Toronto Maple Leafs: Brian Burke Jr. To The Rescue?

Nick HealeyCorrespondent IApril 27, 2008

The Toronto Maple Leafs, who are in the midst of an exhaustive General Manager search, recently had their hopes dashed when they learned Brian Burke was staying put in Anaheim for another season.

Burke, who had been speculated to come to Toronto for a variety of reasons, told the media he would fulfill the remainder of his contract.

This crushed the hopes of Leaf fans, most of whom believed he could be the saviour and bring a Cup back to Toronto after 41 long years.

Having just assembled the powerhouse Ducks team that cruised to a Stanley Cup over the Ottawa Senators, Burke certainly would have been a prime candidate.

Now that he is out of the running, there is another candidate that Richard Peddie and Co. should turn their attention to.

Dave Nonis.

Nonis was let go in a somewhat surprising move by the Vancouver Canucks after they failed to make the playoffs this year.

However, Nonis is interesting because in some senses he is a Brian Burke Jr. He was brought up as an assistant GM while Burke was with the Canucks.

Given the mentoring he has received, Nonis has inevitably turned into a GM worth considering in the Leafs' search.

Nonis took over from Brian Burke in 2004, and while he did fail to make the playoffs for two out of the three years he was in charge, he nevertheless has some assets that could help the Leafs.

The first of these is his ability to manage the salary cap. Toronto is suffering badly from a surplus of overpriced contracts and a lack of cap room.

Nonis transitioned the Canucks from the non-cap era to the post-lockout, salary-cap world.

The second skill Nonis has that could aid the Leafs is ability to trade for star players, as evidenced by his acquisition of All-Star goalie Roberto Luongo from Florida.

This is crucial because Toronto is entering a transitional phase, where they may find themselves without the services of Mats Sundin.

Devoid of their longtime captain and future Hall of Famer, the Leafs will have nobody who can really carry the team on their back offensively.

Toskala is an emerging star in goal, and Kaberle is solid point producer from the blue line, but Matt Stajan and Alex Steen cannot be relied upon to carry the load up front.

With a crucial draft coming up and the need to clean house, Peddie needs to act quickly if he is to get this team turned around.

There are lots of GMs capable of doing this job, such as Doug Armstrong or John Muckler. However, time has become an issue.

July’s free agency period, plus the fact that the Leafs have the seventh overall draft pick in June, makes the search for a new GM increasingly urgent.

Dave Nonis is available and has the tools to be an effective GM, so the Leafs should seriously consider him for the job.

Regardless of whom they pick, these are trying times in Leaf Nation, so the incumbent may feel like he is being thrown into the deep end…hopefully they can find a way to float.