The Calgary Flames need the right architect to turn their franchise around in their rebuild. That man is Brian Burke.
Burke holds the title as the Flames’ president of hockey operations. Behind closed doors, it’s undoubtedly possible that Burke orchestrates the trades. But taking into account Jay Feaster holds the title of general manager, one would think Feaster is the man behind most of the trades and player transactions. If this is the case, it should change.
Feaster did win a Stanley Cup as the Tampa Bay Lightning’s general manager. He didn’t, however, put many of the pieces into place. That club was built around players Feaster inherited: Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis, Dan Boyle and Nikolia Khabibulin. Ultimately, Feaster’s predecessor, Rick Dudley, deserves most of the credit for the 2004 Stanley Cup win.
That being said, Feaster hasn’t proven he can mold a team together; Burke has. His moves of acquiring Chris Pronger from the Edmonton Oilers and signing Scott Niedermayer ultimately led to the Anaheim Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup. In addition, albeit he wasn’t kept around long enough to see them through, he took an old and slow Toronto Maple Leafs team that finished at the bottom of the standings and turned them into a young and fast playoff team.
Burke has been notorious for making brilliant deals. He has proven he is an elite negotiator who can twist other general managers’ arms.
In Toronto alone, he has made a handful of teams’ architects look silly. In late January of 2010, he dealt a bunch of the Leafs’ spare parts – Matt Stajan, Nicklas Hagman, Jamal Mayers and Ian White – to the Flames for Dion Phaneuf, Keith Aulie and Fredrick Sjostrom. On that same day, he managed to unload the contracts of Jason Blake and Vesa Toskala to the Anaheim Ducks for J.S. Giguere. Then a couple years later, he acquired Joffrey Lupul, who scored 67 points in 2011-12, as a salary dump and puck-moving defenceman Jake Gardiner for Francois Beauchemn. Not to mention, he flipped Luke Schenn for James Van Riemsdyk and sent Tomas Kaberle to Boston for a first rounder, second rounder, and Joe Colborne.
Even Burke’s most ridiculed deal – trading a first and second rounder in 2010 and a first rounder in 2011 for Phil Kessel - might turn out to be a win for the Leafs. Kessel has blossomed into one of the Leafs’ cornerstone players since joining the team in 2009. Throughout his four seasons in Toronto, he has averaged a 34-goal season in a full 82-game season. And that’s without a bonafide first-line centre. If Kessel had a true No. 1 centre, he would likely be well into 40 goals based on what he accomplished beside Marc Savard with the Boston Bruins. At the other end of the deal, the Bruins didn’t even let Tyler Seguin play four seasons before losing patience with him. Dougie Hamilton has a lot of potential, but he has a long ways to go before asserting himself as a top-pairing defender. Jared Knight, who was selected with the second rounder in 2010, is still yet to prove he can be an impact player in the AHL.
Outside of Toronto, Burke has four moves that stick out. He made two huge draft day deals: trading up to pick Chris Pronger second overall in 1993 as the Hartford Whalers general manager and making a deal to land the second and third overall picks in 1999 with the Vancouver Canucks where he selected Daniel and Henrik Sedin. His other two big moves were his Pronger deals. In 2006, Burke dealt Ladislav Smid, two first-round picks and a second-round picks to the Edmonton Oilers for Pronger and in 2009 he traded Pronger to the Philadelphia Flyers for luca Sbisa, Lupul, two first-round picks and two conditional third-round picks.
Enticing draft history
Although scouting staffs deserve most of the credit for drafts, Burke deserves some glory for his strong track record on the draft floor. He has turned oodles of first-round picks into quality players, including Pronger, the Sedin twins, Ryan Kesler, who he drafted 23rd overall in 2003 with the Canucks, Bobby Ryan, who he drafted second overall in 2005 with the Ducks, and Gardiner, who he drafted 17th overall in 2008 with the Ducks. A lot of these draft choices weren’t no-brainers either. In 1999, a lot of scouts ranked Pavel Brendl ahead of the Sedins. Moreover, some talent evaluators pegged Benoit Pouliot ahead of Ryan in 2005.