When Brian Burke accepted the general manager duties of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November of 2008 he must have wondered and doubted himself right off the bat. He was stepping into a job located in the capital of hockey whose media is as fierce as any.
He was stepping into a job with a team who had one of the slowest and smallest rosters in hockey. He was stepping into a team who had been botched and boggled since the beginning of the last 3 years of Pat Quinn’s tenure. And to top it all off, Burke is taking over a team close to beginning their 43rd year without an NHL championship.
During his short tenure he has made free agent signings, manoeuvred his team through a trade deadline, and made draft picks during the 2009 NHL player entry draft. He has been rather successful in his time as the Leafs boss and most importantly the media hasn’t had anything to challenge him about, and in Toronto that usually means you are on the right track.
During the 2009 trade deadline Burke attempted to shake up his roster by dropping dead weight and acquiring draft picks. He was able to acquire two separate second round draft picks for Nik Antropov and Dominic Moore. Those were two very good moves. He was able to trade two players who are easily replaced for young players who have better shots at being long term impact players.
During the same deadline say he was able to obtain another draft pick in the fourth round by agreeing to take on Olaf Kolzig’s contract from Tampa Bay. A move that was smart, however he would lose the pick as part of a penalty for Cliff Fletcher signing Jonas Frogran from a Swedish Elite League team.
Burke attempted to trade for John Tavares but he was not willing to part with Luke Schenn as per New York’s request on the NHL draft day.
During the draft he drafted several large speedy players including 7th overall pick Nazim Kadri from the London Knights who is believed to have a very strong offensive upside, however some critics believe he only plays hard near the end of the season and into the playoffs.
Burkes strongest points have been his free agent signings. He was able to sign highly touted and largely desired free agent college players Tyler Bozak and Chris Hanson. Bozak was reportedly the interest of over 20 NHL teams including all 6 Canadian teams.
Burkes largest free agent signing is highly touted net minder Jonas Gustavsson. Gustavsson put up amazing numbers during his season in the Swedish elite league as he posted a 9.32 save percentage and a 1.96 goals against during the regular season.
During the playoffs Gustavsson posted a league leading 1.03 goals against average and a 9.61 save percentage in the playoffs, as he was able to win the Leagues championship.
Gustavsson has been described as the best goalie that is not currently in the NHL which is positive because he is a young age of 24.
Brian Burkes other key moves have included making the Maple Leafs tougher by singing top 2 defencemen Mike Komiserik and Francois Beauchemin. He was also able to acquire tough guys Garnet Excelby and Colin Stewart in exchange for Pavel Kubina and his 5 million dollar salary. He acquired a heavyweight fighter in Colton Orr as a free agent signing.
Burke has only been in Toronto for a short time, but he has made the Leafs younger, faster, and tougher. He has eliminated some dead weight and acquired draft picks, plus he has been able to sign a young stud goalie. He has only been here for 9 months but he has made a large impact in a positive way.