On Dave Nonis’ Canucks Tenure, and Whether or not the Brian Burke Firing Could Impact a Luongo Trade


A younger, employed Brian Burke admires his fine handiwork as Canucks General Manager. 

According to TSN’s Bob McKenzie, Brian Burke has been fired as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Burke’s Leafs teams were pretty much consistently awful, and didn’t show any improvement over the course of his tenure (though their prospect pool is somewhat better now than it was when Burke took over), so the move by MLSE to kick him to the curb isn’t much of a surprise.

The timing of the firing, on the other hand, most certainly is.

An abbreviated season is about to kick-off, so the Leafs will have to install Burke’s successor post-haste. Former Canucks General Manager Dave Nonis – Burke’s current AGM in Toronto – would presumably be the leading candidate. 

He’d be a good one too. Dave Nonis hasn’t ever received enough credit for his steady hand as General Manager in Vancouver. Hamstrung by several bad deals signed by his predecessor early in his tenure as GM (Matt Cooke’s deal (Burke), Brendan Morrison’s deal, Markus Naslund’s deal etc.), Nonis made one absolute heist trade (ironically for goaltender Roberto Luongo) and nailed one draft (the Edler draft) and was otherwise extremely conservative.

Frankly it was, the right play at the time, and it set Mike Gillis up perfect to turn a quality core of talent into a legitimate contender. To his estimable credit, Dave Nonis stuck with his conservative strategy to the end, even refusing to give up a package of Edler, Kesler and Cory Schneider for Brad Richards at the 2008 trade deadline when his job was on the line. It cost him, but it was clearly the right move.

Really my only substantive criticism of Nonis’ tenure in Vancouver concerns his inability to find quality fill-in guys. Where Gillis has found cheap useful guys like Aaron Rome, Chris Higgins, Maxim Lapierre and Andrew Ebbett consistently, Nonis’ similar efforts with Brad Isbister, Byron Ritchie and Marc Chouinard were painful. 

Of course, Dave Nonis probably still makes a Luongo trade (he was probably going to be the "point man" on any deal between the Canucks and Leafs anyway).But the concern for the Canucks should be that this firing is indicative of some sort of big picture philosophical shift within MLSE concerning the Maple Leafs rebuilding plans.

Is it possible that Rogers, new part owners of MLSE, want to dismantle a mediocre club and go through a true rebuild? How the fuck should I know, but that’s probably not the worst plan if that’s what is happening behind the scenes on Bay Street. If that theory holds any water (and trust me: I’m not saying it does and it’s way to early to tell anyway so I’m just riffing here), it could leave the Canucks – and their high hopes of trading Roberto Luongo to Toronto for a package of futures and young roster players – out in the cold.

Holy crap. I guess the lockout is over, huh?

Update: So Nonis will indeed stay in Toronto and take over for Brian Burke as the club’s General Manager. That’s a huge relief. Also, it looks like Luongo’s trade status had little to do with the move:

Though that doesn’t mean the change on Bay Street won’t impact a Luongo trade. Jason Botchford sees the trade as more likely now:

While James Mirtle agrees and hears from a source that the idea of a Luongo trade being consummated has indeed improved: 

So Luongo’s tenure with the Canucks has officially outlasted Burke’s with the Maple Leafs. I’ll admit, I really didn’t see that one coming in June (or this morning, for that matter).