With the NHL season starting in less than a week, coaches and general managers are meeting to make final roster cuts and decisions on player deployment.
In an appearance on the Starting Lineup on Sportsnet 650 in Vancouver, former NHL GM Brian Burke was asked about that decision-making process and how involved a coach gets.
“Well certainly from my perspective, you’re going to fire the coach if he doesn’t win enough games, so you better let him pick the roster,” Burke said.
“It’s very seldom that I interfered in a player-selection issue with the coach,” he continued. “And that meant sometimes that he was going to send out a high pick and make you look bad. But that to me is, well if I look bad that means I picked the wrong guy, it’s not the coach’s fault. You dress the lineup that gives us the best chance to win tonight.”
When asked for an example of a time he did interfere in a coach’s decision, Burke told a story from his time with the Toronto Maple Leafs, where he was GM from 2008-13. While not saying which season this happened, Burke said he forced his coaching staff to play Colton Orr, despite the enforcer’s slower skating and lower skill level.
“I didn’t like how we were playing in Toronto and I told the coaching staff that Colton Orr is going to dress every night,” Burke said. “And you know the game was going more skill and more speed, and Colton’s a big battleship guy. And they didn’t like it but I said ‘That’s on me, you pick the other 11 forwards but you’re dressing him.'”
Orr played with the Maple Leafs from 2009-14, including 99 games after Burke was let go by the Maple Leafs. In all, Orr appeared in 232 games with the Leafs, scoring eight goals and serving 637 penalty minutes.
While that decision doesn’t look good in hindsight, every team will be weighing the pros and cons of certain players heading into the final few days before the season. And some young players who have the potential to be stars could find themselves in the AHL by the weekend.
Burke was asked about the best time to call up players, who just missed the cut, during the season. Host Perry Solkowski pointed to the current Vancouver Canucks roster which features more young players than open spots, and some players who could benefit from a little seasoning in the AHL.
“This is what’s great and what’s terrible about working in a Canadian market, you’re asking me this question in September,” Burke said with a laugh. “I don’t know how long (the Canucks) can afford to be patient (but) they’re doing a lot of the right things, and I think that’s what people have to realize.”