O-Fer Out Of The Gate
There are three winless teams in the NHL this morning - Tampa Bay, Philadelphia and Anaheim.
But only one team that hasn't even been able to muster a single point.
That would be your Ducks, the team many Toronto hockey fans imagine will eventually supply the chief executive who will turn their Leafs into champions.
Brian Burke, it's widely believed, remains the apple of MLSE's eye, even with the Ducks out to a lousy 0-4 start. Eventually, it's believed, MLSE will command that the "search" for a new general manager commence anew, and all signs still point to Burke.
But what if the Ducks continue to stink? Theoretically, it could change the scenario in two different ways.
First, the Ducks may decide that part of their problem is having a GM in charge who wants out. So far, Burke has declined to sign the contract extension on his desk, and doesn't want to negotiate. This week he was back out east visiting his kids and dealing with other matters, and it's in the eastern part of the continent that he apparently wants to be.
So if the season really goes south, maybe team president Michael Schulman says goodbye to Burke early. Say, by Christmas. With Dave Nonis, Bob Murray and Dave McNab, the Ducks have lots of management depth. Moreover, critics have already suggested that the Ducks' risky salary cap positioning has been costly in the past two years, so there's a hook on which to hang Burke if the Ducks choose.
It won't be Ducks owner Henry Samueli making that decision, by the way. He's now facing a sentencing hearing in August, 2009, and will almost certainly remain under indefinite suspension by the NHL until then, or longer. So that puts a little more pressure on Schulman to manage the hockey club.
The other way in which Anaheim's struggles could impact the Burke-to-Toronto scenario is if the proverbial bloom goes off the Burke rose. In other words, if the Ducks aren't very good, might that not persuade some that Burke isn't in fact the hockey magician some might say he is?
It shouldn't. His record is solid over the years, and that's the record that should decide his suitability.
But MLSE is a finicky corporation with few settled principles when it comes to running a hockey operation. In 2003, for example, John Ferguson was the bright young boy. By 2008, chairman Larry Tanenbaum was saying he wouldn't hire a rookie to run the club, even an accomplished person like Steve Yzerman.
So if public sentiment turns against Burke with Hollweg-type furor, you can bet MLSE will be influenced. Those suits always have their finger to the wind.
In the end, of course, it'll turn out to be what Richard Peddie wants it to be. Somehow, that guy always gets his way, even though the hockey team never gets any better with him as president.