Why was Brian Burke, who grew up in Edina and played high school hockey there, fired as Toronto Maple Leafs general manager? No one is quite sure.
It might have been his refusal to trade for Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo. It might have been his gruff, very old-school manner. It might have been the media partnership that now owns the team. And it might have been all the above.
Also cited in the reports of Burke's demise was his trade for former Gopher Phil Kessel. Admittedly, Kessel is a scorer the Leafs needed, but he came over at a price that set up Boston for its Stanley Cup and perhaps more. It is cited as the biggest mistake in Burke's tenure, even though Burke had said he would make that trade again.
But as Burke is being criticized for giving up too much for Kessel, the Leafs' pursuit of Luongo allegedly would cost them the services for Minnetonka's Jake Gardiner as well as young forward Nazem Kadri. Those young pieces for the aging, streaky Luongo drew scorn from Toronto fans and was something Burke was downplaying for months back when there was an NHL season.
Burke was sent packing as general manager but will stay on in this shortened season as a senior adviser, and his role as ultimate hockey decisionmaker for English Canada's landmark franchise ended with a wake Wednesday night. But the Leafs, owned by a teachers pension funds before media rivals Rogers Communications and Bell Canada took over, are now seen more like the Dallas Cowboys or Chicago Cubs: A team with a storied history that isn't doing much in the here and now, despite a sports-crazy, big-money, high-stakes atmosphere.
Even so, Burke knew the writing was on the wall even as he took the top job in the self-styled Heart of Hockey. In explaining the trade for Kessel, Burke said this: "“Because if I don’t get this team in the playoffs in three years they’ll be all over me.”
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