Brian Burke: Was His Cup Win a Fluke?

Jeremy WarkContributor INovember 28, 2008

Brian Burke has a Stanley Cup ring, that much is true. He assembled an Anaheim team in 2006-07 that finished fourth in the league with 110 points and cruised past the Ottawa Senators in five games.

Word is, Burke happened upon a fortunate situation when he was hired. The Ducks had reached the finals in 2002-03 and were building a nice core of young talent. Burke was "lucky" to step into Bryan Murray's vacated GM role and make the final roster tweaks to push the Ducks toward a Stanley Cup.

The truth about Murray's tenure as Ducks GM (2002-03) is this.

2001-02: The Ducks finished 24th in the league, missed the playoffs, and drafted Joffrey Lupul seventh overall.

2002-03: The Ducks finished 11th in the league, lost in the finals to the Devils in seven games, and drafted Ryan Getzlaf (19th overall) and Corey Perry (28th overall).

2003-04: The Ducks finished 22nd in the league, missed the playoffs again, and drafted Ladislav Smid ninth overall.

For the record, that's two of three seasons out of the playoffs and two top 10 draft picks.

Of course the Cup Finals appearance was a great accomplishment on Murray's short Duck tenure, but even then it was considered a "Cinderella run". A young goalie named Jean-Sebastien Giguiere took home the Conne Smyth trophy after losing in the seventh game to Martin Brodeur and the Devils.

Take a close look at the team Murray took to Game Seven of the Cup finals and you'll see names like Kariya, Oates, and Sykora alongside names like Rucchin, LeClerc, and Thomas. Despite playing 21 games (including a seven-game finale), none of the players were amongst the top 10 playoff scorers. The leading goal getter was veteran centre Steve Rucchin.

On the surface, Murray's draft record with the Ducks looks very impressive, particularly the drafting of Getzlaf and Perry in 2003. Fact is, any team not named the Rangers or Leafs drafted at least one core player in the first two rounds of the generational 2003 draft. Take a look at the draft and find me more than a handful of players in the first 50 picks of the 2003 draft that haven't had a significant impact on their team.

So with this in mind, I'll ask you which GM was "luckier", the one with the Cup Ring or the one with the Cinderella run?

The one whose team had two top 10 draft picks during his tenure, and managed to select Getzlaf/Perry in the bottom half of the first round or the one who traded those two top 10 draft picks to create the best defence pairing in the league?

While not all of Burke's GM moves turned into gold for the Ducks, a Cup Ring is hard to argue with. Yes, every team requires luck to be on their side, but luck alone will not win it all.

As a side-note, I'd also like to point out, that any fan who complains about being in "cap hell" a season after a Cup win, doesn't deserve a championship team. There is no winning formula to capture a Stanley Cup in a salary-capped league other than getting as much talent as you can within your limits.

Winning teams will often find it hard to keep a talented team together, as you simply cannot keep talented players from earning their prime dollars.



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