When Brian Burke resigned his post as GM of the Anaheim Ducks and became GM of the Toronto Maple Leafs in November 2008, there was lots of optimism in Leafsnation. Rightfully so as he had just come off winning the Stanley Cup with the Ducks back in 2007 and had great success with the Vancouver Canucks during a seven year span (1998-1999-2003-2004). Well after four in a half years and with a shortened season about to begin, Maple Leafs brass decided it was time to fire Burke and promoting assistant Dave Nonis as his replacement. Looking back at his time in Toronto, Burke often had mixed results.
When Burke was introduced as the new GM back in November of 2008, he had made it clear that he wanted to build a talented physical team like how the Philadelphia Flyers and Boston Bruins are. Although he got someone who has been producing in Phil Kessel, he gave up two very high draft picks to a divisional rival (Boston Bruins) that ended up being Tyler Seguin and Dougie Hamilton. Seguin fits Kessel's profile but Hamilton is a strong 6'5 defensemen who could of fit in beautifully with the Leafs. As the months progressed he made a great trade acquiring Dion Phaneuf from Calgary and acquiring Goaltender J.S Giguere from the Ducks. The year after he made up for a mistake by trading another heavily invested D-man (Francois Beauchemin) back to the Ducks for Joffrey Lupul and defenseman Jake Gardiner. Lupul has been producing greatly will Kessel while Gardiner has developed into a smooth skating puck handling D-men. So had Hamilton been drafted with the Leafs instead of the Bruins, they would of had a good top four defense corps that would of had Phaneuf, Gardiner, John-Michael Liles, and Hamilton.
Now the bad, as he had his vision to build a physical team, he invested lots of cash toward D-men Mike Komisarek. He signed him to a five year deal with a salary cap hit of 4.5 million per year. He also had the size but Komisarek has not been living up to that standard as injuries and poor play have plagued him during his time in Toronto. Another questionable decision that Burke made during his tenure was coaching issue. Burke and former coach Ron Wilson have a close relationship dating back to their days in college. The reason why I put this decision as being questionable because during the 2011-2012 season, the Leafs were doing well which led to Wilson sign an extension on Christmas Day 2011. After entering a slump in the beginning of February that they could not get out of, Wilson was sacked and replaced by Randy Carlyle in March 2012. Although teams have fired coaches that late in the year, would it make more sense to fire Wilson had the team been eliminated from postseason contention or at the end of the year?
All in all, although Burke had great success in his days with the Canucks and the Ducks, his time in Toronto did not reflect the success he had in the past. It is simply because the Leafs failed to make the playoffs during his time, he was not able to acquire a big first line center, and the result of the Kessel trade long term based on the talent they would of had. All in all, most people in the sports world can make the final conclusion that Brian Burke had mixed results during his time in Toronto.