Deconstructing the 'Brian Burke to Dallas Stars' Speculation

Bruce Bennett

The Stars have been speculated to be a good fit for the former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager. Just how logical are the assumptions being made here?

Scrolling through my Twitter feed the other day, a little tidbit from James Mirtle caught my eye.

In the responses to this Tweet, which you can find by following the link above, Mirtle seems to imply there are those around the league who believe Dallas Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk is on a short leash after four consecutive non-playoff seasons, three during his tenure, and that a move involving Nieuwendyk would leave a Burke-sized hole in the front office.

Now, Mirtle is a well-sourced reporter with The Globe and Mail in Toronto, so I am sure he's actually heard something along these lines. Still, this is the only wisp of smoke with regards to this story line, so I hesitate to even call it a rumor. Perhaps speculation is a better term at this point.

Nevertheless, it is an interesting question to ponder now that the Toronto Maple Leafs have cut ties with Burke, at least in terms of the hockey operations side of their organization. Burke, for all his sandpaper in the media, is a tremendously respected name in hockey circles, and as Bruce Garrioch pointed out, it likely won't be long before he has a new job. Could that job be in Dallas, either alongside Nieuwendyk or in place of him?

First, a note on Nieuwendyk's situation. While three non-playoff seasons on his watch and four total is obviously a situation any organization would look to rectify, the Stars general manager was essentially handcuffed in terms of off-season moves until the team was purchased by Tom Gaglardi during the 2011-12 season. It's difficult to hold him entirely responsible for the team's struggles given those circumstances, and with several recent draft picks/acquisitions panning out well, it's hard to believe Nieuwendyk is on an overly-short leash at this point.

Still, as noted above, Mirtle definitely implies both that the spot for Burke in the Stars organization would be as general manager and that Nieuwendyk may be on the hot seat.

Which brings us to Burke himself. His ties to the Stars are most apparently with Nieuwendyk, as he inherited Nieuwendyk as a special assistant to the general manager in Toronto. The two worked together for a little less than a year before Nieuwendyk left for Dallas.

Regardless of what Mirtle implies, it wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine Burke could be brought on in a similar position to what Nieuwendyk held in Toronto. The most pressing question of many, at least for that particular situation, is would Burke be willing to take the back seat after so many years in charge.

The other tie Burke has to Dallas is through Gaglardi himself.

First, a brief pull from Mike Heika's excellent profile of the Stars new owner from 2011.

It was reported he was ready to install Brian Burke back with the Canucks when he and Beedie were pursuing that team, and he has talked to former Ottawa Senators president Roy Mlakar about possibly becoming president of the Stars.

Gaglardi, remember, was involved in a long legal battle over the purchase of the Vancouver Canucks, starting with the purchase of the team by the Aquilini family, which was completed in 2004. Burke was let go from his general manager position with the Canucks following the 2003-04 season.

There's also this little tidbit from this Vancouver Sun column, though I'm not sure how much weight I put in the opinion of "rambunctious music talent guru" Bruce Allen.

Allen, in particular, was emotional. "There are two Brian Burkes," he said. "He puts on a tough-guy face but deep down he's a pretty decent guy.

I've already contacted my pal Tom Gaglardi (new owner of the Dallas Stars) and suggested he hire Brian as a front-man to get hockey on the sports pages down there. He could sell the game better than anyone I know in a market that needs help."

That obviously has quite a different implication than Mirtle's Tweets, implying more of a business-side role in an organization. I'm not sure Burke would be interested in such a move, however, as he's mostly associated with the hockey operations side of the league.

Would the move make sense for Dallas? It's hard to say with just the hint of speculation out there. Burke certainly has a distinguished pedigree in the NHL, including a Stanley Cup, and the Stars have shown an inclination to include experienced hockey minds, including former general manager Bob Gainey, in their front office.

Like I said, this is mostly an exercise in hypotheticals without any real rumors out there to speak of. But with Burke's ties to Gaglardi and Nieuwendyk, it is definitely an interesting question to ponder.

One final caveat: Other than the speculation originating north of the border, there have been absolutely zero rumblings in Dallas about Nieuwendyk being on the hot seat. When Gaglardi was taking over as the new owner of the team back in 2011 it was speculated then that Nieuwendyk could quickly be on his way out, yet instead he received a vote of confidence from Gaglardi that continues to this day.

There is also this fact that seems to be left out of these speculation discussions: Brian Burke was less successful in Toronto, with a far bigger budget, than Nieuwendyk has been in Dallas -- in nearly the exact same time frame. Are we convinced he'd actually be an upgrade?

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