There's no business like the business of sport to get people talking and there is forever fodder for it all in Toronto hockey circles. Soon the Maple Leafs of 2011-12 will officially bow out of the playoffs and their next season will unofficially begin.
And that next season should proceed without Brian Burke. The quotable Leafs general manager has been at the helm for most of four seasons without making the postseason. It would not be fair to blame everything that has gone wrong on him but it is fair to blame the results, something which Burke himself has said. Four straight years.
Brian Burke: failed Maple Leafs fans
That drought has fans in Toronto in less of a forgiving mood, and well they should be. Burke had his chance. He's had time to make it his team. He hired Ron Wilson - or rather stuck with him after inheriting him, despite a lack of results - before finally firing him in a stretch run two weeks ago. He replaced him with Randy Carlyle, a coach like Wilson in approach and temperament, a move akin to the proverbial changing deckchairs on the Titanic. After sputtering with Carlyle the Leafs caved in Boston, losing 8-0 in a statement game that said 'maybe next year.'
He drafted Nazim Kadri 7th in the 2009 NHL entry draft and while 5 of 6 players taken above him are impact players in the league, Kadri, with no more of a competitive line-up than the Leafs to crack, is still with the AHL Marlies. At a time when there's strong NHL caliber goalies available, he settled on Jonas Gustavsson and James Reimer, each of whom showed great potential but neither of whom is ready to take on the number one spot.
He's made moves on the back-end that worked, Dion Phaneuf, Jake Gardiner and John-Michael Liles among them. But he's failed miserably at the forward position. Phil Kessel, who came at a high price, and Joffrey Lupul, have been strong offensively but are among NHL leaders for being on the ice for the most goals scored by the opposition while playing 5 on 5. Matthew Lombardi and Tim Connolly have added little, certainly not what their salaries suggested they should.
Bottom Line: No Stanley Cup Playoffs
What matters is that Burke has not been able to get the Leaf's into the playoffs. And this year's collapse shows a lack of character, the intangible that wins championships. It's the eighth straight year without Stanley Cup playoff hockey in Toronto. The Florida Panthers are a lock to get there this year, leaving Toronto the franchise with the longest playoff drought in the NHL. Longer than the Islanders, longer than the Columbus Blue Jackets.
It's TORONTO. Once one of the game's, and sport's, greatest franchises and now one of the greatest losers. Burke was given a chance to turn it around. He did not and they are arguably in no better a position than they were when he was hired. There are other great NHL minds out there.
It's time one of them was given a chance.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com