We're entering our 5th year of Burke and we've yet to make the playoffs. I don't need to re-hash all the team's failures on the ice and I'm not going to gloss over those failures by going into an extensive diatribe on the depth in the farm system -- mostly because I've already done it but partly because I'm sick of hearing it myself.
I understand the frustration with management, I really do. Sports is a results driven business and the results since Burke took over have been horrid. Having said this, there haven't been a lot of moves or signings made by other teams that I feel Burke both could have and ought to have made that would have improved the team. Basically, he inherited a steaming turd of a team and hasn't polished it into a gold nugget.
So given that the team has been abysmal for the entirety of his tenure while still granting that there isn't really a lot that he could have realistically done about it, what should be done with Brian Burke?
I think it would be a mistake to go into this season without either extending Burke or letting him go. The worst thing a franchise can do is to make their GM's job contingent on short term success. If Burke needs to make the playoffs to get an extension, is he really the guy you want making decisions for this franchise?
What I would like to see is Burke get a 1-year extension. I know that a lot of Leafs fans will roll their eyes at this after the Ron Wilson fiasco but hear me out here.
By adding a year to Burke's deal, his hand wont be forced into making any rash moves in an attempt to save his job. What it will do is emphasize the importance of what he can get done between now and September 1st, 2013.
Part of the reason I'd like to keep Burke around is that it should give us a leg-up in the Getzlaf and Perry sweepstakes, should they occur. I'm not out to suggest that either will invariably sign if Burke comes calling, but there's a relationship and that's an advantage not every team will have.
Moreover, a lot of the pieces Burke has brought in during his 'rebuild on the fly' will be playing key roles over the next two years. Phaneuf and Kessel's contracts each run through to the end of the 2013-14 season and JVR, Kadri and Gardiner will all likely be important pieces for the team. The core of this team should be hitting its peak by 2013-14 and they'll have the cap space they will most definitely need in order to make upgrades.
If the team struggles out of the gate in '13-'14, it's easy to let Burke go. If the team has turned the corner, it will probably be pretty apparent by then.
The thing about being a General Manager is that it's enormously difficult to tell if you've done a good job until you're five years into your tenure. In Burke's case, he's had to make pretty significant alterations to his plan (such as it was) as a consequence of the team's atrocious goaltending. In Burke's case, considering this u-turn, maybe we need 6 or 7 years to see what the finished product looks like. Personally, I'm willing to give him another year to see exactly what he's put together.