Insiders, fans abuzz with speculation

JOE WARMINGTON -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 8:38 AM ET

Time will tell if indeed there will be a Brian Burke era in Toronto Maple Leaf history.

But fans were wondering if the Maple Leafs have indeed asked the Vancouver Canucks for permission to talk with their former GM Dave Nonis. How long can it be before they'll get similar permission to do the same with the much coveted Burke?

On an exciting day, it's a question just as excited Maple Leaf fans were asking last night as speculation was running rampant that it's only a matter of time before the Anaheim Ducks let their GM out of his contract and pursue the dream job of being at the helm of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"One thing you need to know about Nonis and Burke is there are no people in hockey who are closer to each other," said an insider who knows both. "They go back 20 years, fish together and talk to each other every day. Where ever Brian Burke has gone, Dave Nonis has usually followed."

Will it be the other way around this time? Will Nonis be hired as an executive with the Toronto Maple Leafs first, then followed by Burke? You can read for yourself Burke's reaction in Steve Simmons' column in sports in both the newspaper and on torontosun.com, where you'll also find fan reaction video.

Of course team officials are on record saying they have no idea of who the new GM will be. But at Union Station last night, just about every fan I spoke with knew exactly who they would like it to be. "I'd like Brian Burke," said Will Thomas, of Wasaga Beach.

Kristen Rossetti of Kingston, Toronto's Alan Kendall and Peterborough's Valerie Dinesen all also mentioned Burke as their choice -- knowing, though, that Burke has one year left on his contract with the Ducks and has said he is going to honour it.

"After meeting with (CEO Michael Schulman) this morning, we've decided to end all unnecessary media speculation and commit to working together for at least one more year while continuing to discuss my long-term future with the Ducks," he said April 23.

Fresh off reports there was a potential $25-million, five-year contract awaiting him here, this move by Burke threw the sports hounds off the scent for a while. However, all of that changed yesterday when TSN was reporting the Leafs had asked the Canucks for permission to talk with recently fired Vancouver GM Nonis. There was speculation plans were to bring Nonis to Toronto as an associate GM to be joined later by Burke upon completion of his contractual obligations with Anaheim.

Or even sooner! Some of this might be wishful thinking and it is one complicated and tricky situation which would have the NHL paying close attention to make sure all of the rules, ethics and protocols are followed.

Concerns of that, in itself, could result in Leafs' search committee head Gord Kirke looking to other names. Meanwhile, Leaf fans just want to get this hockey team back to some respectability.

"You'd think if they were going to hire a person without a contract, there would be no need for the secrecy and that person would be in place by now," said fan Barry Godin who, like many fans, wants someone with a Stanley Cup-winning pedigree such as Burke.

That possibility had the whole hockey insider world buzzing.

"All I know is the Brian Burke issue is still out there," said one NHL source. "That is not done yet."

"I have been told there is still something in the works with Burke," added another.

This kind of paints the Ducks organization into a corner -- having the difficult decision to either make Burke honour his contract or decide to move on from a lame duck GM who may want out.

And here all that was supposed to happen yesterday was a news conference to announce the firing of coach Paul Maurice. But when interim GM Cliff Fletcher said this move would "clear" the deck for a "new management regime" to hire their own coach, it was off to the races on bets of who that could be!

Whether you talked to Kathryn Humphries from CITY-TV to Simon Dingley from CBC to Austin Delaney and Claude Feig at CTV, you heard a different name.

It's too bad the hockey team on the ice isn't as exciting as the mystery and intrigue of what goes on off it. The head scratching, though, may end soon. "Six to 10 weeks" was the time frame Fletcher gave on his possible replacement.

Time for Brian Burke to get out of his contract with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks? Time will tell!

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Now that Paul Maurice has been turfed, we asked torontosun.com readers who they thought the next head coach of the Leafs should be. Here's a sample of what they had to say:

I think the Leafs should take a look at hiring Pat Burns. Why not? His record is very good the first few years on taking over a new team. He also seems to get the most out of his players. He has the experience and the know-how to deal with the Toronto media.

-- Ed Battagin, Livonia, Michigan

It would be in Toronto's best interest to hire a proven leader, one with experience on and off the ice with players and the media. Someone who people love and has a passion for the game, the one name that comes to my mind would be Mark Messier. Personally, I think he would look great behind the Leafs bench, and the players would love to play for a superstar.

-- Rene Bertrand, Thunder Bay

I think the Leafs should bring Pat Quinn back as GM and president in charge of all hockey operations. I think Pat Burns should be the team's next coach. You would then have good hockey people in place.

-- Ed Middlebrook, Midland

It's simple. If the Leafs want to have a winning team, hire Scotty Bowman.

-- Paul Arnill, Duntroon, Ont.

The Leafs organization should try to pry Kirk Muller away from the Canadiens. After a successful season as an assistant with Carbonneau, he is ready. He is also a key to why Montreal had the top power play in the league.

-- "Leaf Fan," Barrie

I say do what it takes and convince Scotty Bowman to come over. Let him have a say as to the next GM, because he would know who will fit best with his vision. If Bowman cannot turn this franchise around, the chances aren't good that anyone else could!

-- Mel Cash, Windsor


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