Saturday, January 26, 2008

He’s one happy and content Duck

Gord Kirke’s job isn’t going to be so hard after all, just keep crossing the names off the list as he gets the word. That is if everyone that gets mentioned as a good fit for the job, takes his name off the search list as quickly as Brian Burke did on Friday.

Burke, while in Toronto with the Ducks owners the Samuelis, took time to tell the over excited Toronto media gaggle that he was quite happy where he was in California, that he enjoyed working for his ownership and that he fully expects to remain in his position for the foreseeable future.
A decision which is not what Toronto’s armchair headhunters wanted to hear.

Burke’s name has been one of the most mentioned ones since the deed was done to John Ferguson earlier this week, a fanciful bit of recruiting by those with perhaps more wishful hopes than strong business sense.

Unless the Leafs were to produce a contract with so many zeroes that he would be foolish to ignore, the question must be why would Burke want to give up what seems to be the perfect General managers job in hockey.

Anaheim is a market where the media rarely if ever second guesses you, where the fan base already spoiled with a Stanley Cup victory fill the rink nightly, and for the most part is really not quite sure about the strange sport they are their to witness, but regardless of the knowledge of the finer points of the game are quite aware of the championship banner hanging in the rafters.

In California, winning is the thing and whatever the sport, when you’re on top of the heap, they hold you high. At the moment the LA sports scene is short of a few winning teams, so for the Ducks these are the gravy years, Burke has been a big part of the build up to their success, it’s most likely that he can write his own ticket as far as salary, perks and responsibilities go.

While as he said the prospect of running the Maple Leafs is tempting (imagine the parade for the GM/President that finally delivers a winning team again to Toronto) the key franchise of the league and perhaps most storied one along with the Canadiens, comes with a fair amount of baggage as well.

From the frequently inquisitive media attention heaped upon the day to day events, to a fan base long abused, bemused and becoming more and more un-enthused, the Leafs job is not the dream that Torontonians may think it is.

Burke who made some major strides for the Vancouver Canucks and was unceremoniously discharged by the out of town ownership group of the day, has become a bit of an iconic feature in Canada. His blunt talk, frequent feuds with the media and outspoken desires for the game have made him either admired by the masses, which have long converted to his church of hockey or loathed by those who feel his thoughts are from the age of the dinosaurs.

It’s always been thought that he cherished a position back east, in order to be closer to the children of his first marriage, but as time has progressed that seems to have been less of a factor in his career development. When the Canucks terminated his association with them, he surely would have had heard a few rumbles of potential eastern based openings and bided his time, but instead took on the challenge of turning the under performing Ducks into a contender. A task he completed in short time and for which he has earned his spot as most desired executive for flailing franchises.

The most humorous angle being dangles this week for Burke was the prospect that his wife Jenifer, would probably love the chance to return to the media and hell where else can you find media than Toronto.

While Toronto may find this hard to accept, there are media jobs in other burgs on the continent. As a matter of fact, Mrs. Burke is currently hosting a lifestyles show for the CBC based out of Vancouver, she flies in from her Orange county home rattles off a set of episodes, does a number of charity and personal appearances in Vancouver and then heads back to the shadow of the land of the mouse.

One suspects that if she decides that she wants a more high profile media presence, that somehow in the midst of the hundreds of radio, television and movie operations that dot the Los Angeles horizon she would be able to deliver a successful resume or two.

With the Sameuli’s holding such a high profile in Orange County through their business and charitable endeavors, the Burke's would have no problem joining the power couple circuit. Taking what they brought to the Canucks era and delivering a similar devotion to their causes in a city that loves to embrace good intentions and business opportunities.

The Toronto job will obviously be an ego boost, and Mr. Burke certainly has no shortage of ego, but he also has a wise and calculating way of looking at things, just reading between the lines in his comments about the handling of the John Ferguson era gives you an indication that the Leafs, as they are set up operationally probably is not his kind of company.

While he didn’t come out and say it, somehow you get the feeling that he sees a lot of the Canucks under the McCaw era in the current make up of the dysfunctional Maple Leaf operation.
One of his favourite sayings while in Vancouver was "that is a drug induced fantasy", which pretty sums up the situation for Leafs fans still holding a prayer candle at the prospect of Burke leading their beloved team to the promised land.

With a much better situation currently in hand, it should not come as any surprise that he’s declared his lack of interest in putting his name in for the Leafs job. He’s fairly free to run his Ducks as he sees fit, something that no applicant for the Leafs job will ever truly feel is in the cards and that perception is going to be the biggest headache for the search committee.
Globe and Mail--Why Brian Burke said No

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