The Brian Burke saga, or at least the first part of it, is over. We’re as surprised as anyone—Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment tends to struggle with straightforward tasks—but today, Burke was officially unveiled as the new President and General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
It wasn’t exactly a surprise: we’ve known it was coming for weeks. Still, it’s nice to see it become official. It’s understood that Burke has signed on for the next five-and-a-half years and that he’ll enjoy the same decision-making autonomy as his Raptor counterpart Bryan Colangelo—something recent Leaf general managers have struggled to attain. Meanwhile, Burke’s no-nonsense attitude is well-suited to a voracious hockey market. We got a glimpse of it during today’s press conference, in which Burke gave the distinct impression of a man who’s already spoiling for a fight. If nothing else, being a Leaf fan seems like it’s about to become a bit more interesting.
Burke’s arriving at a good time: after a bright start to the year the Maple Leafs are quickly becoming the team there were widely suspected to be. Mired in a five-game losing streak (albeit one which includes a pair of the NHL’s ridiculous “regulation ties”), the Leafs are sliding down the Eastern Conference standings. We knew this was likely to occur; evidently it just took a bit longer than most of us were expecting. Still, it’d be difficult for Leaf fans not to feel at least a glimmer of hope after watching this afternoon’s presser. Brian Burke didn’t make any outlandish promises; indeed, when asked when the Leafs might be Stanley Cup contenders, he was marvelously evasive. But his hiring is still a positive move. It looks like “rebuilding” isn’t just a buzzword ‘round these parts: for once, it might actually mean something.
Photo by Ryan Coleman.