I like Brian Burke.
I especially like the way he is always pulling on his necktie. Brian Burke looks just like a 12-year-old kid who is standing up at his sister’s wedding and can’t get over the fact that it’s hot and this stupid, useless piece of cloth is slowly choking him. The top button on every monogrammed dress shirt owned by Brian Burke gets as much work as a fountain pen.
I also like the way he speaks as if he has 24 hours to live. Only people cursed with an exotic and fatal disease or people about to get fired (and with a great buyout) operate with as much candor and certainty as Brian Burke.
So the question is: what is he going to do over the next week?
Burke can’t say. The NHL draft starts Friday night in Montreal. Big draft day deals are pitched and consummated on the draft floor. The layers of groundwork already put in place are nobody’s business. Even for the garrulous Burke, there isn’t much to say.
But there is much to think about. This is Day 1 of Brian Burke’s great adventure week, the first installment in what will likely go some way in showing the body of work he will render in Toronto.
Over the next seven days he should get word on the destination for Jonas Gustavsson
, the much-heralded Swedish goalie who could challenge for the number one job by Christmas.
He may have traded up or down or way up in Friday’s opening round.
He might have been able to move the contracts of Pavel Kubina and Tomas Kaberle and since Kaberle’s reasonable deal as well as cap space are Burke’s two prime assets, he will likely use them.
He will certainly be asked to take over some overpriced assets, none more so than the Rangers’ Wade Redden who is owed $39 million over six years. Another former Senator Peter Schaefer is making $2.3 million with Boston. Like Redden, his name has been linked in media reports with the Leafs. All that and a bit more than a buck in change will get you a Tim’s coffee.
Burke will have to decide whether he should find a new home for Alexei Ponikarovsky who is probably at his peak right now. Same deal with Matt Stajan. Twenty-goal forward Mikhail Grabovski appears headed for arbitration. He has talent but in musical terms is a solo artist.
And, a week from today, Canada Day, Burke will enter the free-agent sweepstakes where he might find a hardrock defenceman in Mike Komisarek
, a sniper in Mike Cammalleri, a gifted yet still underachieving defenceman in Jay Bouwmeester or top-end offensive talents named Marian Gaborik, Marian Hossa and Martin Havlat. Henrik and Daniel Sedin, acquired for Vancouver by Burke, remain a distant possibility.
It will be, for Burke, a three-ring circus of trades, draft and free agency and because it is Brian Burke, because of his impatience and the way he pulls irritably at his collar, you have the sense that he is in a chronically intemperate man.
It’s what makes him such a delight to watch