Toronto Maple Leafs' bully-bag of wind general manager Brian Burke may not have a good hockey team, but I guess we have to give him some sort of perverse credit for pulling off, or at least attempting to pull off, his mixed-messenger act with a straight face.
Earlier this week, Burke suggested he would implement a Toronto Maple Leafs-only NHL trade deadline, a week in advance of the real one, because his poor, emotionally fragile alleged pro hockey team/players can't hack the pressure of rumours and so on. Poor poopsies. There are six other Canadian teams that face and deal with the same sort of daily scrutiny. It's the way it is. Deal with it. (Oh, and we thought you guys didn't pay attention to media).
Then later this week, upon firing coach Ron Wilson (who Burke said he wouldn't again subject to the boo-birds at the Air Canada Centre, the Leafs' home rink) and appointing alleged tough guy coach Randy Carlyle, Burke said in a story posted to the Toronto Star website:
“I don’t like coaches who are warm and fuzzy. The game shouldn’t be fun. I tell our players this all the time,” Burke said. “The fun part of the game is winning. The game itself should be a difficult contest filled with hard decisions and hard battles. And most of the reinforcement a player gets is negative. A coach can’t come down and say, ‘Hey, you just had a great shift.’ He’s correcting somebody else who was on that shift . . . I don’t want it any other way. I like coaches who are hard on players.”
So, er, I guess, now Burke is saying the (new) coach can be hard on players. (but the fans and media can't naturally, and he's considering implementing his own trade deadline because it's too hard on his fragile players).
Not sure what Burke is saying or means at this point. Is anyone?
But there's more. And I hadn't heard this one since the 1970s, honestly, when I grew up as an unfortunately located Montreal Canadiens fan residing in the Greater Toronto Area and having to watch the Leafs regularly: THE DREADED VISITING TEAM TORONTO/ONTARIO FACTOR THAT DOOMS THE LEAFS!
(Funny how one never heard this in the 1960s when the Leafs were winners).
Burke essentially trotted out to Hockey Night In Canada interviewer Ron MacLean the tired old Leafs' excuse that teams coming in to play in Toronto, with plenty of Toronto-area and Ontario players on their rosters, step it up to impress friends and family and, hence, beat the Leafs.
But Burke obviously didn't expect MacLean to think on his feet and ask why, if this "Ontario factor" exists, don't the Leafs employ more Ontario players? One would assume they, too, would step up their games on behalf of the Leafs to impress their local family and friends, MacLean quite logically suggested.
Burke suggested MacLean wasn't listening to him, that Burke's scouts and so on don't look at people's passports when selecting players.
Perhaps they should.
Which Don Cherry (who I am not a fan of but in this case . . . ) jumped on in his Coach's Corner segment tonight. Cherry is bang on, because Burke wants it both ways. Mr. Mixed Message. Sure, he was GM of the Anaheim Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup in 2007 with a team that many analyses have shown he didn't fully build, though he seems, along with his media sycophants, to take full credit for. There are a multitude of coaches and executives in sport who have won one (1) championship. Does that make them experts or possessed of genius?
As the saying goes, even a blind squirrel finds a nut once in a while.
Count Burke among those squirrels.