A day after speaking of the need to bring more beef to the Maple Leafs, general manager Brian Burke added more brains yesterday.
Burke, after a few days of rumours, turned one of the worst-kept secrets involving the Leafs into fact when he announced the hiring of David Nonis.
Nonis, 42, has been named the Leafs' senior vice-president of hockey operations. A former GM of the Vancouver Canucks, Nonis had talked to the Leafs about a similar position in the spring. Most recently, Nonis was the Anaheim Ducks, senior adviser of hockey operations.
"To be able to add someone of this calibre is a major announcement for us," Burke said.
At a time when job losses are front-page news every day, no matter the industry, Burke stressed that no members of the Leafs' front office -- including assistant GM Jeff Jackson, special assistant to the general manager Joe Nieuwendyk, consultant Cliff Fletcher or director of player personnel Al Coates -- need to worry about their livelihood.
"This does not contemplate any changes to our staff at this time," Burke said. "This does not mean anyone is leaving. It does not mean anyone is being relieved of their duties. We are adding a layer of expertise and a layer of experience.
"I don't think one guy has all the answers. One guy is not smart enough."
Burke and Nonis' working relationship goes back to their days together in Vancouver. Burke was gone when Nonis pulled off a major trade for the Canucks, acquiring franchise goalie Roberto Luongo from the Florida Panthers in 2006 for Todd Bertuzzi.
"This opportunity is not one that I take lightly and I am extremely excited about," Nonis said. "Brian and I don't necessarily see eye-to-eye on certain issues, and that is probably why we work so well together. But we think a lot alike on how this game should be played.
"He has always been a guy to give you authority."
The Leafs were not required to compensate the Ducks for prying Nonis away, but had there been a compensation issue, Burke said he would have been happy to give something up.
"The league changed the rule about two years ago, but it has not been publicized," Burke said. "You're not allowed to pay compensation anymore (on these kinds of hirings). After Peter Chiarelli went to Boston (from Ottawa, to become the Bruins' GM), there was a dispute. You are not allowed to demand compensation anymore, whether it is a draft pick, cash, anything. Dave's contract had a 48-hour window (that allowed him to leave the Ducks) anyway."
Starting immediately, Nonis will have his fingers in all of the Leafs' off-ice pies, from contract negotiations to trades to salary-cap issues. When he sits down and gets a good look at the team, Nonis will see right away, if he has not already from afar, what must have struck Burke right off the bat: The Leafs are a team that can't get much worse.
"I have a pretty good feel for what we need to do and how we go about doing it," Nonis said. "There is a lot of work to do in all areas. I would not put anything ahead of the others."