Having adjusted to the surprise of the timing of Burke's dismissal, we were then left to wonder whether this move signalled any change in direction for the franchise. I'm a big believer in not firing coaching or management staff unless you think you can get someone better or if there's some dissatisfaction with the philosophy of the individuals currently in place. In Burke's case, reports seem to suggest that he was let go largely based on his personality which isn't an answer that I'm particularly enamoured with but, be that as it may, the on-ice results were poor enough that it's tough to really take umbrage with his dismissal.
With Burke out and Nonis in, we're left to wonder what we should expect from our new GM and a little bit of history would probably be instructive in this regard. Nonis was General Manager of the Vancouver Canucks from 2004 until the end of the 2007-08 season when he was dismissed following a second season outside of the Western Conference playoff picture during his three year tenure. While his time in Vancouver may have been short, his track record is pretty close to being squeaky clean.
Out: Todd Bertuzzi, Bryan Allen, Alex Auld
In: Roberto Luongo, Lucas Krajicek, 6th Round Pick
This deal was a clear win for Nonis and really solidified the one area that Burke had been entirely unable to address during his time in Vancouver. Nonis inherited the core of the team that has won the past two President's Trophies but it's fair to say that the acquisition of Luongo was the piece that truly put them over the top.
Out: Matt Cooke
In: Matt Pettinger
This is probably the ugliest of Nonis' transactions during his tenure as GM. Say what you will about Matt Cooke, he's an effective little rat and Pettinger's time in Vancouver was both brief and lacklustre.
1st Round, 26th overall: Corey Schneider: Pretty tough to argue with that use of a late first at this stage
3rd Round, 91st overall: Alex Edler: Indisputably a great pick. Edler is a top-pairing defenseman.
The Canucks also drafted Mike Brown (5th Round) and Jannik Hansen (9th Round) in what you'd have to consider a pretty remarkable draft for the team.
1st Round, 10th overall: Luc Bourdon: Tough to say what would have been had Bourdon not passed away following a motorcycle accident.
2nd Round, 51st overall: Mason Raymond: Once again, tough to argue with the pick. Yet another NHLer.
1st Round, 14th overall: Michael Grabner: Perfectly adequate pick. Missed Giroux but so did a lot of people. Not many better names behind him.
1st Round, 25th overall: Patrick White: With David Perron, Brendan Smith, and PK Subban all taken after White, it's fair to say this was a miss.
Alex Burrows: In 2006, Nonis signed Burrows to a 2-way deal and the rest is history. Without burning an asset, Nonis was able to add an effective member of Vancouver's top-6 group and a guy with a 35 goal season on his resume.
Willie Mitchell: Also in 2006, Nonis signed Willie Mitchell for less money and less term than Mike Komisarek and arguably, each probably had similar expectations. As it turns out, Mitchell has been infinitely more valuable to his teams than Komisarek has been to Toronto.
Those two were the only significant free agents that Nonis brought to Vancouver but on the bright side, he also doesn't have a history of handing out bad contracts. Suffice to say he'll have more financial flexibility in Toronto than he had in Vancouver and with that comes greater opportunity to sign facepalm-inducing deals. Whether or not his salary constraints saved him from himself is something that we'll have to wait and see on but his track record to date is certainly promising.
Nonis' time in Vancouver would have to be considered a resounding success. Of his two most prominent deals, one was a slam-dunk and the other while certainly a loss was far from being franchise altering. His draft record while in Vancouver was exceptional and his forays in the free agent market were successful and efficient.
Also of note, Nonis seems to believe in building from within. None of his moves involved significant prospects headed out of Vancouver which is something that should be promising for Leafs fans who have seen that movie far too often.
So far as GM of the Leafs, he's avoided moving Kadri for Luongo (assuming you believe the rumours) and has moved out veterans like Connolly and Lombardi to make room for some of Toronto's promising youngsters -- moves which suggest an eye for the long view.
If Nonis actually is MLSE's man moving forward, it looks like the franchise is in able hands. My only real concern is the possibility that the added financial wherewithal that comes with being GM of the Leafs may force Nonis into the same mistakes made by his predecessor and it isn't a major concern as there's no historical evidence on Nonis to suggest it will be the case. Suffice to say, we clearly have a GM at the helm who is, at minimum, competent at every significant portion of his job and it may not be long before this ship is finally on course.