In a hyper-sensitive society where political correctness is the only acceptable way, or so it seems, they are few and far between in the NHL who dare speak their mind no matter what the effect could be. Many players, coaches and general managers are being accused of having “canned answers” when meeting with the press and that upsets more than a few people. But one guy who never was afraid of speaking his mind is the current Calgary Flames’ President of hockey operations, Brian Burke.
Having served most prestigious positions in hockey, from players’ agent, GM to President of NHL teams, GM of the US national Olympic team and Executive Vice-President and Director of Hockey Operations in the league’s front office under Gary Bettman, few are more qualified than him. And yes, he has won a Stanley Cup as GM of the Anaheim Ducks, for those who would be tempted to downplay Burke’s achievements.
Vancouver Canucks’ fans will remember some of his most iconic quotes:
Even TSN made a Top-10 quotes from Brian Burke:
Burke calls out Habs’ fans and media
In his most recent rant, Burke didn’t shy away from stepping on people’s toes, even if it happens to be in Montreal. A (loud) minority of fans and media are very vocal about the fact that the Nashville predators are still playing hockey, competing for the NHL’s Holy Grail against the Pittsburgh Penguins, while the Canadiens’ players are posting pictures of themselves vacationing. Whether it be Brendan Gallagher and Shea Weber golfing together, Nathan Beaulieu on a beach with his beautiful girlfriend or Carey Price with a muddy ATV, some fans and media personalities, particularly those who have had to hold back all season talking about THE trade, are out in force.
The flavour of the month is now Predators’ GM David Poile, who for the first time in his 34 year career as a GM (15 in Washington, 19 in Nashville), has managed to bring a team he managed to the Stanley Cup finals. Prior to him, the “model” to follow was Dallas Stars’ GM Jim Nill, but that cooled off rather quickly. But here’s what Burke had to tell the disgruntled Bergevin bashers this past Thursday while being interviewed on TSN690 radio by former Canadiens Chris Nilan:
“Montreal is a different market. In Montreal, you’re stupid twice. In Toronto, you’re only stupid in English. In Montreal, you’re stupid twice, there’s two languages.”
“Marc Bergevin has done a great job in Montreal. He’s a great person and it’s ridiculous the attacks that he’s undergoing right now. It’s absurd.”
“Bergevin is one of the great judges of talent in the modern era. There’s a handful of guys that can really watch games and pick players out. He’s one of them, Rick Dudley’s one of them, Bob Murray’s one of them.”
“What’s haunting him here is the progression of Nashville through the playoffs. Nashville is not winning because of P.K. Subban alone. They’ve had the best goaltender in the league in Pekka Rinne, they’ve been the hardest working team in the playoffs, and that’s what’s enabled them to succeed. The notion Shea Weber for P.K. wasn’t a good deal because P.K. is still playing, how does that work? How does that work?”
“They give you a blindfold and a cigarette, any last words and they shoot you in the head. And they hire a new GM. And that day will come for Marc Bergevin like it comes for all of us, that’s how this business works. But to suggest right now that the things he’s done, that it’s warranted, just doesn’t make any sense. It just proves that some people need hobbies.”
I know, I know… those people will come back accusing Bergevin of excelling at getting bottom-six players. They will sarcastically call the Canadiens’ GM “Bargain Bin”, and they will throw everything in sight towards him or anyone who dares standing up for him or his work. The fact of the matter is that those people don’t know anything about what’s going on behind the scene when running a NHL team. They only see the tip of the iceberg and yet, make judgements based on that.
Sometimes, don’t you wish that team GMs had the guts to do what Burke himself did, at the request of the NHL, and published a diary of the talks that they’ve had with other teams’ GMs, which I highly recommend you read? Let me give you a few examples:
- Remember when then GM Bob Gainey traded young defenseman prospect Ryan McDonaugh to the New York Rangers for Scott Gomez, in hope to plug a hole at centre? What if Bergevin published such a diary and we found out that, in order to get Matt Duchene, the asking price from Joe Sakic was Mikhail Sergachev?
- What if Bergevin published, in a diary, that he had contacted the Columbus Blue Jackets for Ryan Johansen but was told no, they weren’t interested in any of the team’s defensemen, that in their opinion, they didn’t have an equivalent to Seth Jones?
- Minnesota Wild GM Chuck Fletcher, when talking about the trade he made for Martin Hanzal, who was also rumoured in Montreal, said: “In hindsight, geez, I wish we wouldn’t have done that.” You see, those picks could have really come in handy right now. They could’ve used them to strike a deal with Vegas to make sure a player like Niederreiter or Dumba doesn’t get taken in the expansion draft, or they could have used them to entice another team to take an expensive contract with a no-move clause off their hands, like Pominville.
Sometimes, the deals you don’t make are the best deals out there. But don’t you wish we would know what’s being offered and demanded in trades that don’t happen? Something tells me that fewer disgruntled fans and media in Montreal would have the audacity to criticize publicly, particularly that they would be judged by everyone if they did. Go Habs Go!