Ducks Executive Vice President and General Manager Brian Burke spoke to the media this afternoon on the day when Ducks players met as a team at Honda Center for the last time this season.
Among the many topics Burke covered were his disappointment in the way the Ducks season ended two nights ago, a loss in six games to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Quarterfinals. Burke also discussed the rumored interest in the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring him for their vacant General Manager's job and the state of the Ducks as they go forward and prepare for next season.
Burke opened with a lengthy opening statement and then took questions from reporters. Part 1 | Part 2
Brian Burke Transcript
First off, I’d like to thank the media for coming together on short notice.
I’d also like to thank the media coverage locally all year. We fight for coverage in this competitive environment, and the coverage we receive is balanced and fair. We’re grateful for that.
Third, I’d like to congratulate the Dallas Stars on their playoff victory and wish them every success. I hope they can go all the way. They deserved to win the series. It’s a class organization and I congratulate them.
Finally, before I start talking about specifics about our team, I want to thank our fans. We think we have the best fans in the National Hockey League, the season ticket holders and sponsors in particular. It’s a rocking building and a tough place to play for a visiting team and we’re grateful about that.
To summarize this season, it would be a dramatic understatement to say we expected to be here today. It would be a very dramatic understatement to say we didn’t expect more as a team. It would be a very dramatic understatement to say we’re not extremely disappointed with the result. We had much higher expectations for our hockey club and we certainly expected to play deeper into the spring. It’s not an acceptable result for us.
That being said, I don’t think it would be appropriate or fair to start shoveling dirt on this group. You can easily make the case that they’ve been the best team in the National Hockey League for the last three years. We’ve played eight playoff series in three years, averaged 103 points, won a division title, won a conference championship, won a Stanley Cup title. That commitment and that performance level and that effort deserves and requires our praise and recognition from us that these guys are special and have done a lot.
"It would be a dramatic understatement to say we expected to be here today. It would be a very dramatic understatement to say we didn’t expect more as a team. It would be a very dramatic understatement to say we’re not extremely disappointed with the result. We had much higher expectations for our hockey club and we certainly expected to play deeper into the spring. It’s not an acceptable result for us." - Brian Burke
What can’t get lost here today is our disappointment in this result can’t overshadow our pride in this group and what they’ve accomplished. It’s a wonderful group of young men.
There was a time here not too long ago where 102 points and home ice and a first round exit, there would have been talk about having some kind of rally or parade for that. But we’ve raised the bar here a lot. It’s a crushing blow to lose in the first round and that’s an important part of the development of our franchise, and I feel really good about that. We’re bitterly disappointed that after a 102 point season we exited after a short time.
It was a strange year. It started right after we won everything. We had two Hall of Famers retire, which has never happened in the history of the NHL. I don’t mean to tell the Hall of Fame what to do, but I think Scotty and Teemu are pretty safe there. Both those guys retire, and then we started the season after surgery to two major players, Jiggy [J.S. Giguere] and Samuel Pahlsson. Normally that type of thing is done in the offseason and because of the circumstances, we weren’t able to detect the problem with them or deal with it until the season began. Then we went to London, and that seemed like a great idea when the league asked us to go back in February. We didn’t know we’d play as late as we did. But if the league called and asked us to go again, we’d go again. It’s an honor to represent the league like that. My mistake was playing those games on the way back in Detroit, Columbus and Pittsburgh. That was dumb and that was purely my initiative, trying to knock off some road games. Then guys come back and we have to create cap space for people, we have suspensions.
It seemed like all year long there was some hurdle in front of us, sometimes big and sometimes small. And yet these guys still recorded 102 points. I am proud of that fact. Our motto is “No complaints, no excuses” and I think the guys lived up to that this year. You didn’t hear much bitching about anything, and I think we had some stuff we could have whined about.
I believe in the core group of this team. I believe that we’ve got to make some changes, obviously, to reflect the fact that we were eliminated in the first round. But the blueprint that we’ve put in place here and followed is sound. I still think most teams would give their eye teeth to have our defense and our goaltending. That’s what we’ve built our team around. We’ve got some great young offensive players. Now we’ve got to have meetings with coaches and players and focus on what we need to do to get back to a higher performance level in the playoffs. This is certainly not going to be a teardown job. This is not a team that needs to be rebuilt or stripped down. We’ve got to figure out what we need to add to the core of the team. This is still a team that’s in a Stanley Cup window when it comes to contention for a championship, in my opinion.
Those meetings will start today. I’m going to talk to the team here shortly and Randy is going to talk to them and then we’ll have individual player meetings tomorrow and go from there.
A couple of other notes: The Portland Pirates continue in their quest for a Calder Cup championship. We take winning on the minor league level very seriously as well. We’re currently up 3-1 in the first round against the Hartford Wolf Pack. Hopefully we can finish off that series off and move on. We’re proud of the job the Pirates have done. In this same three-year period they’ve been to the playoffs twice.
"No NHL club has asked permission to speak to me at this point in time. Not one team has asked, nor have I asked for permission to speak to any other NHL team at this time. Unless or until those two things change, or unless or until I arrive upon terms of a contract extension here in Anaheim, I have no intention of further discussing my situation." - Brian Burke
The World Championships are coming up and we’ve had a number of players asked to play. The World Championships are an important and historic event in the hockey world. Not so much in America or Canada because historically the tournament is played in Europe. This year, for the first time ever, the tournament is being played in Canada. We’ve already had several players asked to play. Jonas Hiller has been asked by the Swiss team, Ryan Carter has been consulted about a role with the U.S. team, but not offered a spot yet. We expect Team Canada to make a request later today for a minimum of three players and we wouldn’t be surprised if Sammy Pahlsson doesn’t get the nod.
This is an important event in the hockey world, but we’re thrilled we weren’t able to participate in it for the last couple of years. We wish we weren’t able to this year, but that being said, we expect our players to answer the bell if their country asks them to. I’m very proud that I’m involved with Team USA as an American General Manager. I’m very proud of my role in that. That team begins training camp in the next day or so in Portland, Maine. Then it moves up to Eastern Canada.
The Entry Draft is coming up in Ottawa. I’m not taking any shots at anyone today, but from our perspective, we have the 12th pick in the draft and also having the same pick in the second and third rounds. It’s a very deep draft and we’re going to make sure we make sound selections at that time.
Before I take questions, I want to talk about my own situation, which has generated an inordinate amount of interest, in my opinion. I can tell you the only comment I intend to make about it. I’ll take questions afterwards, but I don’t intend to expand on what I’m about to say. I’m under contract for one more season here in Anaheim. That’s a fact. I’ve had discussions with ownership here about an extension. Those discussions will continue. This is a wonderful place to work. We have great owners. The Samuelis are just awesome people to work for. No NHL club has asked permission to speak to me at this point in time. Not one team has asked, nor have I asked for permission to speak to any other NHL team at this time. Unless or until those two things change, or unless or until I arrive upon terms of a contract extension here in Anaheim, I have no intention of further discussing my situation.
On resigning Corey Perry:
Our top priority right now is Corey Perry’s contract. There is no more pressing issue for this hockey club than getting him resigned. We’re working through the mechanics of that right now. My belief is that Corey Perry wants to stay here and in the appropriate time, we should get something done.
On Scott Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne returning:
As far as the timing of Scotty and Teemu, last year they told me right away they were probably not going to start the season. I think critics will say it cost us the division. I think without them we don’t have home ice, we don’t finish with 102 points and we don’t have the same chance we had in the playoffs. I was grateful to get them both back, but I think it does bring disruption and I think the uncertainty in a cap system and the flexibility it deprives you of, I think the timeframe is sensible. I would start on that by meeting with both players and asking them what their thoughts are.
On why there has been so much interest in the possibility of the Toronto Maple Leafs hiring him:
I clearly haven’t sought it. You have to understand how the tampering rules work. There has been no contact from any NHL team. You’re not allowed to do it. The penalties are very severe for the teams and they’re very severe for the individual involved too. Why has it generated this must interest? You should ask the people who are writing about it. I haven’t commented to anyone about it. I think when people are talking about you for jobs, it’s flattering in our business. But you’d have to ask that question to someone who is going on an on about it on the air.
On how optimistic he is that he will sign an extension:
[Ducks CEO] Mike Schulman and I have had discussions. I talk to him almost daily about player personnel matters all the way down to some of the minutiae. We had had extensive discussions, whether they result in an extension or not is too early to say. How optimistic am I? It’s too early to say.
On whether he will be in Anaheim when training camp begins:
I don’t know. I don’t know.
On the state of the Ducks:
We didn’t have the same urgency that we had a year ago. I don’t know if that’s complacency or the age of our team. We’ll have to get to the root of that and the only way you can do that is sit down an exhaustively analyze what happened. We couldn’t score goals like we could a year ago, and I think having Corey Perry being injured for a chunk of the last part of the season contributed to that. We’ve got to find a way to generate more offense and not try to win 2-1 or 3-2 every night. I think that’s the primary thing and whether Bobby Ryan is ready to step up or we have to go into the free agent market or we make a trade, we have assets to trade.
On the difficulty of trying to repeat:
This makes the last 10 finalists that have done this. Ottawa was eliminated and we were eliminated. This “Stanley Cup hangover” is no urban legend. It’s a very real thing. It’s very difficult to get your players to climb Mt. Everest, work that hard, totally empty the tank to try to win and then come back and try and do it again. No team that has played in the Final in the last five years has been able to win even one playoff round, and four of those teams have missed the playoffs altogether. In a cap system it’s more and more difficult to repeat. It’s that simple. We have to go back and figure out the problems and how to fix them.
This “Stanley Cup hangover” is no urban legend. It’s a very real thing. It’s very difficult to get your players to climb Mt. Everest, work that hard, totally empty the tank to try to win and then come back and try and do it again." - Brian Burke
On the possibility of trading the selection in the NHL Entry Draft:
We’ve already offered it to two teams to move up. With my record of being active at the draft, I’m not afraid to roll the dice. I’ve done it twice on the [draft] floor, but the fact that both of those deals worked out pretty well for my club have made it harder and harder to make a deal. When we had the second pick in the Sydney Crosby lottery, we wanted to get Bobby Ryan, but we knew that with the ratings of some other teams, we thought we could move down and still get him. But I couldn’t get any other teams to talk to me. In ’93 I traded up and got Chris Pronger [with Hartford] and in ’99 I traded up and got the twins in Vancouver. It’s gotten more difficult, but we’ve already put the pick in place to two teams and we’ve said that we’d like to move up. It’s a good draft and we like the caliber of the player we’re going to get at 12, but we like the caliber of some of the higher players a little bit better. We have two third round picks and we’ve got Edmonton’s second round pick as well, so we’ve got some assets.
On which Ducks free agents he’d like to resign:
A lot of that will depend on the meetings in the next couple of days. I couldn’t answer that today. I’d probably seem more prepared if I’d been more prepared to speak to the media on this day. I really believed that this team could make more noise in the playoffs. We need to spend more time on questions like that.
On if the salary cap going up would be a factor in resigning Corey Perry:
It might. We don’t know when we’re going to get the calculation from the league. I think we get it literally on June 30 or the morning of July 1. It might make it very simple.
On the fine against Scott Niedermayer for missing training camp:
I’m not sure how big of a story it is. The collective bargaining agreement contains a provision that says a player who is under contract and misses training camp will be fined 1/275th of his salary. Now, it probably doesn’t translate well on television, so let me explain. There’s about 190 days in the season. So, a player, if he lost a day’s pay, he’d lose 1/190th of his salary. It’s already a much lower calculation. For a guy making 6.75 million dollars, it dramatically reduces the impact of the fine by being a much smaller denominator and deluding the value of a day’s pay. That was agreed by the NHLPA and the NHL to be an automatic fine if the player missed training camp and he was under contract. We were notified by the National Hockey League to collect the fine and we did. There’s been ongoing discussions between the NHLPA and the NHL about reducing or eliminating the fine. Our position has been that this fine is in the CBA, I made the player and his agents aware of it, but obviously from our prospective if the NHL decides to enter into settlement where Scotty doesn’t have to pay anything count us in. I’m not privy to the discussions that have been going on between the NHL and the NHLPA, but there have been extensive discussions about reducing or eliminating that fine.
On if other players would sit out like Teemu Selanne and Scott Niedermayer had the Ducks done better in the postseason:
I’ll be absolutely shocked if the league doesn’t make it clear that this fine will be collected. Regardless of how the deal with Scotty’s situation, I would be absolutely shocked if they don’t make it clear that a player under contract has to come to training camp. I think Scotty was truly a unique case. Put this in perspective, after tonight 22 teams are going to be out of the playoffs out of 30. The math is really hard in league. The playoff mathematics are difficult. The average player of those 22 teams, 14 of them missed and eight more will play seven or fewer games. Our guys just played six games and we’re done. Scotty’s played about 200 of them now, 199 I think he’s played now. There’s a lot of kilometers on that odometer, a lot of miles on that odometer. This is a guy, who has had really dog years in terms of hockey year and I think he was fatigued and needed that break. I think he was a unique case. Teemu was completely different. See the fine didn’t apply to him because he wasn’t under contract. What you may see if an unrestricted guy. Forsberg did it this year and no one made a stink about it. Teemu did it this year. Scotty’s case, he was under contract. My guess is, the reason you won’t see more players do that is that whatever settlement the NHL works out with the NHLPA over this, it will be iron-clad that this fine will apply in full to any player in the future and will be collected immediately.
"We still got a lot of young players on our team. It’s not an older group by any stretch. It’s amazing to me the postmortems that talk about how we need to get younger. I don’t know how in a year a team gets old, but I guess in some people’s minds it has." - Brian Burke
On if he has a sense on what Selanne or Niedermayer will do:
No, I haven’t really talked to any of the players. I was a little sour after the game in Dallas, so I haven’t talked to any of the players other than the guys that Team Canada has asked me to pass along their interest to.
On if the team can sign Corey Perry before July 1:
We’re working on that right now. It’s very likely going to have to be after July 1.
On if there is concern that someone could sign Perry to an offer sheet:
Sure. Absolutely, but I think he wants to say.
On if one of the goals is to get younger in the offseason:
Well, a year ago I didn’t read one article that said we needed to get younger. We still got a lot of young players on our team. It’s not an older group by any stretch. It’s amazing to me the postmortems that talk about how we need to get younger. I don’t know how in a year a team gets old, but I guess in some people’s minds it has. I think economically we’re probably going to have to put in some younger players. To make a cap system work, the only way it works if you have star players and we do, the only way it works is if you can plug in some younger players who are less expensive. That’s the only way it can work if you’re going to play with stars on your roster and we have stars. You’ll probably see some younger players as a result of economic necessity.