It needs to be said...after all the hype and rumor and silly "connect the dots" conspiracy theories trotted out this Spring to suggest that Brian Burke wants to be the Leafs' next GM...somebody has to say it: "Why Burke?"
Even before Kevin Lowe leveled the boom with suggestions that Burke is more luck than genius, that he Left Dave Nonis with a mess in Vancouver; that he joined the Ducks at the perfect time to take advantage of good drafting and decisions made by his predecessors...even before that - I had my doubts about Burke being a good fit.
Brian Burke has a lot in common with Pat Quinn in terms of style, a straight talking hockey man who occasionally lets loose with a big quote or a verbal shot that will land him in hot water. Quinn had a longer and more consistent record of success over a long career. Burke - some would say, is more able to adapt to a changing game.
I'd challenge that last one though. Anaheim's cup year featured a team that was big on size and sprinkled with skill in key positions. (Sounds quite a lot like teams that Pat Quinn tried to build in the 1990's and 1980's.) Just as much a tried-and -true formula as any sort of innovative trend.
Then there's the whole personality question. Could a "big" personality like Burke
handle the meddling from the Leaf's board? Could he humor and tolerate the annoying little gadflies such as Cox, Simmons, or Strachan, who would likely complain about the second coming of Jesus if it happened in Toronto.
Could a guy like Burke shrug off the helpful comments from Don Cherry?
I tend to think that Burke would have to waste so much time putting out small fires that he'd likely be ineffective before too long.
Really, I don't see Burke as being nearly as effective as Cliff Fletcher in finessing his way through some tricky situations. Fletcher, while probably aching to get back to retirement, manages to play the diplomat when it is required. He's on good terms with a lot of people in the league, while Burke seems to be shortening his list of friends among the GM ranks.
But Fletcher has his weaknesses - it is hard to imagine him pushing back when the board starts interfering. He's is pretty willing to play the role of care-taker/gardener - that is, he's just here to do some pruning and planting. He isn't a long-term solution for a team that needs one.
Enter Joe Nieuwendyk, the man oozes class and has the respect of people in every organization in the league. He's a competitor, a winner, and a guy who would have the respect of fans, players and coaches.
Joe isn't the sort of guy to grab the headlines for mere words - he's a guy who many would be willing to give the benefit of the doubt to, and he's a guy who would demand results.
Sure, he's a guy who would be learning on the job, but he's no JFJ, nor a Garth Snow... those guys showed signs of making some decisions based on the pressure from fans and management, rather than sound long-term thinking.
If I had to make a prediction, I really feel that the recent Nieuwendyk signing will be an apprenticeship,and Joe will be heading things at the draft table next year.
Brian Burke meanwhile may be looking elsewhere if he doesn't sign himself an extension with the ducks. With an absentee owner next year, Burke will surely feel even more like King in Anaheim...why leave that?