Brian Burke fired as Leafs GM: this (might) change everything

In what can only be described as a flabbergastingly shocking move, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fired Brian Burke as their General Manager. Go ahead, try to describe it as anything else. I’ll wait.

What’s truly bizarre is that they waited this long to make the move, firing Burke after he played an instrumental role representing the Leafs in the CBA negotiations and just before training camp is set to open. If Leafs ownership were unhappy with the results from the past few seasons (and why wouldn’t they be), then why allow Burke to work through the free agency period, putting his stamp on the team for another season?

Unless, and this is pure, rampant speculation: this has something to do with Roberto Luongo?

The rumour mill has been churning ever since the Canucks were knocked out of the playoffs last season that were Luongo to be traded, the Maple Leafs would be a potential destination. Since then, anonymous “insiders” and mainstream media members alike have fallen all over themselves to confirm that Luongo is definitely heading to the Leafs, with varying degrees of believability.

One of the things that might have held up a trade, other than that pesky lockout, is the relationship between Brian Burke and Mike Gillis, which can charitably be called “strained.” Even if their personalities didn’t clash, their view of Luongo’s trade value might have. Gillis still seems to believe that he’s negotiating from a position of strength: the Leafs need goaltending and Gillis has worked very hard to give off the impression that he doesn’t need to trade Luongo.

Burke, on the other hand, likely thinks that Gillis is desperate to move Luongo and will take anything back in a trade, such as Tyler Bozak or a bag of pucks.

Is it possible that Leafs ownership was a little more insistent that Burke acquire Luongo, paying whatever cost was necessary? Maybe. It’s hard to say. But the timing is more than a little odd.

With such little time to go before the start of training camp and the regular season, it’s possible that Dave Nonis, Burke’s right hand man, will step up to serve as interim General Manager. And it’s not like he has a history of trading for Roberto Luongo or anything.

Again, this is all speculation, but something as bizarre as this requires it.

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26 comments

  1. James W.
    January 9, 2013

    Either MLSE wants Luongo, and Burke wasn’t doing enough to get him, or Burke wanted Luongo and MLSE thought he was giving up too much. The only other option is MLSE wasn’t happy with Burke work during the lockout.

    I guess it’s also possible that he refused to stick to company policy of a full windsor knot on all ties.

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    • Daniel Wagner
      January 9, 2013

      Or any knot at all, really.

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      • James W.
        January 9, 2013

        Brian Burke simply doesn’t understand the difference between a tie and a scarf.

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        • therealbob
          January 9, 2013

          You don’t have a knot in your tie Brian, and this is why we have to let you go.

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  2. Joeloughby
    January 9, 2013

    Does Burkie drive himself to the airport?

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    • Kenji
      January 10, 2013

      Wry smile…stick tap on ice

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  3. Garth
    January 9, 2013

    Don’t forget that Nonis was the man who brought Luongo to YVR. Will he be the acting or permanent GM and make the deal?

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  4. Garth
    January 9, 2013

    nm – turns out you didn’t forget. i really should read right to the bottom. that’s where they get you.

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  5. madwag
    January 9, 2013

    “stupidifyingly startling”

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  6. Rituro
    January 9, 2013

    “Gobsmacked” would describe it for me.

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    • tj
      January 9, 2013

      Yep. This is one of the rare occasions when ‘gobsmacked’ is perfectly apt. My first thought was an audible, ‘Woah!’ Then, a knowing, ‘Luongo…’ Love a great scandal to get us back ‘into the game’ right off the bat. (I’ll use a baseball reference here, in honour of my unofficial and likely short-lived boycott of the game of hockey…)

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  7. tj
    January 9, 2013

    Oh, hey. I just thought of something: Is Burke slated for a TV commentary post? Man, that guy would make good TV.

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  8. ThisThat
    January 9, 2013

    Keeping in mind that Gillis said a bunch of disparing things about the status of Vancouver’s farm system when he took over and many took his comments as a direct shot at Dave Nonis… Not sure those two have each other on speed dial either.

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    • ThisThat
      January 9, 2013

      *disparaging*

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  9. Bboone
    January 9, 2013

    Why not keep it simple . The new ownership decided over the last few months not to rehire him therefore in the interests of all concerned make the change now ?

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    • Jayou
      January 9, 2013

      ‘Cuz simple is boring!

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  10. BakerGeorgeT
    January 9, 2013

    Burke didn’t perform well during the lockout. That’s obvious. His team won ZERO games. He didn’t address his goalie woes. And fans refused to come to the ACC to watch his dreadful team get crushed by the weight of CBA negotiations.

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  11. Barry
    January 9, 2013

    Headline would read better as “this (possibly) changes everything”

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    • Daniel Wagner
      January 9, 2013

      Yeah, I realized too late that it wasn’t grammatically correct.

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  12. jenny wren
    January 9, 2013

    I thought to write a lyric troll
    My very own opinion poll
    But there’s no word that rhymes with Burke
    To make my little poem work

    J. Wren

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  13. Nee
    January 9, 2013

    Real, honest-to-goodness, hockey news and rumours! This feels nice. I missed this.

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    • steveB
      January 12, 2013

      I ‘m really looking forward to my first IWTG along with my morning coffee!

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  14. pooroldbear
    January 9, 2013

    So when I caught this headline on TSN, I thought, “finally, Luongo will be out of the news for a day!” Guess I’ll never make a journalist.

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  15. Mt
    January 9, 2013

    Spector wrote the same(ish) article for Sportsnet but forgot to admit that it’s baseless speculation so thank’s for blogging with better journalistic integrity that the sports “journalists.”

    As for this changing the trade situation, we’ll never know even if Nonis does the deal considering Burke was fired before trades were allowed (still no active CBA).

    As for strained relations, Burke was just playing tough older brother sticking up for Nonis who’s job was snatched by Gillis. Nonis himself should hardly be inclined to better relations than Burke so I don’t buy that theory.

    If I wanted any of their players, I’d really like to see it done. It would be fun if Lu could help bring the leafs back to respectability. Hating rival teams when they stink (read: Calgary, TO) just makes me feel like a jerk. And pitying one’s rivals is just a special kind of demoralizing. Plus I think Lu would do well there. So pull the trigger, fellas, just please let us have Gardiner.

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  16. Smokey
    January 9, 2013

    We know that Gillis and Burke are less than fond of each other. Maybe Gillis made trading Luongo to Toronto conditional on Toronto firing Burke? Could have happened…

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  17. akidd
    January 10, 2013

    no suprise that they prefer to fire burke now. if they did it during the lockout there would have been endless time for massive piling-on and dirty-laundering. nothing else to talk about. the hockey media barrage is about to start in a couple of days and while burke’s firing won’t exactly be forgotten there will be lots of other tidbits for fans to chew on.

    just common ‘fire em on a friday’ H.R. strategy. firing burke was likely the plan for the new owners long before they became the new owners(pretty obvious stuff.) it was just a matter of when. and that question was answered today.

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