To try and expand our point of view and learn about the other 29 NHL cities, we have made asked a series of luminaries around the NHL to bring us up to speed on what’s crackin in their hood. We call this Visiting Dignitaries and this is the first by Steve Lansky. You can read about him at the end of the article.
Did anyone else know Brian Burke had moved to Toronto? Hmm. You would think that would have made the news somewhere. — W. Gretz IV
Do you trust Brian Burke?
This is the big question in Toronto these days. I don’t mean trust him with your money or trust him with your brand new sports car. I mean, as a Leaf Fan do you trust him to deliver everything to the Toronto Maple Leafs that he so bombastically promises? Trust is a strange bedfellow in the world of sports. Everyone, it seems, wants you to trust them. “We have a (three-year, five-year, long-term) plan,” is a favourite of general managers. The fan is so easily made happy. Once they know you have a “plan,” they can sleep easier. As if having the plan is anything like executing it. Trust is something that is solidified with hindsight.
Essentially, if you think Brian Burke is the right man for the Leafs, you trust him. You trust his methods. You trust his player judgment. You trust his character. Peter Pocklington trusted Glen Sather. It got Peter Puck five Stanley Cup rings — which he disturbingly auctioned off. The Montréal Canadiens trusted Frank Selke, Sam Pollock and Toe Blake. Got them eight Cups.
The Philadelphia Flyers trusted Keith Allen and Fred Shero. Got them a pair of Cups during a time when the Flyers changed the entire culture of the game. That was a deep trust. It’s a lot easier to trust players. You can quantify what they deliver on the ice. With coaches and general managers, that trust is substantially more abstract.
Outgoing Leafs’ GM Cliff Fletcher did Burke a HUGE favour. Actually, a series of them. Cliff made sure Burke wouldn’t have to deal with Andrew Raycroft, Bryan McCabe, Darcy Tucker and, the mediocrity magnet himself, Mats Sundin.
Cliff allowed Burke to make a lot more pointed statements in his Welcome-to-Toronto presser than he would have been able to otherwise. Leafs’ fans, in hindsight, were able to trust Fletcher. Trust that, when he took over the job from JFJ last January, he’d be able to jump back into the GM’s saddle and ride the horse.
I trust that Burke does have a very intricate plan in place for the ascent of the Leafs to the NHL’s upper echelon. I trust that Burke knows what he’s doing. I trust that Burke already has a very clear vision of the Maple Leafs’ puzzle pieces he wants to move and where.
The question is: will the fans of the Toronto Maple Leafs trust Burke years from now, when we look up at a Stanley Cup banner at Air Canada Centre or as we head down the road on yet another boulevard of broken dreams?
Steve Lansky’s One-minute Bio
1979 –- Glen Sather hires 17-year-old Lansky as Edmonton Oilers’ team statistician.
1983 –- Lansky becomes youngest game producer in the history of Hockey Night in Canada, where guys like Bob Cole, Danny Gallivan, Ron MacLean, Don Cherry, Gary Dornhoefer and John Davidson let him think he’s their boss.
1988 –- Lansky goes long to produce The CFL on CBC, including producing one of the greatest Grey Cups every played – 1989 Roughriders v. Tiger-Cats.
Early ’90s –- Lansky refined his short game by producing a series of golf shows for TSN, including Acura World of Golf.
Late ’90s –- Lansky signs as a free agent to produce CTV Sportsnet’s fledgling NHL hockey coverage, where guys like Nick Kypreos and Mike Keenan (between his Vancouver and Boston gigs) pretend they need his help.
Current –- Lansky works as a freelance writer and broadcaster, while periodically finding time to add to his memoirs on three decades in the Canadian sports media. He is also a fan of the OilersNation – though he lives in Toronto.