Brian Burke fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

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:

  • Quicksilver ballet

    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.

  • justDOit

    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.

  • John Chambers

    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.

  • justDOit

    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.

    • DSF

      That eventuality is so far away it’s irrelevant.

      None of Gillis, Nonis, Bettman or Fehr will be around at that point and there will be ANOTHER CBA in place.

      In any case, it can easily be worked around by putting the player on LTIR.

      • justDOit

        Not if he retires in 4 years (age: 37?). It`s when he retires that this clause kicks in.

        And any GM coercing medical staff for a phony LTIR assessment would be lucky if he is only fired.

        • DSF

          He won’t retire in 4 years.

          He’d be giving up huge dollars.

          In the next six years, he’s paid $6.7 million then $3.3M and $1.6M.

          At that point, 8 years from now, his salary drops to $1 million.

          Even if he’s healthy enough to play at that point, the team could pay him to sit in the pressbox and eat popcorn.

          • Truth

            His cap hit is $5.33M the entire period, no? Management shouldn’t like the idea of a washed up goalie sitting in the press box eating up $5.33M/year when they could spend that on a high end player on the ice instead.

          • DSF

            So, you are disputing the notion we can learn from history?

            You might want to reflect for a moment that there is going to be a bidding war for Canadian hockey television rights after the expiration of CBC’s current contract at the end of this season.

            With TSN, Sportsnet and CBC all vying for the content, league revenue is about to go waaaaaaaaaay up.

            And that’s just the beginning.

            Here are some revenue, cap and floor projections from the Globe and Mail.

            Considering they are based on 5 percent annual growth, as opposed to the 7 percent that revenues grew on average over the last CBA, I think they are a little better than “guesses”.


          • justDOit

            Ok, in 5 years then. That’s when his salary drops to a paltry $3.8M before further dropping to about $1M. He only makes about $5M in the last 4 years of the deal, which is nothing after making a LOT more in the first years. If he has his health, and has saved/invested most of the money he has already earned, his retirement is a distinct possibility.

            No GM wants to gamble with $2M – $3M of his salary cap on Luongo’s retirement, and no GM will be willing to give up $5.3M of cap space to let him eat popcorn in the pressbox.

          • DSF

            No. 7 years.

            And see the above post.

            Toronto can easily spend their way out of the problem if it arises.

            For example, in the new CBA, a team can keep salary and cap space on a split with the team they’re trading a player to.

            So, for example, with 3 years remaining on Luongo’s contract, they could trade him to a cap floor team. The Leafs could pay half the $3.6 million he is still owed, keep half his cap hit and send the other team a prospect for their trouble.

            Interesting that it was Burke who was pushing for that change in the CBA and might not be around to take advantage of it.

          • justDOit

            I still think that Luongo is a prime candidate for taking retirement early – he’s already made $55M in his career, and could get out rich, with his health and start a business in south FL.

            Yes the trade and keep salary/cap hit helps, but the cap benefit recapture (CBR) clause applies to any team he plays for.

            Roberto has a NTC which is quite complicated and may or may not follow him to another team. If it does follow him, that would make it even more difficult to trade away cap hit

            In the end, MLSE can afford to try this, but I don’t think you’ll see a lot of GMs waste cap space by retaining a lot of cap hit in trades or taking CBR penalties. Cap space will always be precious, no matter how high the cap goes because GMs are not wired for restraint.

            It will be interesting to see how these two clauses impact the trade market though. Eklund must be frothing at the mouth…

  • Truth

    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.

  • book¡e

    I find it interesting that I am glad that Burke got fired, but that I also agree with Burke in the disagreement. Luongo felt too much pressure playing in Vancouver, so its a good idea to bring him to Toronto?

  • Truth

    I am unhappy Burke got fired in the same sense that I am happy Feaster is still the GM in Calgary.

    I loved Burke’s monumental Phil Kessel trade failure. Not only did he pay more in compensation through trade than if he signed Kessel to an RFA offer sheet, he lost two top 10 picks.

  • book¡e

    Job description for recently established position of “Senior Advisor” to be held by Brian Burke:

    The primary responsibility of the employee will be to repeatedly and frequently tell everyone in the head office of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment that they can go F#@K themselves

  • stevezie

    Am I the only one who likes Burke? He’s honest and while some of his principles may seem strange, he really sticks to them. Here is a GM who (maybe?) was willing to lose his job over acquiring a long-term contract because he thought it would hurt the team in the future. He care more about the team than keeping his job, isn’t that an ideal GM? True Phaneuf has been inconsistant but he hasn’t been bad, and that trade was such robbery I’d argue it cost Sutter his job. He fleeced the Ducks for Lupul and Gardiner, and began the arduous task of restocking the prospects cupboard. Even his most famous foul-up, and it was a huge mistake, still netted the Leafs a young point-a-game forward. There really aren’t that many of them.

    He hasn’t been perfect so I wouldn’t say he’s getting screwed, but Burke remains a viable GM for any team looking for one, provided they can handle his personality. I don’t think new Leafs ownership could.

    • DSF

      Agree completely.

      He’s honest, straightforward and loyal to a fault.

      Even the Kessel trade wasn’t as bad as it seems since he took a gamble and lost but which GM has never done that?

      Horcoff contract, Khabibulin contract, Barker, Foster, Fraser ad infinitum.

      As you say, he bagged a PPG player in his prime and, while I think Seguin will ultimately prove to be a better player, the difference won’t be huge.

      He more than made up for losing Dougie Hamilton when he stole Gardiner and Lupul so, on balance, I think he’s done pretty well there.

      With Rielly, Finn and others in the system, I don’t think the Leafs will miss Hamilton all that much.

    • DieHard

      I think Burke is OK as a GM. The Kessel deal did backfire on him. I believe he was thinking the first rounders he gave up would be mid-rounders not lottery level.

    • justDOit

      I think he’s made some really darling trades (Beauchemin for Gardiner and Lupul, for instance, not to mention fleecing the Flames), and he really supports his troops, so you’ve got to like that. But as someone else has pointed out here, that Seguin/Hamilton situation is going to burn for a long time.

      Whatever they say in the media about this being culture change, I believe the rumors that this was related to his reluctance to bring in Luongo.

  • DSF

    i was looking back at all the moves burke made during his time as gm of the leafs just to gain a little perspective and there is one thing i will say.

    i am not a dion phaneuf fan, i mean he really comes across as a punk, but what in the world was darryl sutter thinking when he pulled the trigger on that one?

  • The Soup Fascist

    Burke was two different guys. Did a lot of work for charities behind the scenes without looking for any publicity. A bright guy who it would be interesting to have a beer with.

    On the flipside his public persona exuded arrogance.

    He made some very good deals – Gardner / Lupul for Beauchemin. As Stevezie indicated – love or hate Phaneuf – it was a good trade in terms of value.

    However his legacy will be the disaster deals:

    – Komisarek F/A signing – 5yr / 4.5 mil per – Kessel for Seguin and Hamilton, as it turned out

    Was Jeff Finger (remember him??) at $3.5 million a year – a Burkie deal or during Cliff Fletcher’s first foray into dementia?

    Kessel deal became his Waterloo and Burke’s constant bleating that “he would do the same deal again” endeared him to no one. Not even Kessel.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I agree ,although I would ,if I could, give a bigger role to Elliote Friedman.

      Love to see a whole thread devoted to building a better HNIC crew . PJ Stock would not be on my crew and neither would be Kevin Weekes.

      I like our local Oilers broadcasts a lot!

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Always liked Burke. He’s a big picture guy not afraid to make big changes. If you’re on Brians like list you’ll always find yourself employed. He built a couple pretty good clubs in Vancouver and Anaheim before he moved east closer to home. Some deals haven’t worked out as he had hoped, but Brian Burke is probably glad to be out of Hells Kitchen with the 12 chefs in charge in Toronto. Brian Burke must not have had the control of the hockey club he thought he had.

    Dave Nonis has probably already been fitted for the handcuffs preventing him from making the Leafs his own as well. They deserve each other in Leafland with corporate leadership like this.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Burke is like the loud grumpy old lady at bingo who never wins but yet still buys as many cards as she can hoping for the best. His gambles will be seen as fails on all fronts, I never thought for one second that Phaneuf is a leader. Kessel is a toss up, but three years into that deal the Bruins look like gangbusters. Burkes Leafs Legacy will be muffing on Seguin, drafting Khadri, praising Coliaccavo and making crybaby Phaneuf captain. Godspeed Burke and take your big piehole stateside.