Leafs fire Burke, promote Nonis

Saying they wanted a change in leadership, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fired president and general manager Brian Burke.

Leafs fire Burke, promote Nonis
Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke attends the year end press briefing in Toronto on Tuesday, April 10, 2011. The Leafs are making a stunning move just days before the regular season is expected to start.A source tells The Canadian Press that Burke is out as general manager of the NHL team.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young

THE CANADIAN PRESS

TORONTO — Saying they wanted a change in leadership, the Toronto Maple Leafs have fired president and general manager Brian Burke.

The NHL club has appointed Dave Nonis the team’s new general manager.

Nonis was Burke’s second-in-command in Toronto. The two have a long history after working together in Vancouver before coming to the Leafs.

The news comes just days before the lockout-shortened season is about to begin.

Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment president Tom Anselmi made the announcement today. He says Burke will remain with the Leafs as a senior adviser.

Burke held the Leafs job for just over four years. The team missed the playoffs in every season under his watch.

The Maple Leafs are coming off a disappointing 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference.

They made a head coaching change late last season, hiring Randy Carlyle to replace Ron Wilson.

Before being named GM and team president in November 2008, Burke spent three-plus seasons managing the Anaheim Ducks and guided them to a Stanley Cup win in 2007.

He also previously served in the NHL front office as senior vice-president and director of hockey operations and as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks and Hartford Whalers. The 57-year-old Providence, R.I., native was also GM of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.

He arrived in Toronto as a somewhat divisive figure. Some fans hailed him as the saviour of the franchise, while others worried he wouldn’t be capable of rebuilding a team that hasn’t appeared in a playoff game since 2004.

Burke wasn’t afraid to make some big moves during his time with the Maple Leafs.

He landed Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Calgary in 2010 and the defenceman was named team captain. But Burke’s most hotly debated trade was a 2009 deal with Boston, when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection.

The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.

Nonis won’t have much time to prepare.

The league and union reached a tentative agreement to end the 113-day lockout last weekend. Pending ratification from both sides, the NHL is targeting a 48-game season that would begin Jan. 19.

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