Editor's Note: Since it looks like this Burke thing is as good as done why not take a look at where each side stands. For the affirmative I present DGB of Down Goes Brown fame who will outline exactly why the Brian Burke hiring should be a slam dunk.
Today's news that Brian Burke is leaving Anaheim and will presumably be landing in Toronto shortly has been met with a mixed reaction among Leaf fans. Many bloggers, most notably MF37, have made the case against Burke.
Well, for the first and probably only time, I'm going to be the voice of optimism in Leafland. I think Burke is a good choice for Leafs GM, and they should move forward with locking him up as soon as possible.
Cliff Fletcher is not the long-term answer
I love Cliff Fletcher. He gets permanent legend status in my book thanks to his work rebuilding the Leafs in the early 90s, and he's done a reasonably good job this time around.
But he's not the long-term GM of this team. The man is 97 years old. Yes, he could certainly finish the season if he needed to. But now he doesn't need to.
Burke's not the best GM in the league, but he's the best one available right now
No Leaf fan thinks Burke is a perfect GM (although you should be prepared to read plenty of articles today claiming that we do). He has his faults, and his record is spotty. Even his Cup-winning Ducks team was largely built by Bryan Murray.
Are there GMs out there who could be better fits? Sure. Lou Lamoriello comes to mind. Doug Wilson, Bob Gainey, and David Poile do too. (But not Jim Rutherford, please. We've been down that Carolina one-hit-wonder road once before.)
So Burke may not be the Mr. Right. But he is Mr. Right Now.
Those other guys aren't available now, and may not be for a long time. Yes, some could have openings to negotiate in the off-season, but that's far from a guarantee. The Leafs will always be able to find somebody, somewhere, who could be a better choice than the guy in front of them. At some point, you need to pull the trigger.
And remember, the most critical date on the Leafs calendar this year is the trade deadline. If at all possible, they should have their long-term GM in place by then.
Burke's not the best, but he's still pretty good
No, his drafting record isn't great. No problem, since Cliff has already dealt all the Leafs draft picks.
Besides, draft success is largely a function of the scouting department, not to mention a healthy dose of luck. I'm not worried about Burke's success is small-ish markets like Vancouver and Anaheim. I want to know if he'll be able to build a top-level scouting staff in Toronto. Nobody has managed to do it yet, but if Burke can use his connections he may have a shot.
Beyond that, the most common knock on Burke is that he didn't really build the Ducks Cup winner. And while that's mostly true, it's still not fair. Dozens of GMs have inherited championship-calibre rosters without ever winning a thing. And that's just in Ottawa.
Burke may not have drafted Getzlaf and Perry, but he did hit a home run on a blockbuster trade (Pronger) and two huge free agent signings (Niedermayer & Selanne), not to mention adding solid pieces like Beauchemin, O'Donnell and Marchant.
As for not being able to manage the cap, I'm reserving judgement. The NHL has only had a salary cap for four years, and Burke won a championship one of those years. That's not bad.
Burke's arrival means Richard Peddie's departure
Burke is, as they like to say, a "strong personality". Put another way, he's kind of a dick. And while that may be bad news for the local media, it's great news for Leaf fans. Because we've heard several times that Burke will never come to Toronto if he has to deal with Richard Peddie. He wants the Colangelo Plan, or it's no deal.
That means that from the moment Burke walks in the door, Leaf fans should never have to see Richard Peddie empty suit on their TV screen again. And if Peddie breaks his promise, there's an excellent chance that Burke will kill him with his bare hands.
That alone is reason to want Burke in Toronto ASAP.