Burke era in Toronto: Trades, truculence and tirades

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As reported earlier, Brian Burke has been fired as president and general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

The Burke era began in 2008 and spanned 305 games, with a record of 128-135-42 and zero playoff appearances.

Those are the numbers, but this story is about more.

Much, much more.

Let’s take a look back at some of Burke’s most memorable moments in Tronna.

Trades

It’s hard to know exactly where to start. Burke was a perpetual mover and shaker during his time in Toronto, making over 40 trades in what amounted to a total roster overhaul.

He brought in the likes of Dion Phaneuf, Phil Kessel, James van Riemsdyk, John-Michael Liles, Joffrey Lupul, Jake Gardiner, Matt Lombardi and David Steckel.

He shipped out the likes of Tomas Kaberle, Luke Schenn, Alexei Ponikarovsky, Nik Antropov, Jamal Mayers, Matt Stajan and Ian White.

He brought in and shipped out Kris Versteeg, JS Giguere and Francois Beauchemin.

But the signature move of Burke’s wheeling and dealing was the Kessel trade, in which Boston netted two first-round picks that would become Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton.

It was his boldest and most contentious move, one that will continue to be referenced well into Dave Nonis’ tenure.

Truculence

“We require, as a team, proper levels of pugnacity, testosterone, truculence and belligerence,” Burke told the media upon being hired in 2008. “That’s how our teams play.”

It’s the line that stuck with Burke throughout his time in Toronto.

While the strategy reaped huge rewards in Anaheim — Burke won a Cup with a roster featuring Shawn Thornton, Travis Moen, George Parros, Sean O’Donnell and Brad May — it never came to fruition with the Leafs.

The likes of Colton Orr, Mike Brown, Garnet Exelby and Jay Rosehill were acquired in an ill-fated effort to get tough and, in perhaps his most egregious “tough” signing, Burke shelled out $22.5 million for Mike Komisarek.

“He’s a respected competitor in this league,” Burke said upon signing Komisarek. “We know that he will bring his hard-nosed approach to our team on a consistent basis.”

Komisarek only appeared in 45 games last year and was often a healthy scratch.

Today, he’s mostly mentioned as an amnesty buyout candidate.

Tirades

Burke was nothing if not combative during his four-plus years on the job. Fights, feuds and potential fisticuffs were constant:

He ripped ESPN

He ripped CBC

— He said the Penguins were good because they “won a goddamn lottery

He ripped Don Cherry

He ripped Ron MacLean

— He wanted to rent a barn to stage a fist fight between him and Kevin Lowe

He ripped Leafs fans

He ripped the Toronto media

— He called Ron Wilson a “Hall of Fame coach” then fired him three months later

He ripped Francois Allaire

He ripped anonymous player polls

Say what you will about the job he did, or the way he conducted himself — the NHL is going to be less interesting now that Brian Burke’s no longer a part of it.

Related

Leafs fire Brian Burke (!!!); Nonis named replacement

Ducks deny rally, end Penguins’ winning streak

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When Ondrej Kase cashed in on another breakaway opportunity for the Ducks to make it 4-1 in the second period, it looked like that goal would be icing on the cake for Anaheim. Even if it would be especially pretty frosting.

Instead, that stylish goal ended up being critical, as the Pittsburgh Penguins nearly rallied in the third period to at least send Wednesday’s game to overtime. John Gibson ended up holding down the fort, and with an empty-netter in the dying seconds, the Ducks ended up beating the Penguins 5-3.

You could call it a game of periods and close calls.

The Penguins entered the first intermission thanks to a 1-0 Evgeni Malkin goal, but the Ducks dominated the middle frame with their first four-goal period of 2017-18. The Penguins’ prolific power play helped them stay in the game (2-for-4, with both goals coming during that third-period comeback bid), but the rally fell short. Pittsburgh’s winning streak ended at four victories.

Some bounces went both ways, as Antoine Vermette nearly scored for the Ducks while Carl Hagelin suffered a near-miss. So maybe those missed opportunities cancel each other out?

From the Ducks’ perspective, this is the latest argument in favor of this team being a threat now that key pieces have returned to the lineup. This win begins what they hope is a successful five-game homestand, as Anaheim still needs to battle for its own playoff hopes.

The Penguins can’t ruminate on this loss for very long. They head to Los Angeles to face what must be a frustrated Kings team (four straight defeats, only two wins in their last eight games) on Thursday, with little reason to expect any mercy.

This last stretch of wins improved the Penguins’ outlook, but dropping games in back-to-back nights could make things tense again in a hurry. You can check out that Penguins – Kings game on NBCSN Thursday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Willie O’Ree celebrates 60th anniversary of debut with Bruins

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BOSTON (AP) Hockey pioneer Willie O’Ree was honored in Boston on Wednesday on the 60th anniversary of the Bruins forward breaking the NHL’s color barrier.

At a news conference at the TD Garden before the Bruins game against the Montreal Canadiens, Mayor Marty Walsh declared Jan. 18, 2018 to be “Willie O’Ree Day”. O’Ree made his debut in 1958 during a 3-0 victory against the Canadiens at the Forum in Montreal.

Walsh called O’Ree a Boston legend who changed the city for the better and thanked him for his courage. As part of the celebration, the city dedicated a new street hockey rink in the Allston-Brighton neighborhood to be known as Willie O’Ree Rink.

A native of Canada, O’Ree, 82, had four goals and 10 assists in 45 games over parts of two NHL seasons. He spent a total of 21 years in pro hockey.

For the past two decades, O’Ree has served as the NHL’s Diversity Ambassador, spreading the message that hockey is for everyone.

More AP NHL hockey at https://apnews.com/tag/NHLhockey

Bruins cruise vs. Canadiens in Julien’s return to Boston

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Don’t blame Claude Julien if Wednesday made him think of better times, and not just because it was his welcome back night in Boston.

Coming into this one, it was a tale of two teams going in opposite directions, and the teams stuck to their scripts. The Boston Bruins remain red-hot with a 4-1 win, while the Montreal Canadiens are mired in mediocrity .. or worse?

When you’re as disappointing as the Canadiens have been, plenty of things are going wrong. It was a weak start even with a 1-0 lead and 1-1 first period in mind, and it obviously didn’t get any better.

Nights like these have to sting for Julien, a coach known for his sophisticated systems and eye for defensive detail.

There are questions about Max Pacioretty possibly being trade bait. People wonder if Jonathan Drouin or Alex Galchenyuk fit as centers, or if neither work that way. Yet, these performances make you realize that as exasperated as management must be, they may also appreciate more specific distractions.

Because, frankly, this was a team … non-effort.

Then again, the Bruins are a red-hot squad, so maybe they shine an especially harsh light on the Habs’ haplessness?

Boston generated a 32-22 shots on goal advantage in this one, with multiple contributors stepping up. Big guns came through (Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak were among the goal scorers, Patrice Bergeron collected two assists), while David Backes and others added to the fun.

It was the kind of effort Julien would have been very happy with, if it didn’t come at his expense.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

WATCH LIVE: Pittsburgh Penguins at Anaheim Ducks

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PROJECTED LINEUPS

Pittsburgh Penguins

Dominik SimonSidney Crosby — Daniel Sprong

Carl HagelinEvgeni MalkinPatric Hornqvist

Conor ShearyJake GuentzelPhil Kessel

Tom KuhnhacklRiley SheahanRyan Reaves

Brian DumoulinKris Letang

Olli MaattaJustin Schultz

Matt HunwickJamie Oleksiak

Starting goalie: Tristan Jarry

[NHL on NBCSN doubleheader: Canadiens vs. Bruins; Penguins vs. Ducks]

Ducks

Rickard RakellRyan GetzlafCorey Perry

Derek GrantRyan KeslerJakob Silfverberg

Nick RitchieAdam HenriqueOndrej Kase

Chris WagnerAntoine VermetteJ.T. Brown

Cam FowlerKevin Bieksa

Hampus LindholmJosh Manson

Francois BeaucheminBrandon Montour

Starting goalie: John Gibson