PENTICTON – Is Brian Burke the right man for the job in Calgary?
We’ll let you know — as soon as we get a result on his last kick at a major rebuild, in Toronto.
But with as many experts picking the Maple Leafs to miss the playoffs this season as make them — five seasons after Burke began the project, only to be fired last January — who could possibly call Burke’s “expedited rebuild” in Toronto either a success or a failure, at this point?
Update: The Calgary Flames will announce Burke’s addition at a press conference at 12 p.m. ET Thursday. Watch it live on Sportsnet and sportsnet.ca.
At a morning press conference in Calgary, home to the National Hockey League’s latest and deepest scorched earth project, Burke will be named to an overall hockey title by the Calgary Flames, perhaps the president of hockey operations and governor.
Knowing his hands-on approach, we predict he will have become the de facto general manager the moment he signed on in Calgary, and current GM Jay Feaster will heretofore be, at best, a Burke lieutenant.
It will be Burke’s team, and Burke’s rebuild. This should be one hell of a ride, Calgary.
We all know the kind of hockey teams Burke likes to build. “From the net out,” he said so many times in Toronto, although the team he left behind when he was fired by the Leafs had an average blue line at best and was unproven in goal.
Calgary, meanwhile, is about to face life after Miikka Kiprusoff. And even if the enigmatic Finnish goaltender miraculously decides to return, he is about to turn 37 and his game is in inevitable decline. The Flames defence is shallow in depth, small in size, and not real good.
Burke likes size and, of course, “truculence.” Neither of those exists currently on Calgary’s roster, an organization that has blindly refused to start this remake until now. As such, Calgary is arguably the most asset-poor organization in the entire NHL.
Burke likely had more to work with at the outset in Toronto than he would with Calgary, and sped up the process by trading two first-round picks and a second-round pick for Phil Kessel. This Calgary club is a lock-sure bet for a top-three pick in the 2014 NHL Draft (and likely 2015 as well), but as the cap system wears on, conventional wisdom dictates that trading those high picks is foolish.
Yet building slowly through the draft flies in the face of Burke’s hurry-up offence as a builder. Burke is not patient enough to do an Edmonton-like rebuild. He’s not showing up in Calgary to finish 30th, 30th and 29th. It’s just not in Burke’s makeup.
This is the ultimate rebuild in Calgary. They’re starting from somewhere below scratch, with a long, long road ahead.
Burke is famously impatient. He is not signing on for a seven-year project here.
Where does that leave Burke and the Flames?
We don’t have a clue, to be honest. But this much we know for sure:
Whatever happens in Calgary, it will get a whole lot more interesting if they hire Brian Burke.