Why Brian Burke Was Fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Say what you will about Brian Burke but he had a chance to remake the Toronto Maple Leafs in his image and while he did a nice job to build the farm system, for the most part he failed to deliver.

You can talk all you want about Burke’s problems in Toronto. He was a bully. His bombastic nature didn’t click with the corporate image preferred by Rogers and Bell media, the new owners of the Maple Leafs. He talked a big game.

But the bottom line for Burke is this: he failed to deliver any playoff hockey in Toronto.

His drafts in Toronto failed to produce any top flight talent (yet) and by trading Phil Kessel, he ended up giving away a chance to select a pair of top-10 draft picks.

Nazem Kadri, who has been criticized by Leafs management for everything from his physical fitness to his play, was the highest pick made by Burke in his time.

Kadri was the seventh overall pick in the 2009 draft. While he has shown flashes of skill and talent that make you think he has an NHL future ahead of him, he is very much a question mark and his time may have run out in Toronto.

Kadri is the only player selected by Burke to play a single NHL game. If you go back to the 2009, 2010 and 2011 NHL drafts, 90 players have taken part in NHL games. Kadri is the only Leaf drafted by Burke during that time to have done so.

Burke was able to add pieces like Tyler Bozak and Matt Frattin and he picked up Jake Gardiner and Joffrey Lupul in a trade for Francois Beauchemin.

But the burly Irishman─with his tie constantly loose around his neck and his passion on full display─never got the truculence he wanted from his team. He talked about the need to build the team from the net out.

Instead Burke built a team that was more finesse than fight and he never got the number one goalie he was looking for.

Burke’s time in Toronto resulted in a record of 129-135-42. That would tie for 26th among the 30 NHL teams during that stretch. No playoffs during the time Burke was hired in November of 2008 and the Leafs ranked 30th in goals against per game and 30th in penalty killing.

Now it is up to Dave Nonis, or as he has been referred to “Brian Burke light,” to get the franchise into the playoffs.

Burke left some pieces in place for the Leafs, in the AHL and in the minors and college. But it wasn’t enough to save his job.  Now it will be up to Nonis to make the moves to push Toronto into the playoffs for the first time since 2004.

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