November 8, 2010
Buds better beware of Burke's bite
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
Beware, Maple Leaf players.
Don’t be fooled into thinking Brian Burke’s bark is worse than his bite.
When this ornery Irishman is riled up, he’s not afraid to show his teeth and chomp into any pressing issue that needs to be addressed.
As a result, when Burke suggested the other day that the blame for his team’s recent unacceptable funk rests with you players and not coach Ron Wilson, take it to heart.
Otherwise you might find yourself taking a cab out of town, courtesy of Mr. Burke.
To be fair, we don’t buy that Wilson should not share in the accountability for his team’s free fall, one that has produced just one victory in the past nine games.
In this, Wilson’s third season behind the Leafs bench, Burke has supplied his coach with more talent at his disposal than he has ever had in Toronto. If the players are coming up short, it’s the mandate of the coaching staff to get it fixed.
Having said that, there is no doubt that many of these players are “underachieving.”
That’s not our description. No, that, in fact, was the word used by forward Tyler Bozak Monday when asked for his reaction to Burke’s claim that it was the guys out on the ice, not the coach behind the bench, who needed to pick it up.
“We know in here we’re underachieving when you are not producing to the ability that you can,” said Bozak, who has just one goal this season.
“You hear from (Burke) and you know personally that that’s the way it’s going to be.”
Veteran goalie J-S Giguere knows better than anyone else in the Maple Leafs dressing room just how wary players should be when Burke threatens to make changes.
Giguere played for Burke in Anaheim during the Ducks march to the Stanley Cup in 2007. Along the way, he saw the outspoken general manager back up his vows to clean house, with more than a few players sent packing along the way.
“Burkie’s always up for business,” Giguere said. “If you know him a bit, you know he’s always ready to improve his team, looking for deals that are going to make his teams better.
“As players, you can’t take it personal. At the end of the day, it’s about winning games. When you don’t win, changes are going to happen.”
Giguere believes Burke has legitimate cause to suggest a shakeup might be in the works if the Leafs do not start performing better.
“It’s acceptable. It should be. There has to be a change in that we need to EXPECT to win,” Giguere said.
“It’s unacceptable to lose any more. Slowly but surely there is a transition and we can see a change of culture around here but I think the players know there is a sense of urgency every day.
“Burkie’s always looking. That’s the way it is. It might not happen often but it only needs to happen once and you are outta here.”
Burke claims nothing is on the frontburner in terms of trade but, with his 29 colleagues in Toronto for the NHL’s general manager meetings Tuesday, that could change quite quickly.
His Leafs, meanwhile, visit the Tampa Bay Lightning Tuesday and Florida Panthers Wednesday. Lose both of those, Maple Leaf players, and you had best be wary of Brian Burke.