Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Better Burke Days

This is maybe a rethinking of the criticism I leveled at Maple Leaf management in their search for a GM. With every creeping day it seems more and more likely that Toronto's General Manger next year will be be less a strong and experienced man and more a collection of senior hockey people keeping the seat warm. The thought of leaving Cliff Fletcher in as an extended interim man got me riled up, I think justifiably, and I labeled this as just more of the same do-nothingness from the men in charge of this hockey team.

But here's something else: the Leafs much publicized and talked about pursual and subsequent rejection by Anaheim tough guy Brian Burke was the fault of not Burke, who by all reports wanted the Toronto job, but was instead at the insistence of Gary Bettman who has developed a near puritanical distaste for tampering in his league. Burke is under contract for another year, so Anaheim ownership was under no obligation to let him go, but in the interest of healthy working environments, you would think that letting the man who won you Stanley Cup go would be best for all parties. The story goes though, that it was Bettman doing his own special brand of tampering that led Henry Samueli to quash the Leafs' request, in the interest of preserving the sanctity of NHL contracts.

So Gary Bettman vetoes any Burke movement, thereby ensuring that at the end of the next season, Burke is in any city other than Anaheim, and if the Leafs have anything to say about it, that city will be Toronto. They've already started greasing the wheels; that's why Burke's former wingman Dave Nonis is in talks to take a senior management position. Is this, and this is hard to even put into words, but is this MLSE being clever? I'm not used to seeing astute and long range plans being put forth by the hockey side of the operation so it's hard to say, but if hiring Nonis is the Leafs unsubtle up yours to the commish, a sort of above board and quite transparent tampering that is hard for anyone to prove and punish, then I don't know what to say. Screw you Gary Bettman, for one, but that is hardly an original sentiment.

I'd still rather see the Leafs commit to a real GM for next season and avoid a long winter of endless Brian Burke speculation, but if it ended in some sort of confrontation between the Leafs and the Commissioner well, at least that is high entertainment right there.

I've been listening to Bob McGown too much.

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