Why Fire Brian Burke Right Now? Why Not?
There's a reason why the Maple Leafs haven't hoisted the Cup since 1967:
They're the Maple Leafs.
Hiring Brian Burke in the first place never made much sense, other than the fact that he was a known name and someone had to sit in the GM's office. Most of his moves didn't make much sense, either. (Case in point: Trading Tomas Kaberle. Really?) So why should the timing of his firing be any different?
Coming out of the last lockout, the NHL at least had new rules to trumpet and stay in the headlines while teams were ramping up for an abbreviated season. What do they have this year? Kyle Turris alienating the entire country of Finland? Only one NHL player making a KHL all-star team? Gary Bettman dartboards?
Well, yes. Better yet, though, they have the Leafs doing what they do best. Being the Leafs.
Toronto basically had one sniff at the playoffs in Burke's four years there. (Forget for the moment that they're the only NHL team not to make the playoffs since the last lockout. Why? They're the Leafs!) Burke's legacy will be the dubious distinction -- and the answer to a trivia question for years to come -- that he orchestrated the only all-American GM-&-Coach tandem in Leafs history by hiring Ron Wilson. Burke can only hope the Kessel and Phaneuf trades ultimately pan out. However, just as Cubness afflicts otherwise-talented ballplayers, Leafness has, to date, overcome anything these two now do on the ice.
Toronto's on-ice operations were just starting to be re-assembled. Real games were only days away. The task list was massive and urgent. So, why fire Burke as he was booking his flight to the Board of Governors meeting in New York? Did he put Roberto Luongo's agent on hold to do it? Did the new corporate owners just take inventory after the long lockout and realize he was still there?
Forbes magazine says the Toronto Maple Leafs are the most valuable franchise in the NHL. Apparently, that distinction trumps social graces. And awkwardness. Kind of like asking a widow for a date during the graveside ceremony.
It's that kind of obliviousness that make the Leafs the Leafs. And once again, they've shown there's no end in sight.