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Now the Maple Leaf GM has a persecution complex

You may not want to read about our General Manager again.  If that's the case (and I understand), here are some other recent posts...

I was actually not going to write today.  There’s not much new to discuss, and I’m sure people who visit here are tired of my ongoing frustration with the direction of the franchise and, to me, as importantly, the endless bafflegab that emanates seemingly daily from MLSE hockey offices.

But some things you just can’t let stand.

Those who saw a Toronto Star (I think it was the Star, correct me if I'm off) column on Tuesday may have noted that Brian Burke was quoted essentially as saying that Francois Allaire is a great goalie coach ("he has his name on the Cup") and will be back with the team next season.

That’s not news.  I don’t imagine anyone suspected anything different.  Allaire is Burke’s guy.

But the laughable part of the conversation, as it was quoted in the Star, at least, was the following:  when Burke basically said, “first they went after my coach.  Then they went after me.  Now they’re going after Allaire…”.

I don't know who "they" refers to.  Honest to goodness, I don’t know who was unfair to Ron Wilson in this market.  He coached the team for four seasons and they never made the playoffs.  I could not name a mainstream media person (and in truth, I do not read the daily newspapers regularly so I have missed a lot of opinion pieces, I'm sure) who was unduly harsh when it came to Wilson’s coaching.  Maybe you can correct me on that.

I mean, people wrote about the team’s special teams issues, and their lack of overall success, but that’s normal stuff to write about.  You couldn't miss that, even as a fan.  And when some media folks finally did talk about the need to dismiss Wilson (I think a Globe columnist did, but again, let me know if I'm off base), given the team’s plight, that would happen in any sport, in any market where fans care about the team missing the playoffs every year.  Standard stuff.  Nothing personal.  Performance criticism goes the the territory of being an NHL coach- or General Manager.

As for the Allaire reference, Burke said no one was complaining about him when Gustavsson played so well in December.

Well, I can’t speak for other commentators, but those of you who follow this space know that I’ve been publicly expressing reservations (click to read an example) about Gus and his development in this market—but more particularly with this team and under Allaire’s tutetage—for ages.  Click on Gustavsson’s name on the right-hand side of the column and you’ll see all kinds of posts on that subject.

This just smacks of yet more bluster, and sadly, it comes across as a GM with an inflated sense of self-worth (I mean, he’s a hockey guy, c’mon.  Burke is a sports and entertainment industry executive who makes millions of dollars a season…let’s not take ourselves too seriously here) who seems to have a persecution complex, as in “why is everyone picking on me?”.

Here’s my simple answer:  it’s not everybody else.  It’s not the media.  (Surely he’s not worried about no-name bloggers, c'mon...)  Just look at Burke's two big  “re-build” opportunities where he was given a free slate, a completely free hand to do whatever he wanted, with all the money he could spend (Vancouver and Toronto).  The result?  A total of one playoff series victory in ten seasons.

Look at the public comments Burke has made: as in, (just one example) having no patience for a give-year re-build.  Look at his free-agent signings.  Look at teams who have jumped past the Leafs in far less time in the East (can we say Florida and Ottawa?).  Look at fans finally tiring of being spoken down to.  Look at the way he comes across.

But it’s not him, right?  It's everybody else.


  1. Brian Burke is an inveterate control freak. When the media (and I include excellent blog sites such as Pension Plan Puppets and Maple Leaf Hot Stove) don't agree with his point of view or question some of his decisions he reacts bombastically.It would be so very refreshing if he would admit that he has made some mistakes and tell us what he is going to do to remedy them.

    Ron Wilson is his friend. I get that but Wil
    son was allowed to coach here for 4 years, much longer than most losing would be kept anywhere else. then, for Burke to react to media criticisms the way he has is just ridiculous.

    Francois Allaire is the goalie coach. the goaltending has been, for the most part terrible during his tenure. He should be held accountable for that. Personally, I can't stand the vertical-horizontal butterfly method that he teaches. It seems to me that he is turning promising prospects int robot clones and taking away all their creativity. Gustavsson's progress, in particular, has been retarded as his skill set is not amenable to Allaire's methods.

    The bottom line is that Wilson and Allaire should be held accountable but ultimately the one who is most accountable is Brian Burke.

  2. I love how you choose to leave out Burke's Cup, and focus on the two re-build phases. I'm pretty sure Brian's fingerprints are still all over the vancouver team that is now successful. What you writers fail to understand is that Burke doesn't talk to the media in order to defend himself, he does it in order to take attention away from the team. He's actually really good at it. While everyone is left complaining about this and that quote from Brian, his guys get shielded for a bit. If you guys could just stop wading through the surface bullshit, and actually write something of substance, that would be fantastic. Thanks.

  3. Anon...just to be clear, I've posted often on Burke and have regularly acknowledged his contribution to a "Cup" in Anaheim.

    I simply don't buy your point about taking the focus off the team. That's not, in my view, why he acts the way he does.

  4. Well said, Pete Cam. Some (like Anon above) will defend Burke, but not all of us buy his "act", or think he invented the position of General Manager.

  5. There is nothing wrong with a GM defending his coaches or players. If he truly beleives Allaire is awesome so be it. The problem I have is the way he does it. Why can't he simply say "We think Allaire is doing a good job and we stand by him". A simple concise statement that does what it is supposed to. Instead we get A GM who goes off on a tangent about the mythical "They" who is out to get him and the rest of the team. By implicaton he is stating that all those who might disagree with him are stupid morons who aren't real Leaf fans.

    Well I'm sorry Mr Burke I have had a vested interest in the Maple Leafs for a lot longer than you have going on thirty years. I am a true Maple Leaf fan and you know what I do happen to disagree with you. I don't think you have done a good job, don't think your goalie coach has been doing a good job. If you think that I'm not a "real" Leafs fan becuase I disagree with you your flippin crazy. You are however going about turning me into someone who while still a fan is starting to loose interest in the Leafs. I am starting to no longer care what happens. I am tired of the constant failure, the bs excuses and the blowhard exhalations of a GM who has no answers so must rely on blowing hot air instead. So keep putting yourself front and center and making your grand pronouncments and fiery speeches defending your players and coaches from mythical enemies. I've got better things to do than waste my time listening to you and caring about a sinking ship.

  6. You've said it so well, Willbur. And I think you speak for a number of long-time, thoughtful and yes, loyal, Leaf fans. We've all been here a lot longer than Brian Burke and our "opinions" aren't un-important.

    It is we, the fans, who have helped build the Leaf legacy. Because we follow, because we buy, because we care, because we have observed this sport and this franchise for decades, in many cases, we have earned the right to express our views- even if they collide with those of the current GM or his friends and apologists.

    Thanks Willbur.

  7. At the risk of repeating myself - and others on this site - Burke is his own most astute critic. He's the one who said "we're in a results-oriented business" and "we're in the business of winning". That's what pro sports is. Period. The rest is PR bafflegab and media fodder. By his own criteria, Burke has failed. Wilson failed. Allaire has failed. Period. Nothing personal.
    Pro sports is normally about accountability - brutally so, in some cases - because the team's bottom line usually depends on success. We are demonstrably worse than we were last year, or the year before, or the year before. Period.
    So spare me the the "noble GM" stuff, please. Our GM has dug us a very deep hole. But unlike success-driven markets, there is no accountability in Toronto because the coffers are full no matter what happens. Until that changes, to paraphrase the classic French phrase, things will likely remain the same.

  8. Not too much to add here, Michael. On Burke, I agree with a lot of your criticisms and you've made them fairly, I think, and have given him props where he deserves.

    What I would like, just once, is for Burke to show some humility and eat some humble pie. For cryin' out loud, how many of us diehards have to hear about "how many parades have you been to in your lifetime" etc., etc., on a daily basis from our smug coworkers and/or even family members?! It's a different kind of humble pie, but hey, we put up with it every day!

    Hey, I for one will never tire of your Burke rants. We are passionate about our team and he deserves to have his feet held to the fire for what he's promised and paid to do.


  9. Thanks Caedmon.

    I try to provide some balance. Those who visit here regularly know that I've often credited Burke with being a solid, shrewd hockey guy. He just doesn't need to keep telling us.

    Fans have the right to express their views, and those who post here on a regular basis know hockey and have followed the Leafs for a long time.

    I always appreciate hearing from you, and from all the other thoughtful posters here, Caedmon. Good stuff.

  10. Perfectly said, Gerund O'. Right on the money. Thanks.

  11. Brian Burke has adopted a bunker mentality and that doesn't really work in this town. If he thinks the media is out to get him then perhaps he should see what it is like in Montreal or New York when things are not going well.
    As Leaf fans I am sure that most of us were just happy to be out of the JFJ era, much as we were once thrilled to have survived Harold Ballard. All we were looking for was a systematic return to respectability.
    Burke came in and immediately dismissed the concept of a 5 year rebuild. Not interested. At that point he raised the bar on our expectations.
    He was going to go out and sign the Sedins, instead he came back with Jonas Gustavsson. He was going to move up in the draft and take Tavares. Didn't happen.
    He has raised our hopes and expectations time and time again without result. He has taken a 24th place team and turned it into a 25th place team. He has no one but himself to blame for any criticism directed his way.
    Personally, I think that he has been let off easy by the fans and media in this town.
    His best bet is to keep quiet and produce results.

  12. I'm with you, cbh747.

    He has too often built expectations and it just wasn't necessary.

    As many of us have said, he just needs to do the job, get results and stop complaining.

    Three and a half years in, the standings don't lie.

    What happened to "no excuses, no complaints"?

  13. Hi Michael,

    I have indeed noticed your recent posts about Brian Burke... and the conclusion being, that if a Leaf fan such as you (who is generally upbeat and positive) is starting to get frustrated, the apple-cart is truly upset.

    Now, I'm no Burke apologist, but I believe he is just as frustrated as we fans are, and it just shows when he has a mic shoved in front of him. Yet, he can't throw his players under the bus, not while the season is still on. I suspect we'll see more contrition from him once the season is over.

    That said, as a fan I'm willing to give Burke one more year to right the ship before I add my voice to the chorus. If that doesn't work, I hope the team's owners have it in them to look elsewhere.

  14. zenbeerbass...thank you.

    I (and I'm guessing a lot of fans) simply want the GM to get on with building the roster and spend less time talking about it.

    We all know he's a good GM. Now he just needs to make the changes needed to get us to the level level- and hopefully skip a level along the way, and get the team into contender status.

    As I said above, we need less bravado and more results.