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Brian Burke's two-year anniversary with the Anaheim Ducks was just a wee bit different than the one he'll observe with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Monday.

There were palm trees, a gathering of several thousand fans and the Stanley Cup, which was on hand as part of a celebration of the franchise's first championship.

The general manager, meanwhile, looked relaxed and tanned as he stepped up to the microphone to address the crowd.

"I've got to tell you something folks, this is the most fun I've ever had with a team," Burke said.

These days, that fun is in short supply.

Introduced as the Maple Leafs GM on Nov. 29, 2008, Burke's plan to rebuild on the fly can charitably be called a work in progress two years in.

The Leafs have yet to make the playoffs, don't have a first-round pick until 2012 and, after bottoming out in 29th place in the 30-team NHL a year ago with 74 points, are on pace for just 71 this season.

After two ugly losses this past weekend, Toronto has a 65-75-24 record under Burke, and his team-building strategy has been curiously at odds with what has worked for most franchises since the NHL's salary cap was introduced.

With that in mind, here's a look back at the good, the bad and the ugly of Burke's first two years as Leafs GM.


Even amid all of the losing, there have been a few positives. Burke's biggest success to date has likely been overhauling the organization in goal, first by bringing in renowned goalie coach François Allaire and then in signing European free agents Jonas Gustavsson and Jussi Rynnas.

The franchise has also finally gone toward a youth movement, with just three players over 28. Burke has several young players such as Gustavsson and winger Nikolai Kulemin, on reasonable contracts beyond this season.

Signing Clarke MacArthur, the team's leading scorer, for just $1.1-million (U.S.) in late August was also a savvy move.


One of Burke's first curious decisions came three months after his hiring at his first trade deadline. With the Leafs well out of the playoffs and netminder Vesa Toskala out for the season with an injury, Burke claimed Martin Gerber on waivers.

Gerber played fairly well, the Leafs won half their remaining games and went on to finish just one win out of the draft lottery. Minus Gerber, Toronto's 2009 first-round pick could have been two to six spots higher than seventh overall (where they selected Nazem Kadri).

Burke's two free-agent signings this past July were also head scratchers. With his team desperately in need of offensive help, the Leafs GM added only winger Colby Armstrong and defenceman Brett Lebda, with both receiving generous deals given their roles.


The Leafs are currently on pace to finish with the fifth worst record in the NHL, which would mean a second consecutive lottery pick going to Boston Bruins as part of the Phil Kessel deal.

Kessel's output of five points in his past 14 games isn't helping the optics of the controversial trade, either.

Burke's strategy to deemphasize the draft has backfired in general. His mantra that "July 1 will be our draft" has resulted in signings such as Mike Komisarek and Colton Orr - both overpaid and signed for four-plus years - as the talent level of players making it to free agency has cratered in a big way the past two seasons.

The majority of teams have locked up their young stars for the long term, with 16 of the top 20 scorers in the NHL this season all still playing with the team that drafted them.

One-quarter of the Leafs' cap space, meanwhile, is dedicated to the early July signings of Komisarek, François Beauchemin, Armstrong, Lebda and Orr, who have a combined five goals this season.

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