Cliff Fletcher a Puppet for Brian Burke in Toronto?

Rob EllisCorrespondent IJune 10, 2008

No, this isn't Jeff Dunham and Walter, or Willie Tyler and Lester.

There very well may be a new ventriloquist in Toronto. His name? Brian Burke! His dummy? Cliff Fletcher!

Sit back folks, because this puppet show just may last a full season in Leafland!!!

Cliff Fletcher may be nothing more than a face and voice announcing moves made by someone else within—or maybe even without—the Leaf organization.

The Toronto Maple Leafs needed a guy with a good track record to extinguish all of the bad comments being made about the meddling within the organization.

Who better than the man who came as close as anybody to taking the team all the way to the promised land? This time around, however, Cliff's only job is to smile for the camera and say the right things after being coached by the big shots of MLSE!

Sure, it may look like he's calling all the shots in his job as interim GM, but is he really?

He has admitted publically that he has absolutely no "say" in the hiring of the new full-time GM. Is this true or is it just that they don't want him to say "the wrong thing" while they try to keep their "tampering" out of the Toronto media?

Although it has been mentioned that Fletcher needs "no approval from anyone" to hire a head coach, I believe that he was given a blank check and told to, "get Ron Wilson!"

The reason? One of two:

1. They hired Wilson because they are desperately seeking Brian Burke to run their hockey operations. What better way to entice Burke then to hire his old college roommate to coach the club.

Or - and this is a little more far-fetched - but

2. They have already contacted Burke and have a tentative agreement with him to become the GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs. This may not happen until nextseason when his contract with the Ducks expires—which would explain why his "I'm happy in Anaheim and want to stay here" speech has yet to be followed up with a contract extension.

It may not be as far fetched as it sounds considering that just today, the Toronto Sun published an article stating that Burke may be "unofficially calling the shots for the Leafs behind the scenes!"

I'm not saying Ron Wilson is not qualified to do the job. I'm just saying that there is a reason why he was the only candidate that they even spoke with regarding the position

Most organizations will interview multiple candidates whether they know who they want or not!  It's hard to believe that they would not at least interview other potential candidates like Bob Hartley, Joel Quennville, or even John Tortorella.

They have also been very inactive when it comes to interviewing potential candidates for the GM job.  Former Dallas GM Doug Armstrong is the only name we have even heard mentioned and he abruptly cancelled his meeting with the Leafs to take a lesser position with the St. Louis Blues. Does this make any sense at all?

An experienced GM who was responsible for building most of the Dallas club that did very well in this year's playoffs takes a "front office job" for considerably less money without even talking to Toronto?

On the surface, no, it doesn't make any sense at all but it does if it was theLeafs who called off the meeting. Maybe because they already have their man?

I could go further, but I think you might be getting the picture. If Cliff Fletcher remains in his position for the entire 2008-09 season, it's not because the Leafs can't find anybody to take the job.

There are plenty who would. It's because the man who will be the next GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs has a year left on his contract with the 2006-2007 Stanley Cup Champions!

The Leaf roster will look very thin this year, especially when you figure in the veterans that may not be around when the season starts (Sundin, Tucker, Kubina, etc.).

Considering the team fell 10 points short of a playoff spot last season with those players, Ron Wilson will have to be a magician to get this team anywhere near the post-season. Throw in the possible Burke-Fletcher ventriloquist act and we're looking at quite the circus down at the ACC this year!