Burke needs some magic

STEVE SIMMONS,SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:49 AM ET

The difficulty for Brian Burke -- and there will be all kinds of it once he arrives -- will be in duplicating what he has managed in the past.

And sometimes that has meant pulling a rabbit out of a hockey helmet.

He won a Stanley Cup in Anaheim in his second season on the job.

In his first job, as a rookie general manager, he flipped the Russian star Sergei Makarov in a deal which enabled him to move up and draft Chris Pronger in Hartford in 1993. Pronger will be the only player from that draft class to make the Hall of Fame. Years later, he would be central to Burke's only Stanley Cup win.

In Vancouver, one year into the job, Burke made three different deals, involving a flowchart of draft picks from various years, to craftily put the Canucks in position to pick second and third in the 1999 draft, finessing the Sedin twins West. In each of the past three seasons, the Sedin brothers have been the Canucks' top two scorers.

Those are the chart-stoppers, the highlights. And the truth is, most general managers in most sports go a lifetime without pulling off a Pronger pick or a Sedin deal. It's too hard, too complicated, too unlikely.

Just like winning in Toronto.

Which is why Brian Burke has been the perfect fit for the Leafs from the moment it was determined that Ken Holland wasn't playing in this game.

There was nobody else. There was nobody else who has shown this kind of creativity, forcefulness, vision, anger: Great teams rarely are built on convention. They are built on moxie and good fortune, on sound management and a gambler's spirit.

So how and where does Burke start with these Maple Leafs -- assuming he will be announced on Saturday as president and general manager of the club. He will have six years to fix this mess. He will get rich (a contract likely worth more than $17 million US) -- hopefully the city and its fans also will be enriched. This isn't like hiring John Ferguson. This isn't a guess. This is an investment. This is a chance for an organization that has been too laughable for too long to finally do things right.

This isn't anything like Burke going to Anaheim. Here, the weather stinks and the fans' appetite for information and debate is unending. There is no Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry awaiting him. There is no Andy McDonald hidden away. There aren't a whole lot of secrets to be revealed.

And the Leafs aren't exactly Burke's kind of team. They aren't big. They aren't tough. They aren't mean. They are fast. That he likes. The rest? That will change.

"Brian will bring a lot of jump into the building," said David McNab, who was assistant general manager to Burke and a key U.S. college scout in Anaheim. "He brings his personality to the team. He puts his stamp on the team, his impact will be everywhere. I think all general managers want to do that. Not all of them are successful doing it.

"He's such a confident person, who takes control of every situation. There will be no disputing who is in charge. He knows what he wants to do and he knows how he wants to do it. And he listens. He wants to hear what you have to say. He wants to surround himself with good people. Look, we had Brian in Anaheim with three decades of experience and Bob Murray, who has been around even longer, and Randy Carlyle, who's been in hockey all his life, and I've been around three decades. That's a lot of people, a lot of years. We all start out thinking we know everything about the game and find out we don't know anything. But when you all those voices around, you have an organization."

Burke will listen to Dave Nonis, who likely is to join him in Toronto, to Cliff Fletcher, the adviser, to Joe Nieuwendyk, the young study, and to his old friend and coach, Ron Wilson. Like Wilson, he will demand accountability, from every player, from every employee. He will be loud and forceful and loyal and protective and occasionally -- see Todd Bertuzzi -- blind.

But he won't be complacent, or outworked. He will roll up his sleeves and get busy -- the kind of values Toronto applauded Wendel Clark for -- this time as general manager and president. The stage will be his come the weekend. Time for the show to begin.


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