Friday, March 2, 2012

Brian Burke Is Pretty Much Finished

By firing Ron Wilson tonight, Brian Burke has put his credibility with the Toronto Maple Leafs firmly behind him.

Now by all means, Wilson had to go. The problem was he probably had to go at the end of last season when the Leafs didn't make the playoffs -- again. The problem was Wilson certainly didn't deserve a contract extension scant weeks ahead of his firing. The problem was that the players had probably tuned him out and had just started waiting for the inevitable swing of the axe.

However, you really can't lay the blame for the Leaf's history at Wilson's feet. It would be nice for Leafs fans if you could* but the problem with the team is the on-ice personnel, and the buck for those decisions stop in the GM's office.

Frankly the Leaf's recent success -- that is, the success that immediately predated the recent lack of success -- was probably due to the same factors that Ottawa profited from earlier this season. Teams saw the Leafs as easy pickings, only to discover that in the NHL even the easy-pickings teams can beat you if you don't take them seriously. Once the rest of the league got the message that hey, Toronto needed to be taken seriously, bam, we return to regularly scheduled programming.

I read something a few years ago that I liked. It said: deficiencies for special teams' play are the fault of the coach, because it is the coach's systems which either work or don't, his messages which gets through or doesn't, his ability to get buy-in which works or doesn't. But for five on five hockey: the credit or blame for how the team does belongs to the GM. That's his group of people that he's assembled. And if it works, he's a genius, and if it doesn't, he's a goat.

Burke's fingerprints are pretty much all over the Leafs. The fact that they are -- again -- probably going to miss the playoffs is now his fault, and unless something happens soon, Burke's departure is the next change that needs to be made.

He's tried building through the draft. Actually no he didn't, he traded away two first round picks to Boston for a player who, while being a very good player, can't carry the entire team on his back. Frankly he should have waited two years to make that kind of trade, giving him assets to build from within before trading away his immediate future in pursuit of immediate, improbable, success.

He's tried trading away a quarter of his team to the Calgary Flames.

He's tried shaming his players through the media.

He couldn't find something to do before the trade deadline. Now that might be a very good thing, we have no idea who was demanding how much for what, and frankly A) there's no point having a fire sale and B) there really wasn't much to sell.

Burke's 2011-2012 plan has basically boiled down to then miracle happens.

Firing Wilson now is a tacit admission of that fact.

And really, Leafs fans better hope he doesn't get one.

*= and I'm pretty sure tomorrow I'll wake up to a RSS reader full of articles doing precisely that