Asked and Answered: Weekend With Burkie

"Dear Bob, Trade me Getzlaf or else"


This feature has become so popular that The Star and Sportsnet have copied it. Of course, neither one offers much in terms of analysis so without further ado: Copy+PastePlus after the jump!

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Whom do you respect the most in the hockey world? Thanks #someoneyouadmire –  @penguinsfan1984

BB – Pat Quinn, Lou Lamoriello, Glen Sather and Gary Bettman are guys I admire, aspire to be like and have learned from.

PPP – That’s a pretty good list right up until the end. I’m guessing that Burke admires Bettman’s ability to take so much shit without flipping out which, if you ever read Burke’s mentions, is a trait that he needs on a daily basis.

What is the hardest hockey decision you have ever had to make. Thanks for giving us all your thoughts with Twitter – @jcmlocker

BB – Sending Colton Orr down was right up there, believe me.

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PPP – Hmmm, seemed like a pretty easy decision to make but I know Burke’s gotta keep up his ‘rats’ storyline.

Who is your favourite historical figure or your favourite history based film/show – @crupimike

BB – Abraham Lincoln. Winston Churchill. George Washington.

Churchill was a Leafs fan

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PPP – Not much to quibble with here. I have a book called "The Wit and Wisdom of Winston Churchill" which, if you can find it, I recommend reading. That guy was hilarious. Sample story: Churchill was in Manitoba somewhere at an unveiling of a bust of himself. A rather rubenesque woman commented to him that she had travelled hundreds of kilometres to see the unveiling of said bust. Churchill responded that he was flattered and that he can assure her that he would gladly return the favour if she were ever to unveil hers.

what is the best advise you’ve receive in your career as a leader? – @chrisok13

BB – A group of smart, fearless people is stronger than any one person. Surround yourself with smart, fearless people.

PPP – An interesting bit of knowledge that came from Burke’s appearance on Bob McCown’s show was that the Leafs pay Dave Nonis a hefty premium so that they deny any team that asks the chance to consider him for a GM vacancy. He said it’s happened twice. On the other hand, the rest of the management team (Poulin, Loiselle) have windows in their contract when they can try to get other jobs.

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Who has been the most influential mentor to you, both inside and outside of the league? – @WalterNorris

BB –  Pat Quinn, my boss when I first started as an Asst GM in Vancouver in 1987. Great teacher, very smart. I admire him.

PPP – Pat Quinn is great. He’s a friend of the blog. He showed that winning gold with Canada at the World Juniors is harder than it looks. And the Oilers are paying for the disgraceful way that they treated him. He was also the coach the last time the Leafs were really good. In short, I could think of worse people Burke could admire.

What are your thoughts about the French media in MTL wanting a French speaking head coach? Should it be about Ws and not language – @unclebizzy3

BB – I agree in general. I hate walls of any kind. But I understand why this is important in this market as well.

PPP – Gare Joyce and others have made the case that the Canadiens are a cultural touchstone that requires Francophone representation. I agree with those that think that this would be a non-issue if the team didn’t suck and their GM wasn’t insane.

as a former NHL employee, does the NHL review the tapes on blown calls with refs? Just wondering-that would be a lot of tape… @plantheparade

BB – NHL Refs are the best in the world. It is the hardest sport to officiate by a mile. Yes, calls are reviewed.

Think of how bad Burke must think European refs are to call this guy and his peers the best

PPP – They may be the best but they sure screw up a lot. There’s no transparent process to explain when calls have been blown and what the resolution is which exacerbates the fans’ frustrations.

I was curious to know if the Leafs medical team has a chiropractor on staff? travel with the team? home base? Great work Mr B!! – @fagan360

BB – Yes, we do, on call. Does great work!

PPP – That sounds great as long as it’s a male…

will the NHL grandfather visors into the league like they did w helmets? – @SmeagleT

BB – It is hard to say. It’s a CBA issue. The PA has always opposed mandatory visors.

PPP –  This is something that will eventually have to be mandated from the owners’ side. Players cling to the ridiculous belief that it makes them less of a man to wear a visor so they won’t be the ones to step forward for mandatory visors. Owners and GMs might eventually realize that they are losing money and their players because of this reticence. If I was an owner or GM I’d hate to lose money or games because one of my players was too dumb to wear a visor.

do you train/educate your players on how to deal with the media? Do Leaf players have a choice to turn media down for interviews? – @OakvilleDoc

BB – Yes, we do. And yes, they can turn down individual requests, and do.

PPP – It’s kind of funny to think that Kessel and Phaneuf have actually been trained to deal with the media because they aren’t really know for being good at it. Also, some communications people might suggest that Burke struggles with his frankness and expectation setting in the media as well but at least the team is trying.

would you still make the kessel deal today? – @Trotskov

BB – Yes!

PPP – I can’t imagine he’s answer otherwise.

Do you think it would benefit players/league to raise draft age to 20? Would make for way better hockey in CHL/NCAA. – @GoLeafsGo00

BB – This is a CBA topic, so our commentary is (sensibly) limited. Lots of groups support this age for drafting. Sound logic.

PPP – This couldn’t be done without some sort of agreement between the CHL and the NCAA to deal with players’ eligibility or changes to the limits of overagers on CHL rosters. The trickle down effect would be pretty dramatic. I think it works just fine as it is now.

do u laugh when other gms make stupid moves like Gauthier trading for kabs? Do u ever tell other gms they got fleeced in a deal – @Jasonmaggio

BB – Never whine, never boast, never taunt another manager. I have made some awful trades, I am in no position to point fingers!

PPP – It would be whistling past the graveyard to say anything else but I like to think that Burke looked at the Cammalleri trade and chuckled to himself that he won’t have to worry about the Habs for as long as Gauthier is GM.

Curious: do you watch non-Leafs games every night like the rest of us? Or mostly catch high lights, key matchups? – ShoelessJoesOSH

BB – Every night. Centre Ice package is great.

PPP – Unless you’re getting logged out for no apparent reason as I notice happens frequently to people on Twitter. Then, it really helps to be good at finding illegal streams.

What is the chance of Moneypuck (unrealized hockey opportunities shown in non-traditional statistics) happening? Thanks Mary – @merna1969

BB – No team has ever won a championship in baseball with a pure Moneyball system. No analog in hockey, in my view. Great book.

Burke’s secret weapons

PPP – Parsing Burke’s comments, I’d agree that no one has won in baseball with a pure Moneyball system. Although, the Red Sox did win two titles with Moneyball + a lot of money. My understanding is that part of what made them successful was that their prospects filled prominent roles cheaply which let them spend money on UFAs to fill any gaps. Burke’s been a regular attendee at MIT’s Sports Analytics Conference so I think he’s a guy that is interested in the application of advanced stats to hockey.

He’s previously commented that he gets sent a lot of statistical systems that seek to explain hockey in one go. His comments are that after testing them they haven’t found them robust enough which most advanced stats guys would agree with: the best approach, right now with the information available, is to use a variety of measures. Teams have been tracking things like Corsi and scoring chances since the 70s so I see Burke’s answer more as saying that there’s no single silver bullet for hockey.

who’s your favorite baseball player? – @franks_time

BB – I will look old if I answer all time favourite. Right now, it’s Derek Jeter, even though I loathe the Yankees! He’s a real pro!

PPP – Hmmm based on this answer maybe he does discount statistics.

who is/was the best dressing room leader you’ve either played with or have had on a roster? – @billski8

BB – Dion and Mark Messier. Both have rare leadership skills and great intensity!

PPP – Ok, so this may be why Dion gets called overrated.

Since you have such a young team, would you be interested in bringing in veteran guy to help out in the room? Boys seem to panic – @JasonDenomme

BB – Not right now. We’re young, but have an excellent veteran leadership group!

PPP – It’s easy to forget but depending on the team that the Leafs are icing on any given night they are among the five youngest teams in the league and sometimes the youngest. They do have more than enough veterans on the team so I don’t think any move needs to be made that addresses this specifically. If it’s a by-product then it’s a bonus.

how much does loyalty factor into his decisions – @Leafer1984

BB – A great deal, but what is best for the Club is always the trump card.

PPP – This is pretty re-assuring.

Do you ever personally spend time reading/hearing the fans opinions about the team, either online or elsewhere? Thanks! – @Shanessm

BB – Our fans’ opinions are very important to us. All those outlets are monitored. I place great importance on their views.

PPP – Oh boy, if you read Burke’s mentions then you’re glad that this is pandering. If you write a couple of blogs then it makes you worried you might get killed for what you write.

What’s your biggest challenge in making deals with other GMs? – @stubnyourtoesux

BB – As a group, I find them very stingy and selfish! They seldom share my enthusiasm for the great deals I throw at them! 🙂

PPP – "They aren’t all Darryl Sutter".

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  • Peterborough

    I have to believe Burke’s admiration of Bettman is all about Bettman’s ability to blatantly lie, mislead, deceive, and generally ignore all factual evidence contrary to what he is saying during an interview or press conference and do so with that “I am smarter than you you idiot” smirk on his face.