Sunday, November 07, 2010

Brian Burke's Coaches

I'm not smart enough to know if Ron Wilson is the "problem" in Leaf land. Actually, I'm not sure that there is a so-called problem.

One look at the Leafs' roster and it's pretty clear that goals are going to be tough to come by this year. This is a roster whose first-line centre went un-drafted and has all of 50 NHL games experience.

With so little offensive punch there's no margin for error on the back-end. The lack of firepower makes every mistake in the Leafs' own zone terminal. The Leafs are going to have to win a lot of games 2-1 or 1-0 if they're going to have a shot at the post-season.

Despite the state of the line-up, with just one win in their last 9 games and three years of piss-poor special teams play, the call for Wilson to be fired is growing louder by the day.

I thought a quick look at Brian Burke's coaching decisions in his previous gigs as a NHL GM might shed some light on what, if anything, might happen behind the bench with the 2010-11 Maple Leafs.

Hartford Whalers, 1992-93

This was Brian Burke's first gig as a GM.

Hired May 26, 1992, within three weeks Burke announced a coaching change - interim coach Jimmy Roberts was replaced by Paul Holmgren.

Holmgren had previous NHL head coaching experience, he was the bench boss for the Flyers from 1988-to 1991.

Burke was fired in 1993, Holmgren remained the coach of the Whale until 1996.

Vancouver Canucks, 1998-04

Mike Keenan was the first coach Brian Burke fired.

In January 1999, after a month of hockey that saw the Canucks win 2 of 13 games - a tailspin Burke called, "an unmitigated disaster" - Mike Kennan was shown the door. Burke brought in Marc Crawford as his head coach, signing him to a three-year deal.

Crawford had previously coached the Colorado Avalanche to a Stanley Cup in 1996 and resigned from the Avalanche in 1998.

Burke made no further coaching changes during his tenure in Vancouver.

Anaheim (Mighty) Ducks, 2005 - 2008

Brian Burke was named GM of the Mighty Ducks in June, 2005. Burke offered a one-year extension to head coach Mike Babcock. Babcock declined and signed a multi-year deal just a few weeks later with the Detroit Red Wings.

Burke hired former Leafs defenceman Randy Carlyle to coach the Ducks. Carlyle had been head head coach the Canucks' AHL affiliate.

Of the hire, Burke said: "I wanted to find a coach that matches my intensity level. I hate to lose, I know Randy hates to lose as much as I do."

Carlyle is still the coach of the Ducks.

Coaches Cornered

In three previous stints as GM, covering 10+ seasons of hockey, Burke fired just one coach and hired three. Two of the three hires had previous NHL experience, the third was well known to Burke as the coach of his former AHL affiliate.

I'm doubtful Wilson gets the gate this year. That said, the one thing that's struck me most about Burke's tenure with the Leafs is how often his big moves come as complete shocks - there's no leaks to the press and nobody sees it coming. I don't know what Ron Wilson's fate may be, but I'm willing to wager it will be in keeping with Burke's M.O. and will come as a surprise to many.

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  1. "I don't know what Ron Wilson's fate may be, but I'm willing to wager it will be in keeping with Burke's M.O. and will come as a surprise to many."

    No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!

  2. You guys watch- he's going to find a loophole in the CBA that allows him to trade Wilson, Acton and Mitchell for Semin and a 1st. Sigh.

  3. Good insight into Brian Burke.

  4. Paul Steckley12:30 am

    With the moronic Toronto press calling for the coach's head after every loss, I'm glad to see that Burke refuses to get goaded into making a bad decision. Firing Wilson will not change anything. Scotty Bowman at the height of his coaching ability could not make this group more productive. Leaf history since 1967 has been marred by too many knee-jerk decisions, with change often made not because it was the right thing to do, but simply to show that something was being done.

    If Wilson had Crosby, Malkin, Ovechkin, and Stamkos on his first two lines and the team was still losing, then there would be a valid case for his firing. Otherwise, the patient approach is the right one and I hope Burke continues to hold true to it.