January 11, 2013
Brian Burke: Leafs aren't my problem anymore
By TERRY KOSHON, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Brian Burke had no excuses.
The Maple Leafs were not good under his watch, didn’t make the playoffs once in four years, and for that he was fired as general manager.
That was the gist of the news conference Burke held on Saturday at the Air Canada Centre.
“We did not win,” said Burke, who was let go on Wednesday morning. “Your job as GM is to bring in players to win, and we did not win. You can blame this if you want (on) my personality, those all become excuses later.
“If we won enough games, you can be as obnoxious as you want to be if you are in first place. It’s about winning games, and that’s why we are here. I’m not ducking that. We did not win enough games.”
But Burke was obnoxious — even though the Leafs never won a thing with him in charge — and new owners Bell and Rogers didn’t like him. Still, he probably was right. Win some playoff rounds and there would have been no gathering at the ACC on the eve of training camp.
And though Burke now is a senior advisor, it doesn’t sound like that will last long. He figured it would be one thing, but then was told it would be another.
“I was informed that the senior advisor role is to the board and to (MLSE president and chief operating officer) Tom (Anselmi), not to hockey operations,” Burke said. “That was not my understanding, but that is fine. We’ll go from there and see what it involves.”
Burke is not the type to hang around in the background and give an opinion every so often. He has to be the guy in charge, and as such, wants to be an NHL GM again as soon as possible.
“Tomorrow, if I can,” Burke said when asked how quickly he would like to return to such a job. “I’m definitely in the job market, no question.”
How much did Burke learn, though, from his failure in Toronto to build a winning hockey team? He said he won’t change his approach at all, noting that he is “Irish and stubborn.”
“Maybe the new guys didn’t like that brand,” Burke said. “Maybe they want someone who is a little more conventional, and they are entitled to that. That’s fine. I am not changing how I do things. That’s not possible.”
Tongue in cheek, but only a bit, Burke later said: “I would like to go to work for a team that does not get sold next time. Got a pretty poor track record on that. Vancouver and then here. Someone buys the team, they have the absolute right to have their guy. I have to pick better next time. But I would not trade the ability to have worked here for as long as I have. I would not trade living in this city for anything.”
Burke was at times reflective and combative, and it was clear throughout the news conference that he had no idea he was going to be fired 72 hours earlier. He was on his way to the airport to attend the NHL board of governors meeting in New York when Anselmi called and summoned him to the team offices.
“Some times when you get fired, you see the vultures circling,” Burke said. “This one here was like a two-by-four upside the head. All I know is I am going to the New England Patriots playoff game with my kids tomorrow. I don’t know what I am doing on Monday.”
Burke, when he was hired in November 2008, said he would build a team that was equal parts skill and brawn. But that never happened, and he said he was not about to blame the roster he inherited from the previous GM, John Ferguson Jr. But Burke did that in a sense, saying that he “knew what the roster was when I came here.” He implied that there was not much to it.
And about that role as advisor? Burke has not warmed to it. Should the Leafs do something for fans now that the lockout is over?
“Not my problem anymore,” Burke said. “I got other headaches now but that ain’t one of them.”