Feb 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs defenseman Michael Kostka (53) and defenseman Carl Gunnarsson (36) and center Tyler Bozak (42) and right wing Phil Kessel (81) celebrate a goal by forward James van Riemsdyk (21) on Buffalo Sabres goaltender Ryan Miller (30) during the second period at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports

Why Brian Burke's Maple Leafs Could Not Succeed Until Brian Burke Left

Don’t look now, but believe it or not, the Toronto Maple Leafs are playing some pretty decent hockey.  And make no doubt about it, former GM Brian Burke built this version of the Toronto Maple Leafs.  They are his team, he crafted them and almost every player in the organization has been brought in by Burke.  Now, with the Leafs playing well and in the thick of the playoff race and in line to make the postseason for the first time since 2004, Burke is a part time scout in Anaheim.


Why did the team not come together under Burke’s watch?  Well the first reason could be that Burke thought he was bigger than the Toronto Maple Leafs.  He cast such a shadow over the franchise and the players from the time of his hiring to the time he was let go, that the team couldn’t get any metaphorical sunshine.

Another reason is the fact that although he brought the players in, he left Ron Wilson in place too long, and he couldn’t get the job done to craft the team to get the most out of them.  Randy Carlyle has come in and has the team playing with confidence and playing well.

A third reason is that Carlyle, and GM Dave Nonis have little loyalty to those players that are not performing well.  No doubt Burke made some mistakes in his tenure, but for example, forcing a Mike Komisarek to play because Burke brought him in with a big salary didn’t help things.  With Burke out of the picture, Carlyle has more freedom to dress the best lineup he can every night regardless of salary or stature.  That is why Komisarek and John-Michael Liles both sat as healthy scratches earlier this week despite being the club’s 2nd and 3rd highest paid defensemen respectively.

Nonis and Carlyle sat down with every player before the season and told them if they were playing well, they would play.  If they weren’t they would sit, regardless of salary.  This has provided incentive to the young players to know they control their own fate and that good performance will be rewarded in the new look franchise.

There is no doubt that Burke made some mistakes and rubbed a lot of people the wrong way.  But rest assured, the current group of Maple Leafs owe more than just a little bit of credit to Brian Burke for the way they are playing.  Its just unfortunate for Burke that he couldn’t get out of his own way soon enough to let the team blossom while he was still in charge.

Him being gone is just one less reason to dislike the Leafs.  It is way easier to hate Burke and Wilson than Nonis and Carlyle.

Tags: Brian Burke Randy Carlyle Ron Wilson Toronto Maple Leafs

  • Dave

    Burke made 5 stupid moves that really stuck out,he gave Komiserik way too much,trading two 1st and a 2nd while in 1st year of a rebuild,giving Wilson an extension before making the playoffs,not firing Wilson sooner,and his cocky know it all attitude with the media ,but mostly Wilson was Burkes overall demise.He didn’t hire him but should have spoke up about picking his own coach.

    If we had a coach with a defensive system aposed to Wilsons run and gun system,we probably wouldn’t of made the playoffs Burkes first couple of seasons here but Boston wouldn’t of gotten Seguin and Hamilton because we would have played better hockey.With a better coach we would have saw the playoffs and Burke would still be the GM

    hypothetically,I wonder what would happen if this team won the cup?If this happened,Burkes name should be put on the cup.

  • Tim Bayer

    Personally I wasn’t a fan of Burke’s bluster and arrogance either, but it’s ridiculous to say the only reason the team is winning is because he’s gone. The biggest issue with the Leafs during Burke’s tenure was goaltending, and both Reimer and Scrivens have been very good for most of this season. Nazem Kadri, whom he drafted, has blossomed, and the additions of James van Riemsdyk and Jay McClement have paid huge dividends. As for Mike Komisarek, he was made a healthy scratch for a lot of games last year too, so it wasn’t like Burke was forcing his coaches to play him. Just because you didn’t like Burke doesn’t mean his firing is the reason this team is playing well.

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