Brian Burke fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Jonathan Willis
January 09 2013 10:54AM

So that just happened.

Not that we needed confirmation, given that this is Bob McKenzie, but here's Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos:

The timing of this almost defies belief. The NHL lockout is all but officially over, and soon teams are going to go from idling, as they have been all fall and winter, to full speed as they rush to get their teams on the ice and pull off any last minute trades to address injuries and weaknesses. It's a very strange time to dismiss a general manager, and a difficult time to line up a replacement who can hit the ground running. One would assume that Burke's lieutenant, Dave Nonis, will be left in charge of the team but there's been no word yet on who the Leafs are looking at as a replacement.

As for what this does to the rumoured interest of the Leafs in Roberto Luongo, here's Kypreos again:

There's been a lot of speculation that a disagreement between management and ownership on the acquisition of Luongo might be the reason for Burke's departure, but that doesn't really track cleanly for me. Luongo's been available since last summer, and the new ownership has been officially in place since fall - if there were substantive difference between Burke and his employers on that front, one would imagine it could have been dealt with during a less frenetic time for the team. 

Burke surived a little under four seasons without guiding the Leafs to a playoff appearance. He also survived a lockout where he was seen as one of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's most loyal supporters. It's going to be interesting to learn what exactly prompted the team to part ways with him now, just over a week before the likely start of a shortened NHL season.

Post-script - surprise seems to be the order of the day for hockey men and media alike:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 the-wolf
January 09 2013, 10:57AM
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???????!!!!!!!!!!

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#2 Mike Modano's Dog
January 09 2013, 10:57AM
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What??? Surprise!

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#3 Bryan in SK
January 09 2013, 10:59AM
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I guess at least this time his grumpy demeanor before the camera will be understandable.

I dislike the leafs a little bit less today. (A little bit).

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#4 Bryan in SK
January 09 2013, 11:01AM
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Whoops. Sorry about my last post. I forgot that I'm not interested in the NHL anymore. Stupid me.

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#5 justDOit
January 09 2013, 11:03AM
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This move might be proof that Burke was not the most incompetent person in the ML organization! Scary thought.

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#6 Spydyr
January 09 2013, 11:04AM
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Hope it was because he insisted on getting LOOOOOOU.

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#7 Harlie
January 09 2013, 11:05AM
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Please please please hire Tambellini for the job!

Thanks in advance Maple Laughingstocks.

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#8 DSF
January 09 2013, 11:07AM
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One possible explanation is that Burke was refusing to trade for Luongo and his bosses at Rogers and Bell wanted a marquee player in Toronto.

There was lingering bad blood between Burke and the Canucks and that may have played a role.

Worth noting that it was Dave Nonis who originally brought Luongo to Vancouver.

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#9 Dave
January 09 2013, 11:08AM
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Should be a rule that Burke is not allowed to join HNIC , TSN or Sportsnet unless he replaces another ex-manager or former player in the media.

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#10 DSG
January 09 2013, 11:09AM
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Sad day for Leaf haters... Burke in the job guaranteed a dismal organization... What about Randy Carlyle now? What a gong show!

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#11 justDOit
January 09 2013, 11:09AM
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@DSF

Pretty much exactly what I was going to say - a conflict over selling the farm to acquire Roberto.

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#12 the-wolf
January 09 2013, 11:10AM
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He must’ve told the wrong guy to go f himself.

And if he didn’t like it they could fire him.

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#13 DSF
January 09 2013, 11:11AM
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Mark Spector Sports ‏@SportsnetSpec

Sounds like Burke did NOT want to make Luongo deal, while many in Leafs org did. Burke a principled man.

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#14 justDOit
January 09 2013, 11:16AM
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Big smiles for Mike Gillis right now, as it looks like he might be getting his ridiculous asking price for RL. Sad moment for Canuck haters though.

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#15 DSF
January 09 2013, 11:19AM
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justDOit wrote:

Big smiles for Mike Gillis right now, as it looks like he might be getting his ridiculous asking price for RL. Sad moment for Canuck haters though.

The deal rumoured last night was Luongo for Bozak, Frattin and a 2nd round pick.

Not a great return for the Canucks but both Bozak and Frattin are very serviceable young players.

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#16 OilersBrass
January 09 2013, 11:20AM
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Leafs Nation is having a parade.

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#17 justDOit
January 09 2013, 11:23AM
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@DSF

Hmmm - had not heard details, just that the asking price was very high. That deal does not sound that bad, depending on your opinion of RL. Lawton thinks that Roberto would clear waivers because of his contract, which might be true.

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#18 FootballJimmy
January 09 2013, 11:28AM
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I won't pretend to like Burke as a GM in the slightest, but at face-value the timing of this seems ludicrous. There's gotta be more to it than we've heard.

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#19 james_dean
January 09 2013, 11:29AM
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so he won a stanley cup. you want to count rings?

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#20 Will
January 09 2013, 11:34AM
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Little do the owners know that they just fired the most entertaining thing about the Leaf's, sad.

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#22 Sanaa Montana
January 09 2013, 11:43AM
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Burke got fired because of too many insiders on his staff. Burke potential moves and trades would be known to TSN before they were known to Burke's bosses. They felt this didn't give the Leaves fair opportunities or values in potential trades.

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#23 book¡e
January 09 2013, 11:51AM
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OilersBrass wrote:

Leafs Nation is having a parade.

Leafs Nation is a lonely place - I went there to comment on this and there were four comments, three of them by 'Nation' people and one by me.

We should all go there and share our sympathy for their loss.

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#24 book¡e
January 09 2013, 11:53AM
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There could be an underlying issue like Luongo, but I would bet there were also some fireworks last night for it to happen like this.

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#25 Mike Krushelnyski
January 09 2013, 12:22PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

McKenzie confirms that Nonis will be taking over, though it's unclear if that's on a permanent or interim basis.

Not Tambellini? Damn.

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#26 David S
January 09 2013, 12:23PM
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Man am I ever glad I passed on that Leafs Burke Jersey a couple of weeks ago. PHEW!

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#27 DSF
January 09 2013, 12:28PM
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Strombone ‏@strombone1

Next I'm thinking about tackling relocation.

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#28 andrewmk20
January 09 2013, 12:30PM
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@DSF

How in the world could that trade trigger a move like this? That's a decent 3rd line center, a b- prospect, and an average pick for a goaltender who is still a legit no. 1. Which if you look around the league there are maybe 6-8 goalies that are considered within that category. I would think any team would make that deal. That'd be the equivalent of the Oilers dealing Gagner, Hartikainen, and a 2nd round pick for Luongo. That's a deal I'd consider taking.

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#29 Ducey
January 09 2013, 12:31PM
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If the firing was over Lou, that is very troubling for the Leaves. It means they have some corporate hacks making/ interfering in hockey decisions.

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#31 Bryan in SK
January 09 2013, 12:33PM
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And in other news... Brian Burke makes a career change to Agriculture, renting a barn in the Greater Toronto Area. Dave Nonis invited to come over to inspect operations....

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#32 LOL
January 09 2013, 12:34PM
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Oh the irony. Burke finally has the Leafs in playoff contention in January, and they turf him :P

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#33 John Chambers
January 09 2013, 12:35PM
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DSF wrote:

One possible explanation is that Burke was refusing to trade for Luongo and his bosses at Rogers and Bell wanted a marquee player in Toronto.

There was lingering bad blood between Burke and the Canucks and that may have played a role.

Worth noting that it was Dave Nonis who originally brought Luongo to Vancouver.

That was my immediate thought as well.

Although I truly can't think of a good reason why Toronto shouldn't take this risk in order for the next 2-3 seasons to not be a total waste.

And for Burke's sense of principal, he must leave.

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#34 justDOit
January 09 2013, 12:35PM
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@andrewmk20

Many people think that his contract makes him much less appetizing on the trade market. Therefore, 2 players and a high-ish draft pick is too much to give up.

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#35 Max Powers - Team HME Evans
January 09 2013, 12:36PM
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Time to make Ron Wilson the new GM

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#36 DSF
January 09 2013, 12:37PM
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andrewmk20 wrote:

How in the world could that trade trigger a move like this? That's a decent 3rd line center, a b- prospect, and an average pick for a goaltender who is still a legit no. 1. Which if you look around the league there are maybe 6-8 goalies that are considered within that category. I would think any team would make that deal. That'd be the equivalent of the Oilers dealing Gagner, Hartikainen, and a 2nd round pick for Luongo. That's a deal I'd consider taking.

Well, Luongo's contract has a bearing on the return.

You also need to remember that Vancouver doesn't want to take on much salary and both Bozak and Frattin are relatively cheap.

Bozak has a $2.5 million cap hit while Frattin is only $925k.

Gagner that much all by himself and Hartikainen is at $875k.

But, just a rumour at this point.

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#37 justDOit
January 09 2013, 12:37PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Just finished watching press conference. For those who missed it, ownership denied that decision had anything to do with Burke's personal life or a Luongo deal, refused to go into specifics but cited "leadership style."

Nonis said he found out this morning, and looked like he'd been run over by a truck. He's been named GM and not on an interim basis.

Not a big change in Nonnis` usual demeanor.

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#38 DSF
January 09 2013, 12:39PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Just finished watching press conference. For those who missed it, ownership denied that decision had anything to do with Burke's personal life or a Luongo deal, refused to go into specifics but cited "leadership style."

Nonis said he found out this morning, and looked like he'd been run over by a truck. He's been named GM and not on an interim basis.

They really couldn't say much else....especially about Luongo since that would be tampering.

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#39 longbottom/P.Biglow
January 09 2013, 12:43PM
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Wow and very interesting all at the same time. Yes a smart person could see this coming but the timing is very, very interesting.

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#40 gcw_rocks
January 09 2013, 12:44PM
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Assuming compliance buy outs can be used either this summer or next, an with the leafs in position to flush money if they need to, they would be crazy not to get Lu, run him out this season and next, and then use a compliance buy in summer 2014 on him if he isn't playing up to expectations. The Leafs could swallow that last 8 years of money without concern. Drop in the bucket for them. Different if compliance buy outs only this summer, but if you have the option to differ to summer 2014, its worth the risk.

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#41 justDOit
January 09 2013, 12:46PM
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@gcw_rocks

I think I heard somewhere that RL`s buyout would be about $30M. No matter how much revenue they generate, ML ownership is not going to view that move very favorably.

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#42 A-Mc
January 09 2013, 12:49PM
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It doesn't seem unreasonable to me that if ownership wasn't happy with Burke's performance to date, that they may choose to axe him now before he's able to fudge up the very important decisions that are going to be made in 2013.

New CBA comes out and says there are 2 buyouts and a reduced cap by 6 mill in 13-14 season. The GM role is going to be very important in the coming year, so i would think that you'd want to have absolute confidence in your GM going forward.

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#43 Next up, is Connor McJesus.
January 09 2013, 01:02PM
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Toronto always does things the hard way.

If they waited 6 months till after the Nucks buy-out Luongo, they could sign him for a song compared to what i'll cost them next week. This could go sour real fast if Leaf corporate bosses need this done now. Roberto, a notorius slow starter.....his first memories of Toronto will be of him getting roasted by the media every second night.

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#44 Clarkenstein
January 09 2013, 01:13PM
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Pricks never last.

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#45 John Chambers
January 09 2013, 01:17PM
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Clarkenstein wrote:

Pricks never last.

Depends on your medication and dosage level.

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#46 justDOit
January 09 2013, 01:18PM
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Personally, I think going into this compressed and shortened season with two really good tenders is a bonus. A team close to winning the Cup can`t afford an injury to a goalie or a slump.

For the Canucks, the cap is manageable this season, so there`s no incentive to move Luongo right away, and every reason to try and make a 2 goalie system work.

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#47 Ryan2
January 09 2013, 01:20PM
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Too bad that the Nucks will likely get out of the Not so sweet Lou deal now. It would have been nice to see them have to buy him out or stick with him for longer.

On the other hand, if he is traded and Schneider stumbles a bit it could be fun to watch all of the second guessing in the media.

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#48 justDOit
January 09 2013, 01:31PM
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As for Roberto, his situation is only getting more complicated with the new CBA. His buyout number has enough zeros in it to make a Forbes 100 list member weak in the knees. Ownership is not going to approve this move as a first strategy.

So the new CBA could be more friendly towards big Louie - it allows for salary to be included in trades. This might allow for more teams to get in on the trade bidding, and might improve the return that Vancouver gets.

But the new CBA might not be so kind to Roberto in another respect - it included a clause to penalize teams that employ players on back-diving contracts.

If player x plays for 5 seasons on a back-diving contract, and then that player retires during the cheap years, the team will be penalized equal to the amount of cap savings provided by said contract. If the team earns $2M of cap space for each of those years played (5), and the player leaves 3 low-paid years on the table after retirement, then the team will be penalized 3 years x the cap savings offered by the contract ($2M). This will apply to every team that player x plays for during the back-diving contract. Ouch. That is going to leave a mark on the GM`s resume.

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#49 Truth
January 09 2013, 01:31PM
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I would absolutely love to see Burke turn up in the Boston Bruins head office. It would make so much sense.

IF the reason Burke got fired is because he didn't bite on Luongo then I respect him more than I did this morning. Whoever takes Luongo loses in the long run. There is just no way to overcome that horrendous contract. If I was a GM I would consider taking Luongo and a 1st round pick for my 7th round pick and a big contract. Yes, he was a number one goalie last year. He is 33 right now and signed @ $5.33M/yr until his contract is completed at age 43. How many more years does he have as a number 1? I would argue 3. Therefore, there are 6 years (66% of the years in the organization) in which you are paying elite goaltender money to your backup or low level number one goaltender. No thanks.

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#50 DSF
January 09 2013, 01:41PM
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Lebrun on Burke.

Says it is Luongo related.

http://espn.go.com/blog/nhl/post/_/id/21244/did-luongo-reluctance-cost-burke-his-job

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