If the Brian Burke feud with Don Cherry from late January has any spillover victims, it’s Dallas Eakins of the Toronto Marlites.
That’s Cherry’s scope in this town. He’s not just a media figure, he’s a cult, and Eakins, a coach of an American Hockey League team, had to answer questions raised by Cherry on Twitter.
So let’s recap the things Cherry has said in 2012 about the Maple Leafs’ organization. In three mediums now, he has criticized the team for the way they treat American college players in relation to good Southern Ontario kids.
“I like Brian Burke. I have nothing against Brian Burke,” said Cherry in an exclusive sit-down interview with the Ottawa Sun on Saturday. “But Brian Burke doesn’t like me. That’s the sad thing. We used to be the best of friends. I used to get St. Patrick’s Day cards from him … no more.
“Brian Burke does not like what I say about the Leafs. But what am I supposed to say about them? They haven’t made the playoffs in (seven) years. I say what I mean and I mean what I say. I guess he doesn’t like it. But I am what I am.”
“I don’t like [Ron Wilson]. I don’t like the way he treats the players … like (Nazem) Kadri, he’s my favourite kid,” he said. “I don’t think (Wilson) respects them. When some reporter reads this, he’ll go to a player and ask: ‘What do you think of Ron Wilson?’ What do you think the kid is going to say? I don’t like the way he throws his players under the bus.”
Cherry’s emotional line of thinking exposes his argument to many holes.
Blaming Burke for seven years without the playoffs is wrong. The fact is that Burke had nothing to do with the way John Ferguson Jr. positioned the Leafs before the last lockout, his reaction to the salary cap or Cliff Fletcher’s disastrous trades. You can blame Burke for three years without the playoffs, not seven.
In March, on Coach’s Corner, Cherry took no prisoners in his legendary Leafs rant. I transcribed the whole thing here:
Last night I’m at the Marlies and the Rebels game… these guys, beautiful guys, they’re T.O. young Nats. They will never play for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I heard your interview with Burke, and he said ‘well we have a tough time here. We have, every team has five guys come in from Ontario.’ Now I’d just like to tell you because more people come from Ontario, more hockey players come from Ontario, than any other place in the world.”
“I’ll just give you, Vancouver, I wrote it down, I had to write it down right there, Vancouver has four. Pittsburgh has six from Ontario. St. Louis! Beautiful team, surprise team! Nine! Last year, Boston had seven from Ontario, this year they got nine from Ontario. When Chicago won it the year before they had seven.”
“Yes, every team in the National Hockey League has a guy from Ontario except one! Guess who it is? It’s Ontario’s Toronto Maple Leafs!”
Again, the raw emotion exposes Cherry to his flawed reasoning behind why the Leafs haven’t been a successful hockey team.
In essence, he opened himself up. It’s not that the Leafs are bad necessarily, but that the Leafs are bad without having a strong Ontario-born hockey player. That was the guy, Kadri, from London Ontario, who was going to be the Southern Ontario-born superstar for the Leafs. He had a wicked junior career starting in Kitchener and ending in London.
And never made the Leafs.
I’m not entirely convinced the team’s development of Kadri has been especially flawed. He has yet to make an impact at the NHL-level because the Leafs’ main concern is a glut of centremen that keep Kadri out of the way. Kadri’s switched over to wing, but the Leafs have five scoring wingers in their top four slots going into next season.
But Cherry likes to set a certain tone. He’s made the assertion that “Canada loses” when the Leafs win and that young hockey players in the GTHL and other Southern Ontario minor hockey leagues will never have the chance to play for their hometown teams—so long as Brian Burke is in charge.
And so Cherry’s comments yesterday are not directed at Dallas Eakins necessarily but moreso that situational deficiencies have kept Kadri from succeeding in the NHL as of yet. That means that today Eakins, who seems like a reasonably level-headed guy who was simply answering a question a reporter asked about Kadri on the first day of camp, is the villain du jour in this systematic upheaval of Canadian hockey as we know it at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
That is, of course, according to Cherry.
And yet, nobody has asked Eakins either of the questions that needs to be answered in all of this:
Where does Nazem Kadri compare in fitness to last year?
Who are the other bottom three or bottom five guys in body fat on the Marlies?