if he was from Ontario (or Rhode Island), and voila! There's your new GM. Burke has certainly run his mouth enough to make himself a "star" among the 30 fat men who sit in NHL press boxes on a nightly basis, but is he the best man for the job?

Looking at his career:

- Burke spent one year as GM in Hartford - that's the Whalers, not Wolfpack, for you youngins - where his most notable move was trading up on draft day to select Chris Pronger. He won nothing, but obviously wasn't there long enough to build his own team.

- Six years in Vancouver yielded a division title, some draft day finagling to grab the Sedin's, but also a team that won a single playoff round. He assembled a nice top line in Bertuzzi, Naslund, and Morrison, but also built a team that relied on Bertuzzi, Naslund, and Morrison.

- In Anaheim he took them helm of a team that was largely built by previous GM Bryan Murray (Getzlaf, Perry, etc)...and Kevin Lowe. He did sign Scott Niedermayer, but that wasn't so much shrewd dealing as it was dumb luck at finding Rob Niedermayer's name on his roster. Any idiot can fax a $6 million offer to an agent, just ask John Ferguson, Jr. Perhaps his best moves in Anaheim were taking a chance on a seemingly washed-up Teemu Selanne, and plucking Francois Beauchemin off the scrap heap in Columbus. That said, Burke grossly mismanaged his team this year, first by letting Niedermayer dictate his off-season plans. That foot dragging led directly to losing Dustin Penner, which he then tried to remedy by giving $4 million (the same money he said Penner wasn't worth) to his old buddy Todd Bertuzzi (14 goals). While Niedermayer debated whether grayer really is sexier, Burke signed Mathieu Schneider to replace him at nearly the same price. Then, upon Niedermayer's shocking return, he chose Schneider at the expense of his leading playoff scorer, Andy McDonald, even as the Ducks struggled to score goals all year.

Choosing a GM isn't like signing a free agent or making a trade. The skills and smarts needed to assemble a winning team are not things a fan or sports writer can see with the naked eye. There are plenty of worthy candidates out there and it's arguable as to whether Burke was ever the best one. My vote still goes to Dave Taylor.

Thoughts on Stanley

A thoroughly enjoying first round is in the books, and despite Greener's proclamation that the hockey season is over, I'm looking forward to the second round. I'm a hockey fan. Greener has spent the last few Springs doing double shots of schadenfreude, while trying to figure out where it all went wrong. The fact that R.J. Umberger would be playing on the Leafs first line might have something to do with it.

Sharks-Flames: Whenever someone poses the question "If you could have any super power, what would it be?" the answer is almost always "to be invisible." Joe Thornton is a lucky man, because someone granted him that wish. I won't go into my Thornton rant again, because his former GM (Harry Sinden), and an ex-assistant GM (Bill Watters) both said the same things I've been saying for three years, earlier this week. While Thornton wasn't his usual cowering-under-a-rock self in Game 7, the fact that the Sharks escaped on the back of Jeremy "medium rare" Roenick, tells you all you need to know. The West is so bad that any of the four remaining teams could realistically make it to the Finals. If Zubov makes it back, Dallas will beat San Jose.

Dion Phaneuf: Dude, play some defence. You're a defenceman...I mean it's right there in the title.

Mike Keenan: Hey 'Captain Hook', it was cute when your goalies were Greg Millen and Indianapolis Ice recall, Dominik Hasek. But when you pull your franchise goalie in favor of John, I mean Curtis Joseph...a goal on the first shot is exactly what you deserve. It worked early in Game 3, but to do it in the middle of the 2nd period of Game 7? When your defencemen are standing around? That had the stench of panic. Call a timeout, don't play a hunch. Bad coaching - period.

Habs-Bruins: What Greener meant to say was: there's only one Canadian team STILL PLAYING. Despite having all the hallmarks of a team about to suffer a 3-1 collapse, Montreal showed a lot of bottle in rebounding to win Game 7 in a 5-0 romp. The youngest team in the playoffs was led by a great performance from Carey Price and the comeback of Saku Koivu. The Habs showed that speed and skill are still the stuff that breaks games, even in the playoffs. A couple of fantastic goals from Streit and Andrei Kostitsyn, and their fourth line (Begin, Smolinski, and Kotsopoulos) has been deserving of mention all series long.

Hopefully Greener will get some time away from his new job as the NHL's Director of Rah-Rah-Superstars to enjoy the second round. Do they still broadcast the games on AM radio? Because he won't be coming to my house.

Go Habs!