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The Eh Game

Brian Burke has some advice for future NHL players: Don’t tell him you want to win the Stanley Cup

Dustin Pollack
Eh Game

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Brian Burke isn't a fan of the interview process at the NHL draft combine. (Getty Images)

Want to be drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the near future? General manager Brian Burke has a small piece of advice.

Don't tell him your goal in life is to win the Stanley Cup and be captain of the team.

"I'd like one kid to tell me they'd like to be a great dad one day," Burke said during  a panel discussion at a sports management conference he co-hosted this week. "But no they've all got the answers, they all want to win the Stanley Cup and be the captain of the team.

Burke, along with Winnipeg Jets GM Kevin Cheveldayoff, Toronto Raptors president and GM Bryan Colangelo and New York Giants assistant GM Kevin Abrams discussed the evaluation of athletes. One of the topics during their panel discussion was the now-common practice of interviewing hopefuls at the draft combine.

"I hate the interview process at the combine, those kids have been coached by then," Burke said. "We try and do our interviews starting in the fall, we go back when the season begins and we start to interview kids at the scout level in September, October and November before they've become masters of the interview.

Colangelo, Burke's basketball counterpart at Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment, agreed with regards to getting face time with potential draft picks. He says the most important part of the NBA combine is speaking face-to-face with a prospect.

"[The players] are coached, but we try and go about [the interview process] in a little bit of a different way," Colangelo said. "We ask them questions, throw them off, get them to laugh a little bit, and show a little bit of their personality and who they are.

"Some kids it's just impossible, some kids will really tell you what they want to do in life. One kid this year told us he wants to put together computers and I actually had one of my scouts say 'can you help me with my computer before you leave?' "

All four execs also spoke to the point that while talent is the starting point when it comes to evaluating a player, intangibles like medical history, character, sports IQ and psychiatric evaluations are also key in determining whether a young player is the right fit for their organization.

"You can't replace skill,'' Cheveldayoff said. "When it comes to the scouting side of things, there are two things: What he can see and what he can't see. What he can see: skill, skating, size.

"What separates the good teams from the bad teams is the amount of emphasis they place on what cannot be seen: mental toughness, attitude, do they have what it takes to win, the background, the parents, their motivation."

And all four admitted that they've made mistakes in the past. Burke and Colangelo were the only two to put names to their errors. For Burke, using a 1989 first-round pick in Vancouver to select defenseman Jason Herter from the University of North Dakota was his largest draft-day gaffe. For Colangelo, it was taking Stanford shooting guard Casey Jacobsen for the Phoenix Suns with the No. 22 pick in 2002.

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