“Under Pressure” is a preseason series we’ll be running on PHT. For each team in the NHL, we’ll pick one player, coach, GM, mascot or whatever that everyone will be watching closely this season. Feel free to play the song as you read along. Also feel free to go to the comment section and tell us we picked poorly.
For the Calgary Flames we picked… president Brian Burke.
Burke might not be the public face of the Flames like he was in Toronto, but he’s still the president of hockey operations, so the buck stops with him.
Back when he first became the general manager of the Maple Leafs, it was after plenty of speculation and his decision to join the team was cause for optimism. Burke came with an impressive resume and the Maple Leafs were a team desperate for success. Perhaps too desperate.
When Burke took over, the franchise had already went the route of trying desperately to make the playoffs at all cost, only to fall short. They had recently started to embrace the notion of rebuilding and starting a new era now that long-time captain Mats Sundin was gone. At the same time, a lengthy rebuild would be a tough pill to swallow for a hungry fanbase that had already endured three straight campaigns without a playoff berth.
We all know how that story ended, but it’s being retold in Calgary. This is a team that resisted the notion of a rebuild for years and couldn’t make the playoffs despite that. Now they’re finally starting to set their sights on the future after parting ways with long-time captain Jarome Iginla. So Burke will once again be tasked with leading a battered franchise towards the playoffs and asking for understanding despite the Flames’ four straight campaigns of futility.
The big difference is that this time Burke isn’t coming in with the same reputation of success. His time in Toronto changed that and consequently it might be just as well that he won’t be front and center as often.
Maybe it’s also for the best that Calgary is in such a similar situation as the 2008-09 Maple Leafs that he’ll get struck with déjà vu. This is a perfect opportunity to show what he might have done if given a second chance. Will he employ the same basic tactics that he used with Toronto with the belief that they could work or even were succeeding when he was shown the door? Or will he do things differently?
What will we be saying about the Flames in four or five years?
For all of our Under Pressure series, click here.