Out of Town Notebook: Exit Burke, Enter Luongo

Brian Burke was fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Photo credit: Vancouver Sun

The full story won’t be told today or tomorrow. But at some point the full story on Brian Burke’s swift exodus from the Toronto Maple Leafs will be known.

However, it’s pretty clear the decision ultimately came down to two things: Burke’s personality and plan.

As Damien Cox wrote in his piece on the firing, Leafs ownership, particularly the Bell faction, felt Burke was “bad for the brand.”

The arguments with Don Cherry; the proclamations about the team’s chances and league business; the interview style that constantly bordered on antagonistic – these are not the kind of public interactions that endears oneself to a corporate enterprise traded on the stock exchange.

Corporations don’t want controversy. Brian Burke in Toronto couldn’t help but court it.

Meanwhile, Leafs ownership made it clear introducing Dave Nonis that the team’s struggles to make the playoffs were a factor in their decision.

Well, duh, screams the Twitter-verse.

But there’s something a little bit more sinister lurking in the comment.

Bell and Rogers bought the Toronto Maple Leafs for $1.07 BILLION dollars over the summer. That’s a lot of money to recoup, and there are share prices to protect.

Return on investment has to start now.

Which means there’s never been more pressure on the Leafs to make the playoffs….

Which means there’s never been more pressure on the Leafs to address their biggest weakness – goaltending.

Burke stated earlier this week he was “90 percent” set on going with James Reimer and Ben Scrivens in goal this year. The stance fit with his most recent rebuilding approach – a patient one.

Over the last two seasons, Toronto had changed from trying to fast-track their way to success (see Phil Kessel and Dion Phaneuf trades) to the more traditional approach of accumulating assets and building slowly.

But there was no time for Burke’s new, patient approach in ownership’s eyes.

It’s winning time, baby.

And we all know how often that franchise philosophy – usually born out of desperation and delusion – works out in sports.


Anyways, enter Roberto Luongo, who through no fault of his own ended up being rolled up into coverage of Burke’s firing.

Speculation is rampant that Leaf ownership wanted a Luongo deal, Burke did not, and that disagreement led to today’s leadership change.

The thing is, from hockey perspective, NOT trading for Luongo now is the most logical thing to do.

As currently constituted, Luongo’s contract under the new CBA will be a millstone around the necks of whatever team that employs him.

If you’re an NHL opponent, why would you help the Canucks rid themselves of this headache now?

Especially when you can wait out the season, wait for the Canuck’s to buy-out their goalie, and draft a new, “CBA friendly” deal with the player.

Essentially, the Canucks have little leverage in trade talks for Luongo. He has a no-trade clause, which means he has control over where he wants to play. His salary is high, meaning most teams don’t have enough cap room to add him. Weaker performances in high-profile situations have hurt his reputation. His contract is absolutely toxic under the new CBA. Which is why, at the end of the day, even if the Leafs are motivated buyers and the Canucks are motivated sellars, Vancouver’s return is likely to be less significant than most expect.

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