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NHL Personalities: Brian Burke's Top-10 Moments

Daniel MartinContributor IIIFebruary 5, 2012

NHL Personalities: Brian Burke's Top-10 Moments

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    When then Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe tendered an offer sheet to Dustin Penner of the Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks in the summer of 2007, he had no idea the can of worms he had opened.

    Despite offer sheets being a legal part of the collective bargaining agreement, and the Ducks ability to match the 5-year, $21.25M deal, Ducks GM Brian Burke was quite unhappy with Lowe, and for the next year he was very vocal about it.

    Among Burke's comments were blows directed at Lowe, such as the following:

    "If I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn't throw a grenade at the other 29 teams and my own indirectly, so I have no intention of talking to him anytime soon."

    "We're going to take the three picks, and given Kevin's recent performance, we expect them to be excellent picks."

    "I think it's an act of desperation from a GM who's fighting to keep his job. This process is going to bite Edmonton in the butt someday."

    Burke went on to say that if he wished to target an Edmonton Oiler for a trade, assistant GM Bob Murray could talk to Oilers brass in his place.

    A year later, Lowe added more fuel to the fire when he had this to say:

    "Where do I begin? He's a moron, first of all. Secondly, he believes that any news for the NHL is good news. Thirdly, he loves the limelight, and I don't think anyone in hockey will dispute that. Lastly, he's in a pathetic hockey market where they can't get on any page of the newspaper, let alone the front page of the sports, so any of this stuff carries on. This guy is an absolute media junkie, and I guess he's achieving what he wants because he gets his name in the headlines, but the reality is that I hate the fact that my name is linked to his because he's an under-achieving wannabe in terms of success in the NHL."

    Lowe went on to say that Burke destroyed the Vancouver Canucks, and that the Ducks didn't have much coming.

    In a recent interview, Burke said that the rivalry would have come to blows had NHL commissioner Gary Bettman not stepped in.

    After Lowe called him out via radio, Burke asked New York Rangers GM Glen Sather to set up a fist fight between the two, claiming he would rent a barn for the affair.

    The two have since put their differences aside, but it no doubt remains one of the most heated individual management rivalries the NHL has ever seen.

No. 10: Burke Drafts Nazem Kadri

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    At the 2009 draft, Brian Burke put his character on display.

    After the Los Angeles Kings took Luke Schenn's brother Brayden fifth overall, Burke was noticeably upset, as the best defenceman/forward brother combination since the Niedermayers was no longer possible.

    However, in conversation with GM Bryan Murray of the rival Ottawa Senators, it was Burke who got the last laugh.

    The Toronto Maple Leafs held the seventh pick while the Senators held the eighth overall. With highly touted prospect Nazem Kadri of the London Knights available, it was evident that both managers coveted the talented forward. Burke inquired as to whether Murray was interested in Kadri, and, after hearing a "yes," BB swiftly informed him that he would be a Maple Leaf.

    Kadri has since developed into a fringe roster player for the Leafs with the potential to become a second or even a first-line center.

No. 9: Burke Drafts Ryan Kesler

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    At the 2003 NHL Entry Draft, Brian Burke's Vancouver Canucks held the 23rd overall pick, and that late first rounder sure turned into something marvellous for the 'Nucks. 

    After draft busts Nikolai Zherdev, Hugh Jessiman and Marc-Antoine Pouliot had already been selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets, the New York Rangers and the Edmonton Oilers, respectively, the Canucks snagged Ryan Kesler from Ohio State.

    Looking back, Kesler probably should've been a top-10 pick, but, then again, Zach Parise (17th), Ryan Getzlaf (19th), Mike Richards (24th) and Corey Perry (28th) would fit that bill too.

    Nevertheless, Burkie's staff did an excellent job of scouting Kesler, who has become an integral part of the Vancouver Canucks. Last year, Kesler won the Frank J. Selke Trophy as the league's best defensive forward and was runner up for the award in the two years before that.

    Ryan Kesler was a major part of the Canucks run to the Stanley Cup Finals last year, carrying the team through a six-game series against the Nashville Predators when it seemed the Sedins, among others, had been shut down.

No. 8: Burke Is Named GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs

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    After how poorly the team had been managed by John Ferguson, it was time for a change. As each season went by, so too did the playoff atmosphere in the Toronto Maple Leafs' locker room.

    Ferguson was fired on January 22nd of 2008 and replaced by interim general manager Cliff Fletcher; however, the Leafs failed to qualify for the playoffs for the third-straight season.

    The Leafs kept Fletcher for the offseason; however, on November 29th, he was replaced by Brian Burke.

    The deal pays Burke an annual salary of $3M for six years—a total of $18M. That's a pretty Lucrative offer for a general manager, given the fact that he had no previous experience with the Leafs. Nonetheless, then-Maple Leaf owners MLSE felt he was the man for the job.

    And, despite the controversy surrounding several of his moves, it's hard to argue the teams' current 26-19-6 record looks all that bad compared to 36-35-11, their record the year before he took over.

    The Maple Leafs only continue to improve under Burke, and, though a Stanley Cup is a long way away, the Leafs appear to be in good hands with Burkie in the driver's seat.

No. 7: Burke's Canucks Win Northwest Division in 2004

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    When Brian Burke took over as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks in 1998, they were a bubble team as far as the playoffs were concerned. The team had failed to record a winning season since losing to the New York Rangers in the 1994 Stanley Cup Finals.

    Six years later, the 'Nucks were on the verge of becoming a powerhouse in the NHL. All-star Todd Bertuzzi was part of the team Burke inherited. But Burke was responsible for bringing in Ed Jovanovski, Daniel Sedin, Henrik Sedin, Brendan Morrison and Trevor Linden to add to the core, which included Bertuzzi, Markus Naslund, Dan Cloutier and Mattias Ohlund.

    By adding Brendan Morrison to a line which already boasted Naslund and Bertuzzi, the 'Nucks had one of the best lines of the early 21st century. The "West-Coast Express" line, as it was known, was a huge part of the success of all three linemates. Morrison tallied 60 points in 2003-04 while Naslund recorded 84 points. Bertuzzi added 60 points in 69 games.

    Moves made by Brian Burke were pivotal in the Canucks' first Northwest Division title which, came in 2004. Moreover, the foundation the reigning President's Trophy champion Canucks are built on are players Burke brought in.

No. 6: Burke Trades for Dion Phaneuf

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    On January 31, 2010, Brian Burke and Darryl Sutter dropped a bombshell on the NHL.

    The same day that Burke shipped Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to Anaheim for Jean-Sebastien Giguere, he also dealt Matt Stajan, Niklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White for Dion Phaneuf, Fredrik Sjostrom and Keith Aulie.

    Perhaps one of the most lopsided trades in recent years, Burke was able to ship underachieving role players to Calgary in exchange for a future captain and solid defensive prospect.

    The only player Calgary has left from the deal is Matt Stajan, who continues to underachieve, posting just six points in 30 games this season. The Maple Leafs, on the other hand, got their current captain Phaneuf along with Aulie, who continues to be a valuable piece for the Leafs, out of the trade—although they lost Fredrik Sjostrom to free agency.

    This trade is one that will continue to shape the Maple Leafs for years to come and has no doubt made them much more competitive.

No. 5: Brian Burke vs. Kevin Lowe Rivalry

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    When then Edmonton Oilers general manager Kevin Lowe tendered an offer sheet to Dustin Penner of the Stanley Cup winning Anaheim Ducks in the summer of 2007, he had no idea the can of worms he had opened.

    Despite offer sheets being a legal part of the collective bargaining agreement, and the Ducks ability to match the 5-year, $21.25M deal, Ducks GM Brian Burke was quite unhappy with Lowe, and for the next year he was very vocal about it.

    Among Burke's comments were blows directed at Lowe, such as the following:

    "If I had run my team into the sewer like that, I wouldn't throw a grenade at the other 29 teams and my own indirectly, so I have no intention of talking to him anytime soon."

    "We're going to take the three picks, and given Kevin's recent performance, we expect them to be excellent picks."

    "I think it's an act of desperation from a GM who's fighting to keep his job. This process is going to bite Edmonton in the butt someday."

    Burke went on to say that if he wished to target an Edmonton Oiler for a trade, assistant GM Bob Murray could talk to Oilers brass in his place.

    A year later, Lowe added more fuel to the fire when he had this to say:

    "Where do I begin? He's a moron, first of all. Secondly, he believes that any news for the NHL is good news. Thirdly, he loves the limelight, and I don't think anyone in hockey will dispute that. Lastly, he's in a pathetic hockey market where they can't get on any page of the newspaper, let alone the front page of the sports, so any of this stuff carries on. This guy is an absolute media junkie, and I guess he's achieving what he wants because he gets his name in the headlines, but the reality is that I hate the fact that my name is linked to his because he's an under-achieving wannabe in terms of success in the NHL."

    Lowe went on to say that Burke destroyed the Vancouver Canucks, and that the Ducks didn't have much coming.

    In a recent interview, Burke said that the rivalry would have come to blows had NHL commissioner Gary Bettman not stepped in.

    After Lowe called him out via radio, Burke asked New York Rangers GM Glen Sather to set up a fist fight between the two, claiming he would rent a barn for the affair.

    The two have since put their differences aside, but it no doubt remains one of the most heated individual management rivalries the NHL has ever seen.

No. 4: Burke's Americans Take Home Silver at 2010 Olympics

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    When Brian Burke was named general manager of Team USA at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, he knew his team would be underdogs. What he couldn't have guessed was that his Americans would take home silver medals and be just a goal away from gold.

    With a core consisting of tournament MVP Ryan Miller in net, Ryan Suter, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel and Zach Parise, the Americans were nearly unstoppable in the preliminary round. Actually, the team was unstoppable, going 3-0 and downing Switzerland, Norway and the heavily favoured Canadian team.

    Team USA once again met the Swiss, this time in the quarterfinals, defeating them 2-0 in a close contest. In the semis, the Americans played Finland, who they easily beat 6-1, setting up a rematch with Canada in the finals.

    In that final game, it appeared the Canadians had it won, but Team USA tied it in the final seconds off a Zach Parise goal. Thanks to Sidney Crosby's famous "golden goal," the Americans lost in overtime.

    But they won silver in a tournament normally dominated by Canada, Russia and Sweden.

No. 3: Burke Trades for Phil Kessel

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    On September 19, 2009, less than one year after being named GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs, Brian Burke made one of the biggest trades of his career.

    The dramatic saga involving unhappy Boston Bruins sniper Phil Kessel came to an end, as the Bruins shipped him to Toronto in exchange for two first-round draft picks and a second-round pick.

    Arguably the most controversial deal Burke has pulled off, the trade had many fans wondering just what could have been. There's no doubt Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton would've been a solid core for the Maple Leafs for years to come.

    Although Seguin is having a breakout season with 19 goals and 43 points in 48 games, so is Kessel, who has 26 goals and 51 points in 51 games.

    At this point, it's uncertain who the winner of this trade was, and only time will tell. But it's no doubt a deal that will shape both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Boston Bruins for years to come and will possibly be the defining moment of Brian Burke's career.

No. 2: Burke's Ducks Win Stanley Cup in 2007

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    The only reason Brian Burke's Stanley Cup win with the Anaheim Ducks in 2007 isn't No. 1 on this list is because he inherited most of the team when he signed as Ducks GM in 2005. Nonetheless, Burke brought in key components such as Scott Niedermayer, Francois Beauchemin and Chris Pronger.

    The Ducks won the Stanley Cup largely because of their depth, as grinders Rob Niedermayer, Travis Moen and Samuel Pahlsson stepped up and did their part in shutting down the other teams' top lines.

    After eliminating Minnesota, Vancouver and Detroit, the Anaheim Ducks were simply too much for the Ottawa Senators, whom they faced in the Stanley Cup Finals. It seemed Daniel Alfredsson's team was simply out of gas, as they bowed out to the Ducks in just five games.

    This marks Burke's only Stanley Cup ring to date, and, until he gets a second, this will be the moment he remembers forever.

No. 1: Brian Burke Wheels and Deals at '99 Draft, Takes Both Sedins

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    At the 1999 NHL Entry Draft, Brian Burke did what seemed impossible, pulling off one of the most memorable moves in draft history.

    Coming in with the third pick, it seemed highly unlikely that Burke's Vancouver Canucks could pick up either Sedin twin, as highly touted Swedish prospects Henrik and Daniel both seemed like locks to go in the top three—and they did.

    Brian Burke did a fabulous job of deceiving the other teams who could have foiled his plans. He told the Tampa Bay Lightning, Chicago Blackhawks, New York Rangers and Atlanta Thrashers that the Sedins would only sign NHL contracts if they landed on the same team.

    Burke had previously packaged Bryan McCabe and a first-round pick the following year to Chicago for the fourth-overall selection.

    Next, Burke would have to convince Tampa Bay GM Rick Dudley to trade the first-overall pick, a daunting task, but one he accomplished by assuring Dudley that the twins would leave in Canucks jerseys at all costs. He packaged the fourth-overall selection along with two third-round picks to the Lighting for the first-overall pick.

    Finally, he traded the first-overall pick to Atlanta for the second pick under the condition that the Thrashers would select Patrik Stefan and not a Sedin.

    Ultimately, Burke ended up taking Daniel and Henrik second and third overall, respectively. This is widely regarded as a move that has given the Vancouver Canucks the majority of the success they've known in the past decade. Both Sedins have won the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer, and Henrik even won MVP honours in 2009-2010. 

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