There’s not a lot to say about the games this weekend. They beat Columbus, but it would have been a problem if they had not. And the goalies are not yet where you need them. Bernier came through with a reasonable recovery in Pittsburgh, but not before again giving up early goals. He has some lingering psych issues, in my opinion, from being burned out not last year, but the year before. Deal with those asap.
Meanwhile, the first nominee for the Ballard Memorial Award is: Brian Burke. Brian came in shouting about truculence, and other words I don’t understand, and then proceeded to trade away the future for Phil Kessel. Today, even the defenders of that trade see it to be a total shambles. Everything else he did after that is coloured by that one trade. And eventually, instead of truculence, he ended up standing for bear hugs in the corners, and had more interest in July parades of naked men than in managing the hockey operations (nttawwt). To be fair, it was a very difficult time in his life, but he was more than a failure: He left the franchise in terribly weak shape. My own read is that he was hired with the expectation that he would quickly turn things around. I’m sure they wanted another Cliff Fletcher, who would trade with a stupid management group, and steal their quality players. Anaheim was not stupid, and would not trade Getzlaf for Stajan. The NHL today is a lot smarter, across the board, than they used to be. So he signed Beauchemin from Anaheim, and he would have been okay if he stuck to what he was good at. But he was in too deep, and tried to do it himself. He’s not Doughty, and he can’t do that. He signed Komisarek, same story. These were good B-level defencemen, who thought they now had to be “A” level. He traded for Phaneuf, who never lived up to his potential in Calgary, or Toronto. He turns out to be another B defenceman, but hyped by Burke, and eventually paid (by Nonis), at the A+ level. And that was the story. Having promised the quick turnaround, in an NHL where fools would not give him their treasures, he resorted to plan B. He hired and acquired misfit B players, and crossed his fingers that they would gel and become an A group together.
When things did not work out, Burke started shuffling the deck, hoping that some magic ingredient would materialize, and give him the elusive chemistry he hoped could transform the group. Versteeg was a head-scratcher. As were others. And he constantly provided distractions from the game, apparently auditioning for Don Cherry’s job with his commentary. But Cherry has an impish charm, where Burke just seems like a boor. I don’t know the true reasons for his abrupt dismissal, and maybe there was more to it, maybe not. But his eventual dismissal was assured from the moment he promised the quick turnaround that did not build through drafting.
In the end, Burke does not win the award. The team was weak before he came, and he got one playoff appearance out of them in a shortened season. He likes to dwell on that, but I didn’t see any sort of dynasty forming there. And Nonis took Burke’s flawed strategy and pushed it to its conclusion. But he played his part.