Wednesday the Toronto Maple Leafs rocked the hockey world by terminating General Manager Brian Burke from one of the top managerial jobs in the sport. Shortly after the release, there was a press conference to introduce Dave Nonis as the new boss. Most hockey executives would be thrilled to get this promotion, but Nonis looked visibly upset, at times he appeared to be fighting back tears. As Greg Wyshynski put it, "has anyone found Nonis's lost puppy".
Yes, Nonis and Burke are friends and Dave was partially
in shock. Instead of appearing confident, enthusiastic, and optimistic; he
looked as though he was delivering the eulogy at a funeral.
Saturday morning Brian Burke finally addressed the media, and he was mostly conciliatory, expressing his support for Nonis and the team. He did so with the typical Burkie swagger, though he had a few days to absorb the shock, unlike Nonis thrown immediately into the spotlight hours after he found out. Brian Burke and Dave Nonis both claimed to be shocked at the firing, with Burke comparing it to getting hit across the head with a 2x4. The fact that so many people (inside and outside the organization) were shocked at the dismissal (at least the timing of it) does show this was completely unexpected. Even the guy replacing him didn't know until that day. It suggests something suspicious, and I would suspect that we have not been told what really happened.
All of this culminated in Dave Nonis's facial expression, which
gave the appearance of several emotions all squeezed into one. Shock, sadness,
fear, doubt, just to name a few. Does Nonis expect his own job to be in jeopardy?
I mean, if this execution was performance based, Nonis's fingerprints are all
over the crime scene. Hec, many pundits have been saying that Burke has been
more of a figure head, while Nonis has been the guy actually running the team.
If that's the case, did MLSE fire the right guy? Is Dave Nonis afraid that he won't last very long in his new job? Judging by the look on his
face, I'd say that's a very real possibility.