The Campaign to Fire Brian Burke

Welcome to my semi-successful campaign to fire Brian Burke as General Manager of the Leafs. I have done my best to evaluate every move he has made since he arrived here and I have tried to be as fair as possible, but as far as I’m concerned, the results speak for themselves. Here you can find everything I’ve written on the subject, in roughly chronological order (of the deal discussed).

Here is what I said in November of 2010 when I decided to begin this “campaign”. It includes a summary of why I think his reputation exceeds his actual record and why I was upset that he was hired by acclimation.

You can read about this in more detail in my book, Rebuilding on the Fly.

2008-09 Season:

November:

My optimism on Burke’s hiring, with reservations.

Two years later: The official beginning of my campaign to fire Brian Burke, including a summary of what I didn’t like (in retrospect) of his hiring by acclimation.

January:

Two years later: An evaluation of the trade for Brad May.

Two years later: An evaluation of the Robbie Earl trade.

February:

Two years later: An evaluation of the Kronwall waive.

Two years later: Waiving Mark Bell.

March:

My evaluation of the moves on Trade Deadline Day 2009, including some somewhat incoherent comments on the Leafs’ moves both at and before the deadline.

Two years later: Reflections on Burke’s mixed first Trade Deadline with the Leafs.

Two years later: Jeff Hamilton signing.

Two years later: Christian Hanson signing.

Two years later: Tyler Bozak. Where I inadvertently predict the Tim Connolly disaster.

2009 Off-Season:

 

April:

Two years later: Rynnas signing.

June:

Two years later: Re-signing Reimer.

July:

My belated evaluation of both the Leafs’ and Raptors’ efforts at the 2009 entry drafts.

Two years later: Gustavsson Signing.

A super-belated reaction to the drafting of Kenny Ryan (I think) incoherently expressed and linking to a much more coherent Hockey’s Future review.

Two years later: The (first) Grabovski re-signing.

Two years later: Tim Brent.

Two years later: A summation of the pretty bad Leafs’ Free Agent Frenzy of 2009.

August:

My initial reaction to trading Stralman to the Flames. My thoughts appear to have been borne out by history as Stralman was, last season, an important if flawed piece of the Rangers while Primeau is out of the league.

September:

My initial, overly kind reaction to the disastrous Kessel trade:

  • “Leafs get: Kessel
  • Bruins get: 3 picks: 2 1sts, 1 2nd

Kessel looked pretty great last year. The good thing is that he is barely 22. The bad thing is that he has health issues. Another bad thing is that he scored more goals than he assisted on last year. I have always been wary of those folks. I don’t think they can keep their scoring up, unless they have centres. Incidentally, on the Leafs, he doesn’t yet have one of those.

The Bruins get both our next 1st rounders, leaving the Leafs (provided another trade doesn’t happen soon) to rely on Kessel and Kadri as the future at forward. I’m not overwhelmed. If the Bruins take two good players out of these picks I will probably be upset. Hopefully they draft badly. Hopefully Burke can trade junk for picks at the deadline. (Though I’m sure he’s decided we’re competitive now, the moron.)”

2009-10 Season:

Dealing with the diminished expectations that resulted after nearly a year of big promises and little results from Burke. The Leafs’ record was then 4-9-4:

  • “Maybe keeping Pogge wasn’t such a bad idea…
  • The worse this team is, the more disastrous the Kessel trade is.
  • Fights don’t score goals.
  • Fights don’t even turn the puck over.
  • Just because two guys on the team fight doesn’t mean the rest of the team hits.

I’m trying to wait until a year is up, but if Burke does anything else to improve this teams “toughness” at the expense of things like talent, scoring, defense or goaltending I think I will throw in the towel for the next five years (or at least until he quits / is fired). Unless Kessel is way better than I think he is, unless these young players are way better than I think they are, unless the Leafs find a goalie, unless, unless unless…”

December:

Two years later: The Tlusty trade.

January:

One year later: January 31st, 2010; a day that should live in infamy: Burke trades away most of the Leafs’ offense for Phaneuf and a few disposable parts.

February:

One year later: On acquiring Jamie Lundmark off waivers.

March:

My brief observations about Trade Deadline Day 2010:

  • Who is Chris Peluso? I don’t like giving up any picks when we’re this bad, even if it is a sixth rounder.
  • Joey MacDonald wasn’t really needed at this point, I guess, so it’s nice to get a pick for him, even if it is really low.
  • I don’t know Matt Jones, but a player and two picks for Stempniak isn’t bad given his lack of production this year.
  • I like the Ponikarovsky deal in that they moved Skoula after it was done, otherwise I wouldn’t have liked it. I still think they should have got more for him. After all, he’s a consistent 20-goal scorer, which can’t be said for anyone else on the Leafs, or anyone else moved on deadline day.

But all in all it’s pretty much the best day of Burke’s existence as a Leaf. It’s too bad he fucked up the team so much already that he can’t repair it with a good day like this.

One year later: Reflections on the generally positive 2010 Trade Deadline moves.

One year later: Trading for Jay Rosehill. Why?

One year later: Signing Brayden Irwin.

2010 Off-Season:

April:

On the new direction of signing college players instead of drafting first round picks.

May:

On the ridiculousness of “rebuilding on the fly”.

My happiness at not reacquiring Cammalleri the summer before despite his current performance in playoffs:

“I’m glad the Leafs didn’t break the bank on Cammalleri last summer even though he’s lighting it up for the Habs this playoff.

I’m more glad now that I know that we had him. Well, we didn’t have him. We had his pick. The Leafs might not have picked him, but it is one of the endless pieces of evidence against trading draft picks for veterans.

Because on March 13th, 2001 (i.e. as the Leafs were beginning yet another furtive playoff run and trading away all their picks for players, as per usual) the Leafs traded Adam Mair and a supposedly insignificant second round pick (49th overall) to the Los Angeles Kings’ for every Torontonian’s favourite Finn, Aki Berg. The Kings then selected Cammalleri that summer.

So, even though Burke wasn’t in charge at the time and had nothing to do with this, I still would have regarded it as pretty ridiculous to be throwing money at a guy we could have drafted had we only been smarter. Why? Because multi-million dollar contracts rarely (if ever) makeup for past mistakes.

The moral: players like Cammalleri and Berg are common (more common than large contracts I should say) and it is really dumb to give up the potential to get a player like the former in order to actually get a player like the latter to get you a little bit more playoff revenue.”

This turned out to be quite prescient as Cammalleri has not exactly lived up to his deal as of late.

June:

My thoughts on the Leafs acquiring Hamhuis, Sharp or Horton. In retrospect, I would have loved the Hamhuis move, had it occurred.

My sarcastic elation on Burke’s trade for Mike Brown in June of ’10:

He has traded another pick for a goon. Mike Brown. Don’t know him, but he doesn’t score much and has lots of penalty minutes, so I wonder what kind of player he is…

It was a really low pick, but that’s not the point. In a way, maybe it is. Certain notable franchises (Detroit, NJ) find lots of diamonds in the rough with low picks. The Leafs don’t. But then the Leafs seem to always have fewer picks.

Hooray for Brian! We’ll win the cup in two years, mark me.

One year later: the (first) Vergsteeg trade.

July:

One year later: The not too embarrassing 2010 Free Agent Frenzy.

August:

My sarcastic response to the Colby Armstrong signing, which worked out oh so well for the Leafs.

One year later: the completely irrelevant Lashoff trade.

September:

My welcoming of Clarke MacArthur and my less nice welcome to Matt Lashoff.

2010-11 Season:

October:

My initial predictions for the season where I mis-guessed the lineup and slightly underrated the Leafs’ finish (the Leafs finished in 10th when I guessed 12th).

My reaction to some typical Burkian egoism at the beginning of the 2010-11 season:

ESPN.com quotes Burke as saying that the playoffs is “what this game is all about, and that’s our goal and intention. I think we’re finally getting to a Brian Burke-type team…We’re not there yet, but we’re closer.” But I don’t want the Leafs to be a playoff team, or a Brian Burke team, I want them to be a Stanley Cup winner and they’re different things. The Leafs had playoff teams for the better part of 40 years and what did that get them? Nothing. The game isn’t about making the playoffs. The game is about winning the Cup. Not the same thing at all. I can’t wait until we’re Burkeless.

November:

An alternative view to my own on the second anniversary of Burke’s hiring:

Hopefully by the end of the day I will have my comments about Burke up in this space (it is the second anniversary of his hiring). In the meantime, here is an article that I mostly disagree with:

http://www.thestar.com/sports/hockey/nhl/mapleleafs/article/898220 – “Team Burke Still Under Construction”

Who can accuse me of not being fair and balanced?

January:

One year later: the Brunnstrom trade.

On the Leafs’ then surprising and gratifying win streak.

February:

On the Leafs rather good Beauchemin deal.

On giving up on Versteeg 56 games into his Leafs’ career.

On acquiring Aaron Voros for seemingly no reason whatsoever.

On the Kaberle deal, which looked good as long as the Bruins didn’t win the Cup, but then somehow looked better after the Bruins won the Cup, since Kaberle was horrible in the Cup run.

My February 2011 plan to save the Maple Leafs.

My February 2011 plea for the Leafs to tank once they have picks again.

My reaction to the Leafs’ lack of moves on trade deadline day but really some thoughts on Burke’s inability to judge talent.

March:

Media complicity in keeping fans from objecting to bad decision making.On signing Tyler Brenner out of College.

April:

My end of season malaise.

On the Leafs missing the playoffs as predicted…again.

Your 2010-2011 Toronto Maple Leafs. Wherein I don’t quite predict the future.
A post-2010-11 season mention of the Kessel trade.

The Sedins and Kaberle.

2011 Off-Season:

June:

On Burke telling everyone what he is going to do before the draft…again.

The Liles Trade and the Leafs 2011 Draft.

July:

The disastrous Tim Connolly signing as a reaction to not signing Brad Richards.A summary of the beginnings of the Leafs’ 2011 Free Agent Frenzy.

August:

On extending Clarke MacArthur.

On trading for Steckel.

2011-12 Season:

October:

My incredibly pessimistic 2011-12 Season Preview.

February:

The Aulie trade. I hate it even more now than I did last year.

March:

The (second) Grabovski extension.

On Burke being a giant dick while at the same time basically demonstrating to those of us who want to see advanced metrics utilized in hockey that he doesn’t belong as a General Manager of an NHL team.

April:

Your 2011-12 Toronto Maple Leafs! (including an attack on Burke’s “plan” and a comparison with the Edmonton Oilers’ alternative approach)

2012 Off-Season:

A history of Burke trading away under-25 players while he tries to “rebuild” the Maple Leafs.

June:

My initial, irrational reaction to the Leafs’ 2012 Draft.

A far more sober assessment of that same Draft.

On the Gustavsson trade.

On the Schenn trade.

July:

On the Leafs’ lack of 2012 Free Agent Frenzy.

On moving yet another winger to centre because Burke can’t find #1 centres.

On the Kulemin re-signing.

2013 Season:

January:

A brief summary of the Leafs’ most epic era of futility, going from lockout to lockout without a single playoff appearance.

A brief note of caution on any exceptional performance by this year’s team because of the shortened season.

Brian Burke was fired on January 9th.

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