Buffalo Sabres: Is Brian Burke the Solution for General Manager?

Nov 7, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula reacts during a NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 7, 2016; Seattle, WA, USA; Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula reacts during a NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports /

As the Buffalo Sabres begin their search for a new general manager, could Brian Burke be what they’re looking for to get the franchise back on track?

The Buffalo Sabres‘ search for a new general manager is now underway. (For that matter, so is their hunt for another head coach.)

As noted by John Vogl of The Buffalo News, speculated candidates include Norm Maciver, Bill Zito, Rick Dudley and Chris Drury. However, while Dudley and Drury both have connections with the Sabres, it is actually Dean Lombardi — recently of the Los Angeles Kings — who is perceived by many to be the favorite.

In that respect, a recent tweet from John Wawrow makes for interesting reading. According to the Associated Press sports writer, if the Sabres are interested in Lombardi, they have yet to reach out to him.

If true, it’s possible the Sabres haven’t contacted the man who built two Stanley Cup-winning teams, because they want someone less established in the industry, i.e. an up-and-comer. However, you could argue they already went down that path with Tim Murray (who, I believe should have been given another season).

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Regardless of what approach the Sabres are taking, may we throw another name into the ring – Brian Burke. Now, if we were to tell you this idea was first mentioned by the Toronto Sun‘s Steve Simmons, it would no doubt lead to a large chorus of groans.

However, Burke is still an intriguing, if polarizing, option. As such, let’s consider his credentials.

Understandably, most people will refer to the 61-year old’s most recent tenure as general manager (and president) of the Toronto Maple Leafs. And even he will surely admit his time in Southern Ontario wasn’t particularly successful.

Burke’s reign was filled with controversy, with his acquisition Phil Kessel receiving a significant amount of criticism. There were plenty of other “highlights”, including extending Ron Wilson‘s contract despite three losing seasons, as well as repeatedly taking leave to visit troops overseas, which coincided with key free agency dates.

Ultimately though, it was about what the Leafs did on the ice which mattered most. In that respect, Burke never took them to the playoffs during his time as general manager.

In fairness to the Providence, Rhode Island native, he achieved greater successful before he arrived in Toronto. His first job as an NHL GM came in Vancouver, where he was lauded with turning around the fortunes of a floundering Canucks franchise.

This was then followed by Burke’s greatest achievement as an NHL GM, in Anaheim. While there, the Ducks won their first Stanley Cup. (And only one to date.)

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The former NHL executive vice president and director of hockey operations has enjoyed success at most stops during his hockey career. His résumé also includes winning the 1977-78 AHL Calder Cup as a player, and guiding the US National Men’s team to silver as their GM at the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Nowadays, Burke is President of Hockey Operations for the Calgary Flames. However, as Simmons points out, he isn’t really involved in making any key decisions and would prefer to be somewhere that he can have a more hands-on approach.

The question is, would he prove to be a good fit for the Sabres? In theory, Burke’s presence and voice would certainly get the franchise noticed, although Buffalo sports fans already had a taste of this with Rex Ryan and we all know how that turned out for the Bills.

However, Burke would theoretically not be under as much pressure and intense media speculation in Buffalo, at least compared to Toronto. Further, it would move him closer to his daughters, who live in Canada’s biggest city.

Overall, there is nothing to suggest the Sabres will consider Burke for the position of GM. However, if they’re going to perform their due diligence, owner Terry Pegula should at least reach out to him for a conversation.

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Undoubtedly, Burke is a polarizing figure within the hockey world. In that respect, would you like to see him come in as the new GM, or would you prefer the Sabres look elsewhere? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.