Morning Mashup: Opening the Burke Quote Vault


Hey everybody, if you weren’t aware, there’s a lockout going on. That leaves labour negotiations and prospects to talk about. I don’t feel like doing either today, so instead I’m going to revisit some quotes that are almost four years old.

On November 30th, 2008 Brian Burke entered the Toronto market with much fanfare and no shortage of soundbytes. He laid out his vision for the Leafs in that initial press conference. Today I’ll take a look at how good a job he’s done of living up to his vision.

“We play an entertaining style. We believe in aggressive pursuit and possession of the puck in all three zones. We believe in answering the physical challenges and playing a style that allows our young players to play and develop in a fear-free environment.” – Burke

There is no doubt that the Leafs have been entertaining, and no matter what your opinion of Ron Wilson is, he provided us with some of the most exciting losing hockey I’ve ever seen. Of course this possession game Burke speaks of did not seem to materialize, nor did a group that could answer physical challenges. And as for developing prospects in a fear-free environment, I think the Kadri situation shows some room for improvement in that area as well.

Now putting some spit shine on that, there certainly are prospects in the system that seem like entertaining possession players, or potentially players like Biggs and Ross will be capable of answering physical challenges while holding a regular shift, but as of today it seems like Burke hasn’t lived up to much beyond the entertainment factor. While I can’t speak for everyone, a season full of boring 1-0 wins and playoff appearances would be a nice trade off for 6-4 losses.

“My scouting philosophy is simple. We want to identify character people, useful people, people that can do more than one thing well, people that have tenacity, people that have coachability, people that have excellent work ethic, high hockey IQ. We look for a different player; not always the fastest skater or hardest shot, but someone who can help us win.” – Burke

There seems to be a couple of problems with this approach. The first being that skill might not be something you would want to neglect. Though I’d argue it hasn’t. Maybe Burke has opted to go with players like Stuart Percy over potentially more skilled players available in the draft, but at the same time you can’t argue that Percy has skill as well. There is something comforting about the number of Leafs prospects with C’s and A’s on their chest.

Secondly, with the number of team suspensions for Brad Ross, and the Leafs organizations continued struggles with Kadri, have they really targeted coachable, character people? This doesn’t keep me up at night since these are two promising players who will likely play in the NHL in the near future.

“They (Toronto) haven’t drafted that well because they haven’t had the high picks. They’ve never had those top 2 or 3 picks because they’ve had good but never great teams. That perpetuates the inability to get better. Does that mean we’re going to tear everything down right away? No. We’re going to have to evaluate the team first and see. I do think a team should either be ascending rapidly or descending rapidly. I don’t believe being ‘good’ is not the solution. This is about having the parade.” – Burke

Uhhhh…. What happens if we become a bad team, we’re gonna use those picks right? Right?!

The Kessel trade was far from a disaster. All things considered I have no problem with the outcome being Kessel for Seguin, Hamilton and Knight. It was a good risk that fit with the quick turnaround that was expected. GM’s making bold moves keep sports interesting. I think Burke along with everyone else in Toronto would not have anticipated the Leafs being that horrible.

It also didn’t help that previously any attempted move to get John Tavares fell through, and rather than let the team fail in a spectacular fashion Burke brought in Martin Gerber and Boyd Devereaux who would move the Leafs out a lottery pick.

Come to think of it, wouldn’t Martin Geber and Boyd Devereaux be the exact players you’d want to bring in to slide into last place? Maybe it’s time to let this one go.

As for Burke’s comment about it being about being good and it being about having a parade, I think most of us would gladly embrace some signs of improvement along the way, but I appreciate Burke’s stance on not making moves to help the team in the short term and hurt them in the long run. If this club is going to improve, some sustainable success would be nice.

Pointing out how Burke has not lived up to his own words is easy, and that was pretty much the inspiration for writing this post. However, while he hasn’t had the success he anticipated, it is still arguable that he is the best person to fix the Leafs.

Arguably it has only been the past two seasons that the Leafs have acknowledged the need for more than a slight adjustment for this team to have success. With that, is it possible that the new focus on the Marlies may soon pay dividends?

It will likely be the early days after the CBA is ratified that will determine my opinion on Burke. Seven years ago it was obvious that John Ferguson Jr. was late to the party and didn’t react quickly enough in the new NHL. It’s even more obvious that he didn’t recognize the change in the speed of the game. A move to a new GM potentially means yet another change in vision and potentially a prolonged rebuild. For now I want to believe in Burke.

For a look back at Burke’s first Leafs press conference, check out this 2008 post from Alex Tran


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Congratulations to MLSE on finding a new way to take our money. One XL Brad Ross please.

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Dear MLSE, please change my jersey order to a Paul Ranger jersey.

THN Draft Prospect Watch: Justin Bailey of the Kitchener Rangers
If his nickname isn’t Metroid I’ll be pissed.

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The lockout has reduced them to watching a game filled with Kraft employees, the most mediocre alumni Toronto has to offer.

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Tyler Biggs gets an honourable mention.

Vintage Leaf Memories takes a look at the Kadri Situation
He should be up at the gym just working on his fitness. Kadrilicious!