Sometimes it's astonishing how quickly situations change.
A year and a half ago, the Anaheim Ducks were sitting high and mighty. The team was poised for a promising future with a roster and organization that seemed likely to stay intact.
Instead, the Ducks had to deal with retirement sagas from Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne, which hampered the team's ability to repeat their championship. Then, the popular Henry Samueli was forced to rescind his ownership duties after legal violations in his business were uncovered by federal investigators.
Now, Brian Burke has been relieved of his duties seven months before his contract was due to expire. Bob Murray will replace him as the Ducks' general manager.
The timing of this move is inopportune. The Ducks are struggling to clear salary room for Bobby Ryan, and might be making a pitch for Mats Sundin.
Popular opinions on Burke tend to be either overly critical or overly praising. He did not ride the coattails of Bryan Murray to the Stanley Cup. He disassembled and reassembled the Ducks into the champions that they became.
However, there is no escaping the fact that the moves he has made since the championship season have ranged from neutral to bad. The exceptions are the re-signings of Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry, which were both good deals.
Burke's greatest accomplishment has been giving the Anaheim Ducks an identity. Before Burke, the team had no character or brand management. He expanded the hockey market in Southern California, and even helped spread the game in the youth community.
There is one more important thing that Burke brought to the Ducks: attention.
As one of the most vocal and forthright general managers in hockey, Burke generated a league-wide interest in the team. It was impossible to ignore the Ducks as long as Burke was with the organization.
Those characteristics were integral for the Ducks, but will not be needed in Toronto.
Toronto has a brand, a history, and a fanbase. What they need is a good team, which Burke may or may not be able to deliver.
Toronto needs a general manager like Ken Holland or Lou Lamoriello—one capable of quietly building a team from the ground up. Burke has never had a particularly strong draft, and his farm systems are never among the league's most promising.
Still, Burke is without a doubt the best candidate currently on the market.
Toronto is brimming with an aggressive media that will expect instant success, which nobody will be able to deliver. Combine that with a head coach and a GM known for wearing their hearts on their sleeves, and you have a ticking time bomb waiting to explode.
Burke has stated that the main reason for the move is his family. He wants to be closer to his children, which is a respectable motive.
But why now, instead of last June or this upcoming June? There are unsolved problems with the Ducks' roster and the salary cap, most of which were brought on by Burke himself.
Bob Murray will certainly have his hands full.
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