The Brian Burke
era in Anaheim is finished. It's Bob Murray
's turn now.
Burke, the now former Ducks' executive vice president and general manager, has decided to take on a different role within the organization, citing family reasons. Wednesday, he officially handed over the titles and responsibilities he has held for three-plus seasons to Murray, who has been the Ducks' senior vice president of hockey operations during that same time span.
Murray has worked under Burke since 1999, when he was hired as a professional scout by Burke, then the GM and president of the Vancouver Canucks
. He previously served as the GM of the Chicago Blackhawks
from 1997-99 after spending two seasons as the Hawks' assistant GM.
WHAT FANS ARE SAYING
"Murray will have his hands full during this season..."
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Burke's four-year contract with the Ducks expires at the end of the season, but Ducks CEO Michael Schulman said he will stay on as a special consultant until the transition phase is complete. At that point Schulman will send a letter to NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman saying Burke is free to talk to any NHL team about future employment. Schulman anticipates that won't be for a week or two.
Burke has long been rumored to be the front-runner to take over the GM job in Toronto that is currently being filled by Cliff Fletcher on an interim basis. Richard Pedddie, the president of Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment Ltd., the Leafs parent company, admitted Wednesday that the club had asked the Ducks for permission to talk to Burke earlier this season; a request that was denied. Peddie refused to say more because of the possibility of tampering as Burke is still employed by the Ducks.
Burke is also currently the GM of the U.S. National Team for the 2010 Winter Olympics.
"We think the same way, but that's why it worked so well in Vancouver and here," Murray said. "We discuss things and talk them out and we'll continue to do that until he gets his next job, which I don't think is very far away."
Burke is best known for being the first general manager to bring the Stanley Cup to California. He put together the Ducks team that won the Cup in 2007 by beating the Ottawa Senators
in five games.
Schulman said Burke is leaving the job for family reasons. He has reportedly been looking to move back east, where he has four children from a previous marriage.
"Burke has done so much for this organization and we care about him and Jen (his current wife) and they're sadly leaving, but we accept his decision as being in the best interest of his family," Schulman said. "And, that after he helps us with the transition, he'll be free to talk to other teams about employment."
Murray said he doesn't anticipate any problems during the transition period because Burke has included him on every organizational decision since Murray was hired on July 14, 2005. Burke took over the Ducks less than a month earlier.
"There are only 30 of these jobs available and it's an honor and privilege and exciting for me to come in here and take over," Murray said. "People worry about transition when these things happen, well from Day One, in a hotel room in Ottawa when Brian and I took over in this organization; he has included me in everything we've done.
"I am inheriting a great coaching staff, an outstanding assistant general manager in David McNab. The players are not Brian's players or my players, they are our players. This is a natural transition. I don't see any problems with this whatsoever."
Burke agreed, saying the players "all like and trust Bob Murray
. I think it'll be a seamless transition. That's my intent."
Murray knew that Burke had been wrestling with his decision to either sign a contract extension or leave the organization for some time. What he didn't know is that on Nov. 1 Burke finally told Schulman that he has decided not to come back and would be willing to do whatever the organization needed.
Schulman, on Burke's request, had been monitoring Murray for the past couple months. Meanwhile, Murray, on Burke's request, was spending more time talking with Schulman.
When Burke told Schulman of his decision, Murray was the natural choice as his successor. Murray accepted the job Sunday.
"I felt Brian deserved more time as he was wrestling with this decision for good reason," Schulman said. "Since that time, with encouragement and support from Brian and a great deal of time with Bob Murray
, we identified him as a top candidate to replaced Brian in the event he decided to move on.
"We feel very lucky to have someone so qualified and experienced in house."
Murray is fully aware of the situation he's inheriting.
The Ducks, currently second in the Pacific Division with 19 points (9-7-2) behind San Jose (13-3-1 for 27 points), are facing salary-cap problems with a glut of players, including five of their top six defenseman, unsigned after this season.
"We think the same way, but that's why it worked so well in Vancouver and here. We discuss things and talk them out and we'll continue to do that until he gets his next job, which I don't think is very far away." -- Bob Murray on his relationship with Brian Burke
"We're an older team, a veteran team. We have a lot of unrestricted free agents at end of the year," Murray said. "We just have to get concentrated on hockey now. If they have success, they'll have success off the ice as well as on the ice. That's the biggest message I can give them."
Added Burke: "It's not like Bob Murray
is inheriting a walk in the park. Hardly any of the defenseman are signed after this year and that is something that needs to be addressed. I think I'm leaving Bob a pretty good team, but he's going to have challenges. You always do."
Murray said it's been in the Ducks' plans to begin negotiating new contracts for some of their 14 potential unrestricted free agents. That won't change.
"Brian and I have been talking about that," Murray said. "We told David McNab last week to start planning. We have a date in November to start addressing the situations. We're going ahead with the same plan."
He also said they have a plan to deal with the cap issues, but put the onus on the players to sway those decisions.
"We talked about things we could and could not do going forward," Murray said. "I was always told that it's in control of the players. They are going to dictate to us what happens next. They are a veteran team. I know they kind of wait for playoffs to come around, but you have to get there first and that's something I'm going to address with them immediately. Players always control things."
Murray, who spent 15 seasons as a defenseman for the Blackhawks and was twice an All-Star, said it's been his goal to get back into the GM's seat ever since he was let go by Chicago after the 1998-99 season.
"One of the first calls that day (he was fired by the Hawks) was from Burke and the call the next day was from Burke telling me he would hire me immediately," Murray said. "His goal was to get me back in the saddle. He has led me through this and I'm excited. I can't wait."
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