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Give Burke More Time

from David Shoalts of the Globe and Mail,

...Actually, Detroit Red Wings GM Ken Holland, who most of you will agree knows a thing or two about winning a Stanley Cup, believes it should be 10 years before a general manager should be judged.

His argument is that’s how long it takes to change the culture of an organization after you take over. General managers cannot simply show up, declare the incumbents are louts and buffoons, sack them all and bring in new players. Theoretically, I suppose he could if the owner is willing to pay off all the contracts but the salary cap and the NHL Players’ Association suggest otherwise.

The other problem for a new GM, Holland points out, is that the first player you draft with that supposed high pick from taking over a failed team will not be ready to make a meaningful contribution to your team for four years. And the smart picks you make in the second and third rounds of the entry draft will take even longer.

So a general manager will be four-fifths of the way through a five-year mandate before the results are evident from his best draft pick. That’s thin evidence with which to judge a GM’s effectiveness.

Which brings us back to Mr. Burke. He is three years and four months into this job. Since he arrived in mid-season in 2008-09, at the very least Burke should get until the end of the 2013-14 season until is hauled in front of the MLSE board of directors and ordered to explain himself or else.


Filed in: NHL Teams, Toronto Maple Leafs, | KK Hockey | Permalink


awould's avatar

I basically agree that all things being equal, a GM deserves at least 5 years to make his mark. Probably it takes longer to really establish their brand on an organization, as Holland suggests.

However, on ice success and team culture are not the only measures for a GM. In the absence of a track record from 6-8 solid years in the job, an owner can take into account the direction the team is headed of course, but also the owner can factor in the known consequences of actions already taken and measure them against the GM’s rationale when the decision was made. Surely not every decision a GM makes takes 5 years to shake out. If his track record in that regard is a positive, it makes sense to keep him around. If it is not, and the team isn’t progressing adequately (in the owner’s estimate), then firing the GM 4 years in seems reasonable.

Burke’s track record appears to be mixed at best, and I think a better argument could be made that it has been a negative overall.

Also, if the premise of the article is to argue that a GM shouldn’t be judged until they’ve had several years to make their mark, giving any credit to Burke for winning a Cup in his 2nd years w/ the Ducks is dubious. And hold off on giving Burke too much credit for getting Pronger and Niedermayer to Anaheim. It did not take a genius to see those two might help a team win a Cup. So if any GM would love to have them, how did HE get them? Here’s an admittedly shallow take on it.

Niedermayer was a free agent and took less money to play for ANH because his brother Rob played there. Now if Burke had craftily acquired Rob previously, as bait, to entice Scott to sign as a FA, I’d be high fiving Burke myself. But he didn’t. It was blind luck that he happened to GM the team that Rob Niedermayer played for. As for Pronger, Burke gave up a ton to get him, including several high 1st/2nd round draft picks - picks that might have helped Anaheim make the playoffs this year and next. Also, he traded Lupul, who is currently doing his career-best to make Burke look good in Toronto. They won the Cup, so most ANH fans are probably shrugging their shoulders at any “what if” talk about draft picks that never were, but we’re talking about a GM who’s job it is to manage a team long term and give the coach and players a chance to compete for a Cup as much as possible.

And if his goal is to build for a long-term plan, contrary to his own statement, then dumping 2 first rounders for Kessel was a bad idea. Sort of like the 1st/2nd rounders he dropped on Pronger, only then he had a better team to start out with (thanks to his predecessor).

I think most of Burke’s reputation is self-promoted by being a character and getting a little lucky. Watching Holland do his job so well for so long shows a serious contrast when held up against Burke’s track record.

Posted by awould on 03/28/12 at 07:15 PM ET


It’s a great theory, until you throw the Dean Lombardi wrench ionto the equation.  the man is an idiot, and proved that rwith his last team of underachveivers in SJ and even more so with the mess he’s made out of L.A.  the only players L.A. has that are worth keeping are the ones drafted by his predecessor, Dave Taylor.

Posted by sean_o_sean on 03/28/12 at 08:49 PM ET

Primis's avatar

I think what sean is trying to say is that while it takes 10 years to get a bead on many, with some (HI GARTH SNOW, HI THERE BRIAN LAWTON) it’s quite apparent right away that they have no earthly idea what they are doing.

I also agree with awould:  when you compare Burke to proven, successful GM’s there is very little in common between them.  Burke doesn’t appear to have the right toolset to be a successful, winning GM.  He just got incredibly lucky in ANA, and that’s that…

Posted by Primis on 03/29/12 at 10:32 AM ET

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Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.

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