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Burke let go as Leafs General Manager, meets with the media

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The Toronto Maple Leafs replaced general manager Brian Burke with his assistant Dave Nonis on Jan. 9 after Burke failed to take the team to the postseason in his four years in charge. With a year remaining on his contract, the Leafs retained Burke and he will now be a senior adviser to the team. The timing of the move may seem a little odd to many hockey insiders since training camps for a shortened NHL season are due to open on Jan. 12.

Burke took over as the club’s general manager and president in November of 2008 and became the first American-born GM in the fabled Canadian team’s hockey history. He came to town promising success, but the team failed to make the playoffs each season he was in charge and he leaves his post with a record of 128-132-42. The franchise also changed ownership in 2012 when the Ontario Teachers’ Pension Plan unloaded its shares to a consortium headed up by Bell Telephone and Rogers Communications.

One of  Burke’s biggest moves as GM was to trade away two first-round draft picks along with a second rounder to the rival Boston Bruins for right winger Phil Kessel in 2009. The Leafs wore among the worst teams in the league and the draft picks turned out to be among the highest in the draft. The Bruins used them to select Tyler Seguin, Jared Knight, and Dougie Hamilton, who is ranked as one of the top prospects in the NHL. The Bruins also won the Stanley Cup with the help of Seguin. Burke could have saved his team a first-round draft pick if he had offered Kessel a contract-offer sheet and he accepted it.

The 25-yesar-old Kessel hasn’t been a complete bust in Toronto though as he has scored 30 goals or more in his three seasons in Toronto. However, the franchise still remains one of the worst in the league…at least on the ice. Off of the ice, it’s the most valuable club in the NHL. The Leafs managed 81 points in the 2008/09 season and dropped to 74 points in 2009/10, finishing in last position in the 15-team Eastern Conference. The best finish the team had under Burke was in 2010/11 when they reached 10th place in the conference with 85 points. They finished in 13th place with 80 points last season.

Burke made another big move last season when he fired former coach Ron Wilson and hired Randy Carlyle to replace him. Carlyle and Burke worked together previously with the Anaheim Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup in 2007. Carlyle coached the team to 6-9-3 last season after taking over. Burke left the Ducks in late November 2008 and joined the Leafs after being adamant that he wasn’t going to take the job. When Burke took over in Toronto he signed a six-year contract and became the highest-paid executive in the history of the league.

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