Brian BurkeMichael Schulman
I’d like to begin by giving you some background on the events of the last few months, which led to today’s transition to a new General Manager.
Brian has been honest and upfront from the beginning regarding his family situation. We have discussed it at length. We have had a very open and honest discussion. At that time, we discussed the best potential transition in the event he turned our extension. I felt Brian deserved more time as he was clearly wrestling with his decision with good reason. Since that time, with encouragement and support from Brian, I spent a great deal of time with Bob Murray and identified him as the top candidate to replace Brian in the event he decided to move on. Late last week, Brian respectfully declined our contract extension and we decided to move forward on our previously discussed plan.
The reason for a mid-season change is simple. We wanted to get Brian all the time he needed to make a sound decision. After everything he’s done for the franchise, he deserved that. I wanted to give Bob the time he needed to work with our team. Burke has done so much for his organization and we care about him and Jen. We are sad that he is leaving, but accept his decision as being in the best interest of his family. After he helps us with the transition, he’ll be free to talk to other teams about employment. That will probably be a week or two.
This has been a process that has taken some time. This is why I suggested we should lay out the chain of events so the media and fans understand that a great deal of thought went through this from the prospective of all parties. Burke and I have been discussing his future situation on and off for 11 months, so I was disappointed but not surprised. Bob would not discuss this with me until it was absolutely clear to him, basically because of his loyalty to Brian, that Burke was not coming back and that he was okay with the change taking place now rather than at the end of the season.
What Brian Burke has done for this franchise is remarkable. He was hired in the summer of 2005 to build a winning, community-oriented team and he did exactly that. One Stanley Cup, One Division title, two trips to the Conference Finals and six playoff rounds won. He brought in players that are entertaining and aggressive on the ice while classy and humble away from the rink. In short, Brian developed a team our community could be proud of.
Fortunately for us, he also hired Bob Murray three years ago to be his second in command. Brian, Bob and David McNab have since led this team to unprecedented success. The relationship between Brian and I is stronger than ever before. Despite initial disappointment after he made the decision, I fully respect and understand his reason. We are a family-first organization and all of you know Brian is a huge part of that. We are very pleased he is staying on as a special consultant. On behalf of the entire organization, we thank him wholeheartedly for his tremendous work as General Manager.
I just want to point out that the Samueli’s have not been involved in the negotiation decision in making this process. They never talked to Brian about this or interviewed Bob about the job. I called Henry and Susan last night and told them a change was being made.
It was clear to me early on in the process that Bob Murray was the right man to take over for Brian. He’s done terrific work, mainly behind the scenes, for the franchise since arriving in 2005. He’s been a large part of our success and like Burke is committed to an entertaining, community-oriented team. In addition to his work with Ducks, he led our AHL affiliate in Portland
, now in Iowa
, to the Conference Finals in two of the last three seasons. Bob has been working in the National Hockey League for 33 years, which includes a 15-year player career and 18 additional years in management. We feel very lucky to have someone so qualified and experienced in house. With that, I’d like to introduce and congratulate the next General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks, Bob Murray.
First of all, I would like to thank Michael, the Samueli family and Brian Burke for the faith in me that I can take over from Brian and lead this team in the right direction from here going forward.
Obviously, we’ve had great success here and Brian has guaranteed me that he will help in going forward and continuing the success that we’ve had. There are only 30 of these jobs available and it’s an honor, a privilege and exciting for me to come here and take over. I can’t wait to start. I’ve been taught properly by Brian and we will go on the same way as we had from the beginning.
People worry about transition when things happen. From day 1, in the hotel up in Ottawa when Brian and I took over this organization, he has included me in everything we’ve done, all of hires, all of our trades. I’m inheriting a great coaching staff and an outstanding Assistant General Manager in David McNab. The players are not Brian’s players, are not my players, but our players. That is why this is just a natural transition. I don’t see any problems with this whatsoever.
Coming here and working for this family because this is a family organization and that is something you must consider. I have a wife and a daughter and the only way that I could move forward was with the blessing of my wife and daughter. The Samueli family just makes that so easy to do. I also would like to thank one other person and that is Doug Wilson in San Jose for his unwavering support in the last 10 years since I left Chicago. Unfortunately now, we are direct rivals. We will get to that immediately.
On becoming a General Manager once again
From the day I was let go in Chicago, it’s been a goal because obviously Chicago did not go very well. One of the first phone calls that day was from Brian Burke and the phone call the next day was from Brian Burke telling he would hire me immediately. His goal was to get me back in the saddle. He’s led me through this and I’m excited. I can’t wait.
On his philosophies compared to Burke’s
I think we think the same way. That is why it worked so well in Vancouver and worked here. We discuss things and talk them out. We’re going to continue to do that. When he gets his next job, which I’m sure is not going to be very far away, I look forward to our daily phone calls and they will continue. We see the game pretty much the same way.
On what he feels needs to be done with the Ducks at this point
We are an older team, a veteran team and have a lot of people who are unrestricted free agents at the end of the year. We just have to get concentrated on hockey now. If they have success, they’ll success off the ice as well on the ice. That is the biggest message I can give to them.
On considering contract extensions for players during the season
That has been planned. Brian and I have been talking about that. We told David McNab last week, okay starting planning. We had a date at the end of November where we were going to start addressing the situations and we going ahead with the same plan. We’re going to start talking to these people. We wanted to get the season underway first and didn’t want to bother them early in the year. As you can see, we’ve had a real tough schedule to start. We’ve played as many games as anybody else in the NHL. We got a little break here in the last little while. They’ve got it and now we’ll address them in situations.
On the salary cap of the team
We also have a plan on that respect. We’ve talked about things we could and couldn’t do going forward. It’s in the control of the players. They are going to dictate to us what happens next. They are a veteran and I know they wait for playoffs to come around, but you have to make sure you get their first. That is something I am going to address with them immediately. We have to get better and again, they’ll control what happens from here on in. They always do. Players always control things.
On the timing of the transition
To be honest with you, Brian Burke started on me after I got from Russia. He said ‘Okay, you have to start spending more time with Michael Schulman because when I make my decision I want you to be the next General Manager, if I so choose to leave’. He pushed me and pushed me. I come and I go here and do my business. I never really spent much time. He pushed me the whole time to spend more with Michael. I didn’t know what had gone on. Brian didn’t tell me when he had made his decision. You knew it was tough. It was tough on Brian. He was agonizing over this. I’m glad he’s finally come to it for him and his family. It is family reasons and everybody in this organization understands that. I hope it works for him. He didn’t tell me when he made his decision, which I was a little upset with him in that, and that was because Michael and him agreed upon that. The two of them did all the talking. I had nothing to do with it until Sunday night.
The Ducks made an announcement today that falls on the toughest decision I’ve ever had professionally in my life as far as what to do next. I’ve been wrestling with a decision on what to do next career-wise based on some family factors. There are no job issues here. The Samueli’s are absolutely marvelous people to work for. Michael Schulman is a great boss. We have a good team. It’s a great community. I’ve been treated marvelously here, but I’ve got children that are three time zones away and I have two little ones here. I don’t see any of them enough.
I told Schulman on November 1 that it was not my intention to sign a contract extension, which is the decision that the Samueli’s have been waiting for. I want to stress that this is my decision that has held this up. The Samueli’s haven’t done anything here that is not in reaction to what I’ve undertaken. I think that is important for people to keep in mind. I said to Schulman, we should talk about what to do next. I’ll do whatever you people want. I’ll stay on through the end of the year, I’ll stay on for a set period of time, I’ll step up, I’ll step down, you tell me what you want to do because I am the one that has triggered this whole thing. We all knew Murray was the guy that we felt should take the job. There are other qualified people on staff, but Murray has been my right-hand man here. He’s been involved in every decision. We’ve made the playoffs seven straight years together, Murray and I, working in here and Vancouver. We all felt that he was the right guy. The general feeling was if he is going to be the guy, he’s going to step behind the wheel anyhow, then the sooner the better. We have lots of important decisions facing this hockey club and let’s do it sooner rather than later. I said ‘That is fine with me’. I’m not in a position to complain about timing or protest about it. I just gave my input what made sense. Today Bob Murray is the new General Manager of the Anaheim Ducks and I wish him every success. I think he’s the right guy for the job. I’ll help him any way I can for as long as I am here and beyond.
I certainly wish the organization well and the Samueli’s well. I want to thank three groups and I’m not saying goodbye today. I’ll give you a longer, sappier speech sometime in the future. I’m not saying goodbye. I work for Bob Murray now and I’m going to do what I’m told to do until I sort things out. But I want to thank three groups. First off, ownership here, the Samueli’s like I said they are marvelous. They treated us like family. They are the best owners in pro sports. That goes for Michael Schulman. He is the best boss I ever had. He’s a wonderful man. I want to thank our hockey staff, hockey operations, our players, our coaches. This group has done everything we’ve asked them to do. They’ve been the most successful group in the NHL the last three years and I want to thank them. I want to thank the fans. I’ve been treated like gold here. It’s been the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make. I support everything that has happened here today. I look forward to continuing good things for the Ducks and then I’ve got to sort out what I do next.
I’m going to get asked right away, what is next? The answer is I don’t know. We just reached this decision over the last 48 hours and I think that is a pretty exemplary job managing the news until the morning. The way that Schulman left it was that at some point, he would file a document with the Commissioner of the National Hockey League giving me permission to negotiate with other teams. He indicated that timeframe was a week or thereabouts. Obviously, I’m not going to press on that. What I’m going to try to do is help Murray here and then try to get a little bit of time off with my family. That is the news for today. I want to thank everybody. I want to thank the Samueli’s and I want to wish Bob Murray nothing but the best.
On being a highly sought after free agent GM
Well, there is only job opening in the National Hockey League today, so I don’t know about being sought after. Part of the timing consideration of this is that it’s no fun for GM’s who are in trouble and there is a guy out there that is available. I remember when I was a rookie GM in Vancouver and Glen Sather got let go in Edmonton. It was like being on a beach and knowing there is a great white shark out there. I hope that this situation does not change any other GM’s situation. But I’m not sure what the job market is in November for a GM. We’ll find out, but I don’t know what it is.
On his family
I have four older kids and they all live on the East Coast. I go back two weekends every month and visit them, but I still don’t them enough. When I’m gone, I’m leaving behind a 4 1/2 year old and a 2 1/2 year old. I don’t think it’s been fair to either group. This is my 11th year doing that commute, going coast to coast. I think it’s time if I get a chance to get in the same time zone, I’m going to take it.
On encouraging Murray to spend time with Schulman
I said the same thing to Michael Schulman. I said ‘You should start spending time with David McNab, David Nonis, Bob Murray, Randy Carlyle and get a better handle on what is going here and what the transition might look like’. It was more a worst-case scenario, if I did decide to go, you should be prepared to have some succession plan. Most teams don’t think about this stuff. If the GM got hit by a bus, everybody would like, ‘What do we do?’ I said ‘If I do walk in and say that I don’t intend to return, you should be equipped for that’.
On the shape he leaves the Ducks for Murray
People who are leaving a job tend to want to leave monument and talk about what a great team they left. The guy coming in wants put to point out all the holes in the hall. We were doing our evaluation a week ago. At the 10-game mark, we went 0-4 then 1-5 and then went on a bit of tear. Then you try to reevaluate at the 20-game mark and so on. We have as good a defense as anyone in the National Hockey League. We have the best money goaltender in the National Hockey League. We have the best checking line in the National Hockey League and two of the best young players in the National Hockey League. I think it’s a pretty good hockey club. That is part of my decision. If I felt a major overhaul was needed here, then it would be harder to leave. I believe I have delivered here and I believe that I’m leaving a team that is in good shape. There are cap issues. It’s not like Bob Murray is inherited a walk through the park. There are cap issues. Hardly any of the defensemen are signed after this season. That is an issue that has to be addressed. I think we were able to restock the pipeline as far as prospects this summer at the draft. Having five picks in the top 42, I think we needed to add some organizational depth and we did that. I think I’m leaving Bob a pretty good team, but he’s going to have challenges. You always do.
On reasons for starting the transition so quickly
To me, ownership gets to make that call. In other words, if you are the employee that is creating the issue then I think you’re obligated to help solve the problem. If they had said to me we want you to stay on until January 1, I would have done that. If they said, stay through the end of the season, I would have done that. Their sense was if we’re going to make that transition, why not do it now? I agreed. I had no problem with it. If they had said 60 days, I would have done that. I’m an employee and if they had said they wanted it that way, then I would have done it that way. But I think this makes sense. If Bob Murray is going drive this bus, then give him the keys now.
On his future options
This should Bob Murray’s day. All the speculation about what happens next, we can do that some other time. I haven’t gotten that far. I’ve been a Team President before, is that something I would look at? Probably not at this point. I like making the player personnel decisions. Probably nothing else, but I’ll leave it at that. It’s too bad it couldn’t be Bob Murray’s day. It’s too bad I’m not in Russia or something myself right now and then we could right about Murray and then write about this stuff tomorrow. This is not as important as Bob’s story today.
On his salary left with the Ducks
I’m going to try to get off the payroll as quickly as I can once I’m told it’s the appropriate timeframe. I don’t want to draw any pay here after I don’t have a useful role. Once they tell me it’s time to start looking, I’ll start looking in earnest. I’d like the answer to be that sometime in the near future I come off the payroll. They get that call too. It’s ownership’s call. If they tell me, they want me to stay 45 days, I’m staying for 45 days.
On his new advisory role with the Ducks
Basically I told Bob today, I said first things first, ‘Do you want the keys to my car?’ He doesn’t have a company car, so I thought it was only fair that I’d offer him the keys to my car. I have a car at home I can drive. He said ‘No’. I said ‘Do you want my office?’ It’s a little bigger than his office. He said ‘No’. I said I can move my stuff right now before the press conference if you want. He said ‘No’. He’s the boss. I said ‘Alright, then tell me what you want me to do?’ I said ‘Do you want me to go to Des Moines this weekend? Do you want me to pro scout somebody? We have teams coming in here, do you want me to advance scout? What do you want me to do?’ I’ve been a GM for awhile. I haven’t worked for anyone in awhile like this. I’m going to have to sharpen some of my other skills that I used to have, some amateur scouting and some other stuff I guess. I basically said ‘You get through your press conference and tell me what you want me to do’. I like Des Moines. If he tells me to go to Des Moines, I’m going to Des Moines.
On addressing the players
I haven’t yet. I think Bob is talking to them after practice. I don’t intend to address them as a group. I’ll speak to them tomorrow. My typical thing on a non-gameday, will be to come in early, have a coffee and be around the players and talk to them individually. I addressed this whole situation with them in our preseason meeting. They know exactly what is going on. I don’t think this will come as a shock to anybody. They all like and trust Bob Murray. I think it will be a seamless transition. I really believe that. That is certainly my intent. Some stuff is weird. I have to sit in a different seat Friday night at the game. I’ve always sat in that same seat. That is the GM’s seat, so I have to move now. That is going to be strange. I have to park in a different spot, all that stuff.
On relief from the decision
I knew someone was going to ask me that. I guess a little bit. Telling Michael Schulman that I didn’t want to come back was hard because of how well I’ve been treated here. I couldn’t even do it. At first I stumbled through it and stalled. I said ‘I told you November 1, but I didn’t say it was going to be written in concrete’. He basically said ‘If you reached a decision, I think I deserve to know what it is’ I said ‘Okay’. I even had trouble doing it. Fifty-three years old, I had trouble telling him. I was like a little kid. So yeah, some relief, some uncertainty. Someone said ‘You know, you’re going to be the most sought after free agent’. Well I don’t know that. I don’t know what is out there. I don’t know what happens next. I’ve worked without a safety net before. When I worked at the NHL, I told Gary Bettman I wanted to get back to the team side. He said ‘I’m looking for your replacement right now’. That was after I came back from Nagano in ’98. He said ‘This job can’t be a parking lot for out of work GM’s, so I’m looking for your replacement now, so you better find a job’. He’s right by the way. It was five months without a safety net then too. It’s nerve-wrecking. I have six kids, I had for then. I think sometimes if you have faith in your ability, then you can do that. I said Gary ‘Well, I am leaving. I want to get back on the team side’. I was a finalist in Atlanta and got the job in Vancouver in ’98. That is when this coast to coast commute started with my kids. I told them that day you won’t lose one day with your dad and 11 years late they haven’t. They lost today. I was supposed to be there today and I as order to fly back. That was one day, but I’ll make that back up.
On if winning the Cup in 2007 impacted this decision
No, there wouldn’t have been any decision without that. I would have had to continue to do the flying and the commute. There was no way I would have the nerve to ask to go back somewhere if I hadn’t won a championship here. I think that would have taken a lot more nerve than I have. That validated me. That justified my asking. In other words, if I hadn’t delivered I think it’s a real different equation.
On speculation of his next job
I’m not going to answer any question on any possible destination. The stories tomorrow should center on Bob Murray, not Brian Burke. He’s the new GM here. In the next week or so, things will probably become clearer as far as the timeframe.