Brian Burke: Is You Is Or Is You Isn’t?

As much as I hate the suits at MLSE with the white hot burning heat of a thousand suns, I can’t quarrel too much with their deliberate pace on this hiring decision to date.  It’s a tough decision, and one that will have far-reaching consequences for the future of the organization.  The reason that I despise the current board is, of course, its abject failure to avoid meddling with the affairs of the hockey team over the last few years, coupled with its failure to install a chief executive Brian Burkewith sufficient vision and experience to plan for success in the post-lockout environment.  That having been said, it would appear that the board has, since the firing of John Ferguson Jr., made the right decision: to correct its mistake in that regard and hire a top-quality chief executive to whom control over the hockey operations will be ceded.  In other words, MLSE has decided that maybe they ought not to do this job themselves.  I congratulate them for making the right call at this critical first step of the decision-making process;  it is so obviously the right decision, it’s kind of like congratulating your kid for deciding (for the third day this week!) not to eat a jar of paste while at school, but it’s important to celebrate even modest successes with those who have intellectual challenges and to positively re-inforce behaviour we want to encourage.  So yay, MLSE!

Step two of the hiring process was to find the right person to replace John Ferguson Jr.  Apparently unable to locate a person with the right credentials on a permanent basis last spring, the club turned to Cliff Fletcher and asked him to act as steward of the club’s fortunes during the initial stages of the rebuilding process. In doing so, the Leafs successfully managed to put one foot in front of the other. (Again, yay!)  Fletcher has, it must be said, acquitted himself quite well since his appointment: he made a deal on draft day that got the Leafs into position to pick up Luke Schenn;  he signed Niklas Hagman and Jeff Finger; for every questionable acquisition (Ryan Hollweg), there has been a great pickup (I’m looking at you, Mikhail Grabovski); for every Jamal Mayers, a Mike Van Ryn. It is too early to say whether these players, and others (such as recently acquired Lee Stempniak ) constitute the necessary pieces of the puzzle, though it is unlikely that they form the core of a Cup winning team.  To get there, some of these assets will have to be moved elsewhere, and fresh talent added to the basic building blocks at a later date.  At this stage, as we’ve been told by team officials, it’s not about wins and losses:  it’s about changing a culture of entitlement that had settled over the dressing room – a debilitating malaise that somehow begun interfering with the players’ performance.  At step two, Cliff Fletcher earns the MLSE another passing grade.

NaNoReMo Project Update

Mike, I haven’t abandoned the project.  There’s something going on at work this week that demands my full attention.  I probably won’t have an update until Friday night/Saturday morning.

Hang in there.  Meantime, get ready for the Brian Burke era in Toronto by reading this excellent review of Brian Burke’s resume to date.  Can’t spare the time to read it?  Here’s a hint about the thesis:  “Canucks” and “Ducks” both rhyme with “sucks”.

A Place Of Its Own

Mike posted this in my little article about Gord Kirke’s busy, busy schedule:

Hello Mr.B.Burke.

Am Mr.G.Kirke, I work with a HOCKEY TEAM here in CANADA as an SEARCHING officer. I have just found out that a foreign customer with us WAS FIRED last year without leaving a next of kin to his PLAYERS and he has no known family. The HOCKEY TEAM will keep the PLAYERS if it remains unclaimed which will only favor the HOCKEY TEAM, so I decided to look for a foreigner that will agree to inherit the PLAYERS while I prepare grounds for the claim.

I deem it important to assure you that this is legal and genuine and will be carried out officially too. The claim itself is overdue and will be given prompt attention by the HOCKEY TEAM upon your payment request while I’ll give you exclusive details and support from here. I am ready to give you 25% of the HOCKEY TEAM for your support and I also guarantee the safety of your name and details.

I’ll furnish you with more details upon getting your immediate response.

Thank you.


Obviously, this is waaaay funnier than what I wrote. It deserves a post of its own.  Voilà.

So Much for That, eh Damien?

I posted the other day about Damien Cox’s ridiculous “story” that the Leafs’ efforts to woo Brian Burke were going to shift into high gear with Anaheim’s elimination from playoff contention.

That was Monday. Apparently, the “inside sources” relied upon to give that story credibility were sorely, profoundly and rapidly mistaken; according to David Shoalts’ story in the Globe and Mail this morning, not only has Burke confirmed that he will be remaining with Anaheim pursuant to the terms of his existing contract,

Sources on both sides of the matter say no contact was ever made between the Leafs and Burke or the Leafs and [Ducks owner Henry] Samueli.

In other words, the lightning quick action that was characterized as imminent by Mr. Cox in his column evidently did not include so much as even a telephone call to seek permission to talk to Burke.

Wow, what a whirlwind!

This means Damien needs to change course with his columns, of course. No problem, when in doubt, Cox can simply go back to bashing Maple Leaf management with poorly-thought out complaints (which, I would point out, needlessly distracts everyone from the many legitmate complaints to be made) . This from the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” file:

All along, however, Burke knew there was a real chance that the Ducks’ hardnosed president, Michael Schulman, would not give the Leafs the chance to talk to him.

And he was proven correct, or at least Schulman made it clear no such permission would be forthcoming if such a request was received (emphasis added).

So the Ducks made it clear that they wouldn’t give the Leafs permission to talk to Burke if they asked for it, right? I guess that would explain why the Leafs couldn’t secure the Messiah’s services, right? Wrong, oh ye of short sight and no column space! Behold the wisdom of Cox:

What’s truly incredible is the MLSE board of directors doesn’t seem to have any sense of urgency here, or a particular game plan in place.

They’re just sort of meandering along, swimming in 23 per cent profits and imagining how nice it would be to have a front man who would attract all the attention and stop people from calling them unflattering names.

They would have loved for Burke to be that person.

But his current employer quite smartly decided he was too good to lose.

In other words, MLSE’s braintrust was:

  • rightly interested in Burke’s services – he is after all, the personification of all that is godly in the hockey world;
  • required to wait until the end of the Ducks’ season before even seeking permission to talk to Burke;
  • made aware, almost immediately thereafter, that permission to speak to Burke would not be granted if sought;
  • guilty of “meandering” and not having a plan because they did not then immediately get on the blower and – uh, do something, I guess – ask for permission to speak to Burke anyway.

Far be it from me to defend the likes of the MLSE board but come on, Damien, think it through: you’ve just assured us that they did have a plan, and that it was the right plan to have (how could it not be, involving a fellow who can walk on water and all?). When the plan falls through because of forces beyond MLSE’s control (i.e. the actions of Samueli and the Ducks), is it really fair to carp on about inaction?

For the record, I do agree with his point that Justin Pogge ought to be playing in the Marlies’ AHL series. How ’bout tracking down the justification for that rather than wasting my time with abject bullshittery.

What’s the over/under on how long it takes Cox to turn this little episode into the Leafs’ “failure to secure the services of Brian Burke”, another exhibit to be endlessly paraded in front of the readers as some kind of shorthand confirmation that there’s nought but clowns in the boardroom who, if they were only capable of reading the local newspaper, would be much better prepared to secure an immediate championship for the Leafs?

The Book of Burke 1:01

With the Anaheim Mighty Ducks eliminated from playoff contention last night, cue the Toronto media hype about Brian Burke, incoming General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Part Time Saviour of All Mankind. Details remain unclear concerning His Holiness’ expected time of arrival here in the GTA; it is also unknown whether he will be flying in through Pearson, teleporting, or merely decreeing out of existence all space and time between His current location on the left coast and the foot of Bay Street (heads up, Idaho!). I give you exhibit A, the babbling prattle of Toronto Star columnist Damien Cox:

It begins today. Officially, that is. Unless Gord Kirke has presented the MLSE board with an entirely different game plan, Burke has been the No.1 target of the Leafs since John Ferguson was fired in January and he’s still the No.1 target.

This thing is now going to heat up quickly.

“It’s going to go from 33 1/3 rpm to 45 rpm in a hurry,” one source said.

Is that quotation really to be taken seriously? First, am I to believe that someone [the source] said “33 1/3 rpm to 45 rpm”? Ignore, for a moment, the astonishingly anachronistic (and not particularly compelling) metaphor. Even back in the old days (when people read newspapers, for example), if and when people made reference to long playing records, nobody added the “rpm” part in to the sentence, which means it’s likely that Cox just dropped it in there. How the heck am I supposed to rely on a quote that I’m fairly certain has been monkeyed with? Okay, you can stop ignoring the astonishingly anachronistic metaphor now: evidently , Cox couldn’t find anyone under the age of seventy willing to discuss the situation. “It’s going as rapidly as ye olde prunes through the digestion of King Henry,” quoth one scribe. Finally, I assume that in using this figure of speech the “source” (demanding anonymity for obvious reasons, given the incredible sensitivity of this most highly secret information) meant to suggest a sudden and substantial increase in the pace of activity. Is that sense of frenetic acceleration truly conveyed in this sentence? Would you be left with the impression of a sudden frenzy if the “source” had spelled out the metaphor in more arithmetic terms: “The lazy revolution of this LP is going to increase in frequency by somewhat less than 40%“?

What a great load of bollocks, I say. What is the story here? What is it, exactly, that is gathering such profound momentum that only an obsolescent metaphor will suffice to describe the massive approaching wave of Burke-mania speeding towards the parched hockey desert of Hogtown, at last joyously quenching the insatiable thirst for the Hockey Wisdom that only He (Praise be his Name) can bring?

Well, if you read the “story” closely, here’s what it actually reports: Brian Burke is the General Manager of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. He has been for a couple of years. It is generally believed that the Leafs are interested in hiring him as their General Manager. They became interested in January, when they fired the last unfortunate idiot who held that job. Burke’s team finished losing its playoff series last night. So now they can pick up the phone and call him. Y’know, to find out if he’s interested. Unless, of course, the source is wrong and Gord Kirke has a different plan. [Pause: sound of crickets chirping.] To be more concise: having thought about it since January, the Maple Leafs might call Brian Burke soon.

Invigorating, isn’t it, the chilling rush that comes with just being associated with the breakneck pace of this unstoppable coronation? Thank God – er, I mean, “Thank Brian Burke” that Damien Cox had that anonymous source willing to go out on a limb and share with him – and by extension, us – the thrilling and lightning-fast unseen front office machinations of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment and the National Hockey League.

By Almighty Burke, I’m glad to be alive!