After only seven months on the sidelines, Brian Burke is back in an NHL front office. The Flames are in the early stages of a rebuild, a scenario Burke is very familiar with. His last NHL executive gig required him to oversee a similar situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. How did he do with the Leafs? We’re still trying to figure that out. However, one thing is for sure – Burke is not afraid to make bold moves to better his hockey club. His fearless approach to making trades and his belief that any team can rebuild quickly by exploring all options may serve as valuable tools for the Flames organization throughout the next few years.
Burke doesn’t have a lot to work with if you compare the Flames current situation with some of their competitors in the West. He doesn’t have a great core in its prime like the Los Angeles Kings, Chicago Blackhawks, St. Louis Blues or Anaheim Ducks. Burkie and his Flames lack the promising young crop of future impact players you will find on the Edmonton Oilers, Colorado Avalanche, and to some degree, the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars. All that being said, the Flames need not give up and accept the long and winding rebuild many have come to believe is the only way to succeed. In Burkie, the organization have a specialized thinker who isn’t scared to add key ingredients utilizing a variety of player acquisition avenues.
Burke is a Stanley Cup winner. In 2007, his Anaheim Ducks powered their way to a championship, largely fueled by Burke’s rebuilt defence corps which included Hall of Famer Scott Niedermayer, future Hall of Famer Chris Pronger, and Francois Beauchemin, a beneficial compensation acquired during the salary dump of past-his-prime Sergei Fedorov.
Burke inherits some bad contracts in Calgary. Funny enough, two of those contracts belong to players he once traded to the Flames, although, the contracts themselves were not his doing. Luckily for the Flames, by the end of next season, C Matt Stajan, W Lee Stempniak, and W Mike Cammalleri will all be off the books, for good. Say what you will about Stajan, Stempniak and Cammalleri as players, the fact remains, as members of the Flames they’ve been unable to achieve success. Their time in Calgary is likely over very soon. Consider Miikka Kiprusoff’s decision to retire and the Flames are looking at $17 million in freed up cap space for next season. As soon as next summer, the Calgary Flames might be a very different team.
Burke has a reputation. He is vocal, boisterous and unafraid to take calculated risks that may alter the very design of his team. His style is not a reflection of most GM’s he’ll compete with in the next few years but that doesn’t mean he won’t outsmart them all. Brian Burke is one guy you never really want to count out. He’s very smart.
The downside is, Burke’s aggressive style can work against him. In the past, he’s made some good moves and some bad ones. As a calculated gambler he can speed up a slow rebuild process or prolong one, if he’s not careful. Nothing is a sure bet, and Burke’s willingness to make bold moves leaves him susceptible to paying the hefty price associated with risky, rushed transactions.
Burke believes in building from the back end. He’s proven this many times over throughout his career, and he will likely approach the Flames’ rebuild with the same desire to acquire an elite defenceman. In fact, he’s probably already on the phone receiving prices on some of the game’s best young defensive talents. It is what he’ll trade away to get a young defenceman that makes Burke the unpredictable, imaginative general manager who brings excitement to the NHL.
With three 1st round picks in one of the deepest drafts in recent history, the Flames have already begun to plant the seeds for a solid future. Burkie inherits a team that may not be as far away from success as they appear. The next few years will be interesting and exciting for Flames fans, because Brian Burke is an exciting general manager. As long as he doesn’t hire Ron Wilson, there is no need to panic.