For Toronto Maple Leafs GM Brian Burke, Reality Bites!

February 1st, 2011 No Comments

In a recent poll conducted by the NHLPA and Hockey Night in Canada, the Toronto Maple Leafs took a licking and Maple Leafs’ general manager Brian Burke is not too happy about it.

When 318 NHL players were asked which coach they’d least like to play for Toronto Maple Leafs bench boss Ron Wilson emerged as the victor. When asked where they least like to play, Toronto ranked fifth at five percent..

It has been reported that both responses caused Burke to throw a temper tantrum for the ages. While I admire Burke’s passion, the reality is, the players are likely bang on.

Wilson has long been the discussion of numerous player feuds and his “calling out” of players is well documented in San Jose and here in Toronto. While Wilson’s coaching abilities are up for discussion, it’s tough to make friends when your roster is walking on pins and needles waiting for their coach to spew his venom to the media.

Toronto is one of the most passionate hockey markets on the planet. It has been said that Maple Leafs fans are loyal to a fault, and when you consider the teams’ record since the team last won the Stanley Cup in 1967, the critics are probably right about that.

While expectations are often low in Toronto, the pressure to win has always been there. Along with the pressure to win, come an enormous amount of media coverage and a considerable amount of debate of every tiny detail from the fans.

All the attention can get to the players, which, in turn, probably was of great consideration when the players responded.

Fact is, some players respond well to pressure, others hate the pressure cooker that is Toronto and will avoid it like the plague.

Is it an honor to don the Blue and White? Sure. But given the franchises inability to ice a winner, historic failure in developing players and a roster that includes some of the NHL’s most hated players, one can see why the players would say “no” to Toronto.

For Burke, if he didn’t like what he read, he has to fix it. That goes for the current roster, the development system, the coaching staff, the character of player he brings in- it all has an impact on the players’ perception, which, given the results of the poll, is pretty poor where the Maple Leafs’ franchise is concerned.

Clearly, Burke has been working hard to right the sinking ship in Toronto. Thus far, his moves have not paid off in the popularity department, but if the Blue and White should develop into a winning team we can expect NHL players to flock to what many perceive as the centre of the hockey universe.

There weren’t many players that “liked” playing for Iron Mike Keenan back in the day, but if you ask most of his former troops they will tell you that Keenan, while a little erratic, egomaniacal and hot-headed, got the most out of them and, in some cases, turned their careers around and/or brought their games to a whole new level.

Wilson may not be in Keenan’s category, but, as far as I have heard, there are a lot of players that appreciate him as a coach and mentor. No coach is perfect, and the ones that are too nice often find themselves in the unemployment lines.

What Burke must find is a comfortable balance between the players and management. If that means he asks his coach to tone it down, so be it. If that means Burke himself avoids making headlines, so be it.

In the end, if the franchise is winning the players will come, no matter who is running the show, no matter which coach is behind the bench.

So relax Mr. Burke, all is not lost. Fact is, as bad as the Maple Leafs’ franchise looked in the polls, you can fix this mess….right?

Until next time,

Peace!

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