Uncertainty in Vancouver
The Canucks have scheduled an 11 a.m. (PST) press conference for today, and maybe that's good news for the Maple Leafs.
If chairman Francesco Aquilini is going to name a GM to replace the fired Dave Nonis, after all, it won't be Burke. Just not possible, with Anaheim still in a playoff series.
But if that's not what the presser is about, then speculation over Burke's future, given that most believe he's the Leafs' No. 1 choice for president/GM, is about to heat up.
First, a word on Dave Nonis.
Classy guy. Apprenticed in the game over a number of years. Respected around the league. Young man with a great future.
Is it unfair he was canned? Yes. Nonis turned the Canucks into a 105-point team and swung one of the most lopsided trades in hockey history to land goaltender Roberto Luongo.
He missed the playoffs two of three years, but this team still has lots of potential. Just not enough goal-scoring.
But at the same time, while unfair, his firing was the right thing for the Aquilini family to do if they had decided, for whatever reason, Nonis wasn't the hockey executive of their choice.
He had a year left on his contract, and theoretically, they could have done what the Leafs did with John Ferguson, string him out as a lame duck GM into his final year and turn his status into the No. 1 issue facing the team on a daily basis.
We all know how that turned out. We all know what a distraction it was.
Key members of the MLSE board wanted Ferguson out last summer. When they didn't extend his contract, they should have fired him.
Instead they just wasted more time.
Similarly, if the Aquilinis didn't have confidence in Nonis to spend all the cap money the Canucks have available this summer and didn't want to extend his contract, better to fire him now.
Nonis was Burke's protege in Vancouver, and back when JFJ was hired, the Leafs actually sought permission to talk to Nonis but were rebuffed.
Now Nonis is available, but he isn't the mega-star candidate MLSE has been promising. If Burke and others fall by the wayside, he could quickly move into the picture, however.
Could Burke go back to Vancouver now? Anything's possible, and Burke's wife, Jennifer, is a TV talk show host in the area who commutes back and forth to their Anaheim-area home.
That's gotta be tough on a family.
But Burke, to some degree, sided with the non-Aquilini group when the Canuck sale was in dispute. Moreover, there are suggestions he would like to improve his family's life by working in the east and spending much less time travelling.
Going back to Vancouver doesn't solve that.
Moreover, for any progressive franchise, going backwards just doesn't make sense, just as it made no sense for the Leafs to turn back to Cliff Fletcher. If the Canucks bring back Burke, are they going to bring back Todd Bertuzzi and the target of his legal actions, Marc Crawford, as well? How about Harry Neale as coach?
This much seems true: Burke's holding a lot of cards at the moment, and he's smart enough to make that pay off in one way or another.