Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke believes no one man has all the answers.
And so he has brought in another voice.
It belongs to Dave Nonis, a 42-year-old Burnaby, B.C. native who takes over immediately as Burke’s senior vice-president of hockey operations.
Burke insisted the move would have no effect on Jeff Jackson, assistant general manager and vice president of hockey operations and Joe Nieuwendyk, special assistant to the general manager.
“This doesn’t mean anyone is leaving or is being relieved,” he said. “We’re adding a layer of expertise and experience. For Jeff Jackson and Joe Nieuwendyk there is no change.”
“If you look at the successful organizations, one guy isn’t smart enough to answer all the questions,” Burke said.
“You need two or three or four or five.”
In Nonis, Burke has found a cautious sidekick, someone whose core beliefs are the same as his but whose operating style is different.
“I’ve worked with Brian a long time,” Nonis said. “I’ve known him since I was a teenager and I’ve worked with him for 12 years. Although we don’t see eye to eye on certain issues, that’s probably why we work so well together.”
While Burke knew Nonis as a star for the University of Maine, the two first worked together at NHL head office in New York. Burke was the league’s czar of discipline, Nonis was director of hockey operations.
The duo was reunited in Vancouver when Burke became president and GM of the Canucks with Nonis as senior vice president and director of hockey operations. When Burke moved on to Anaheim, Nonis became the youngest GM in club history in May of 2004. Nonis lasted for four years in Vancouver before he was fired after the Canucks failed to qualify for the post-season. He and Burke were reunited with Nonis taking on a role as advisor in Anaheim. When Burke opted to move to Toronto, he made no secret of his desire to bring Nonis with him.
“This is a momentous occasion for us.” Burke said. I think Dave Nonis is a really bright, capable executive in our league, a guy has done virtually everything in our league.
He’s been a GM. He’s worked in our league office. His resume is very complete educationally and professionally."
Nonis said he understands the importance of working for an Original Six team and looks forward to the constant buzz generated by the Maple Leafs.
“If we have the patience and the nerve to do what has to be done, we’ll put this team back where it belongs,” he said.
“I had just turned one the last time the Leafs won the Stanley Cup. I know how long it’s been. The biggest reason I wanted to come is the opportunity that exists here.”
Nonis readily admits that his personal style is different than Burke’s. “We’re different,” he said.
“Dave’s more low key and he has a longer fuse than me,” said Burke. “Sometimes I’d say, ‘we’re getting rid of this guy today.’ That’s usually pretty stupid and he talks me off the ledge.”