If GM Brian Burke thinks that his decision to fire coach Ron Wilson has gotten him off the hook with Toronto Maple Leafs fans, he should think again.
Toronto fans rank amongst the most sophisticated and knowledgeable hockey fans in the world and now more so than at any other point this season, they will have the opportunity to carefully examine and gauge the actual potential of their team.
Is this team playoff worthy?
Burke better hope so, because the blame has nowhere to go but in his direction.
No one is suggesting that Burke's job is in jeopardy. Playoffs or not, he will more than likely remain as GM in Toronto for at least one more season.
However, from here on out the lawyer in Burke comes to the stand with one less excuse in his bag of tricks.
When the news broke of Wilson's firing, the onus to make the playoffs immediately shifted from the coach to the players and so too has organizational pressure shifted from the team to management.
If the Leafs miss the playoffs, the players will be at fault. Subsequently, Burke will be blamed and rightly so.
He was the one that made the decision to stand pat at the trade deadline. He was the one that made the decision to stick with two fragile goalies. He was the one that made the decision to keep Wilson in place as long as he did.
But these are only Burke's most recent blunders. Do certain free-agent contracts come to mind?
Sorry, I digress. Allow me to get back on track.
Many argue, myself included, that Burke is doing a good job. He has built a young team—the second-youngest in the NHL—with speed and skill. He has also put in place what seems to be a very promising group of prospects, so it isn't all bad.
But in the business of hockey, results matter.
In now his fourth year as GM, Burke has yet to deliver playoff hockey. For Toronto fans, this is problematic to say the least. In fact, Burke is quickly becoming known as the "King of Broken Promises," a reputation that he would soon rather lose.
In order for that to happen, though, Burke's second coach will need to produce where his first was unable to, in the win column.
Is Toronto as good as Burke would have fans believe?
We will soon have the answer to this question.
Tread carefully, Burke. The pressure has officially shifted and now all eyes lay squarely on you.
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