Maple Leafs fire GM Brian Burke as season nears
Brian Burke's brash and outspoken style wasn't a good fit for the new corporate owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Maple Leafs fired their general manager Wednesday with the NHL season set to resume this month following a tentative settlement ending the lockout.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tom Anselmi said at a news conference that longtime Burke assistant David Nonis will fill the job. Burke will stay as a senior adviser.
Anselmi acknowledged that four years without a playoff berth factored into the decision. But ultimately, he added, ownership wanted a different look at the top.
Canada's largest telecommunication companies, Rogers Communications and BCE Inc., took control of the Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors after the 1.3 billion deal closed in August.
''Brian had a style and we knew what we were getting when he was hired a number of years ago,'' Anselmi said. ''This is really about a change in leadership voice and leadership direction.''
Anselmi fired Burke on Wednesday morning, the announcement startling many. Nonis was among those who didn't see the firing coming.
''Brian, when we were talking this morning, said `I get it, ownership is changing,''' Anselmi said.
The new board of directors let Burke go before the Maple Leafs might have had a chance to make the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season. Toronto has not made the playoffs since Burke was hired in 2008. The club last played in the postseason in 2004 and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
Anselmi stressed that the personnel Burke put in place will make for a seamless transition. Nonis, without Burke's outsized personality, said there won't be a great player turnover.
Before joining Toronto, Burke spent more than three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, leading them to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. Nonis worked with Burke in Anaheim and when Burke was general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Nonis also replaced Burke in Vancouver, compiling a record 130-91-25 as general manager.
Burke's most debated move was a deal with Boston in 2009 when he acquired forward Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection. The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul called the timing of the dismissal ''weird.''
''We haven't made the playoffs in however many years so the blame is falling right now on the GM,'' he said. ''He's the guy the brought a lot of us in and we didn't get the job done.''