Maple Leafs fire GM Brian Burke as season nears
TORONTO (AP) - The Maple Leafs fired general manager Brian Burke on Wednesday, with the NHL season set to resume this month following a tentative settlement ending the lockout.
Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tom Anselmi said at a news conference that longtime Burke assistant David Nonis will fill the job. Burke will stay as a senior adviser.
Toronto has not made the playoffs since Burke was hired in 2008. The club last played in the postseason in 2004 and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.
New corporate owners took over the Maple Leafs in August and Burke's outspoken and brash approach was not a smooth fit.
"Brian had a style and we knew what we were getting when he was hired a number of years ago,'' Anselmi said. "This is really about a change in leadership voice and leadership direction.''
Anselmi said the four years of missing the playoffs factored into the decision, but ultimately the new ownership group wanted different leadership. Canada's largest telecommunication companies, Rogers Communications and BCE Inc., took control of the Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors in a deal worth about $1.3 billion.
"Brian, when we were talking this morning, said `I get it, ownership is changing,''' Anselmi said.
Anselmi stressed that the people Burke put in place will make for a seamless transition. Nonis said there won't be a great turnover in players.
Before joining Toronto, Burke spent three-plus seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, leading them to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. Nonis worked with Burke in Anaheim and when Burke was general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Nonis also replaced Burke in Vancouver, compiling a record 130-91-25 as general manager.
Nonis said he didn't see the firing coming. Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul said he was shocked.
"It's weird timing.'' Lupul said. "We haven't made the playoffs in however many years so the blame is falling right now on the GM. He's the guy the brought a lot of us in and we didn't get the job done.''
Burke's most debated move was a deal with Boston in 2009 when he acquired forward Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection. The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
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