Dreger: Leafs in ‘Ongoing Discussions’ With Sean Burke

It’s been just five days since the Leafs relieved Dave Nonis of his general manager duties but as you might expect there has been little shortage of speculation as to who the Leafs’ next GM might be.  One of the more heavily rumored names has been that of Sean Burke, who since 2008 has served in a myriad of roles for the Arizona Coyotes.  Today, those roles include serving as the Coyotes goaltending coach as well as assistant to the general manager Don Maloney.  However, Burke has been given permission by the Coyotes to look for employment elsewhere and he’s not expected to be back in the desert come the start of next season.  TSN’s Darren Dreger put some gasoline on the Leafs’ GM search fire today, tweeting “[Brendan] Shanahan requested and was given permission from the Arizona Coyotes to speak with Sean Burke earlier this week.   Ongoing discussions.”

Burke is perhaps more well-known for his success as a goalie coach than in the front office.  Over the years, he’s garnered a lot of well-deserved praise for his work with the likes of Ilya Bryzgalov, Mike Smith, Devan Dubnyk, and Thomas Greiss.  However, Burke has more recently worked in the Coyotes’ front office and it seems that he is at the very least tantalized by the thought of serving in the front office of another NHL team, perhaps even as the GM.

So is he a fit for the Leafs?  Well, maybe.

It really all depends on what sort of role he wants to fill or where he sees himself fitting in with a team like the Leafs.  Or anybody else, for that matter.  Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman says the Leafs will pursue Burke, but “not for the GM position”.  When writing about what the future has in store for Toronto, TSN’s Bob McKenzie says “it remains to be seen” what role Burke might fill if hired by Toronto.  Darren Dreger previously noted that Leafs would look for an “experienced GM”.  Burke certainly has experience, but not as a GM per se.

In other words, it doesn’t look like Burke is a strong candidate to fill the role of Leafs GM.  Things can change, of course.  If Burke impresses Shanahan in their talks, it’s no stretch to say they could get something done.  But perhaps more likely is Burke taking on a more supplemental role if he were to be hired by the Leafs.  That said, the role of GM in Toronto seems to be supplemental in itself these days. 

Among those let go by Toronto this past Sunday were goalie coach Rick St. Croix and Director of Player Development Jim Hughes.  Burke certainly has a resume worthy of making him the next goalie coach for the Leafs.  But when he was first hired by the Coyotes in 2008, Burke was given the title of “Director of Prospect Development”.  So he could be well-suited to take on the role left open by Jim Hughes as well. 

Again, it really comes down to what sort of role Burke is looking to fill.  Is he willing to leave Arizona just to become a goalie coach for somebody else?  Is he willing to take on a smaller role if it’s the right fit?  Are the Leafs “the right fit”?  These are all questions that we don’t have answers to, so all we can do is speculate.

Burke is certainly an intriguing name though, and now that the Leafs and Burke are known to have had talks together it’ll be interesting to see if anything comes of it.  Brendan Shanahan made it clear in his Monday press conference that if the Leafs think you are a good hockey mind that can provide some sort of value to the organization then they will make room for you regardless of what other roles are already filled.  It’ll be interesting to see if the Leafs view Burke as someone who provides that kind of value, whether Burke thinks the Leafs are a good fit for his services, and ultimately it will be interesting to see if something gets done between the two sides.

It should be a fun off-season.