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Don Cherry: Brian Burke was '4 years of a failure'

CBC

Don Cherry wasn't afraid to backpedal from the high hopes he had for Brian Burke in Toronto.

In the season's first installment of Coach's Corner on Saturday, the Hockey Night in Canada star commented on the recent firing of the former president and general manager of the Maple Leafs.

He said Burke didn't show the same truculence and pugnacity he vowed to instill in the playoff-starved club.

"When he first got here, I was the guy. Remember I'd come on, 'Brian Burke really comes here. Boy, the Leafs are gonna be something.' And when he comes, truculent, we're gonna have a team. Truculent, pugnacious," Cherry said, loosely quoting Burke's mandate early in his tenure with the Leafs.

"A week later, he turns right around, instead of getting tough guys, Canadian guys — remember in Anaheim he had all Canadian guys? — he starts getting U.S. college guys, Fins and Swedes."

Cherry pointed out that the move of demoting enforcer Colton Orr to the minors was a glaring sign that Burke's actions were contradicting his words.

"When I saw Colton Orr sent down, who he loved, I knew what the problem was. He was loyal to [former head coach Ron] Wilson," Cherry said. "A GM has got to give the players the players he wants.

"These guys got four years," he added. "Four years of a failure"

He also approved of the decision to name Dave Nonis as Burke's replacement.

"Nonis is the perfect guy to fill right in. You can't get a new guy in there. He knows everybody. He was a GM before."

Host Ron MacLean brought up that Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment president Tom Anselmi hinted it was Burke's style that caused friction within the organization. Cherry dismissed that notion.

"All he needed to do was make the playoffs."

Also, Cherry finally showed his scorecard on the National Hockey League labour dispute, declaring the owners the winners of the 113-day lockout.

"If this was a boxing match, I would say eight-to-two for the owners," Cherry said. "What did they gain? They really gained nothing. And a lot of people say that the NHL lost a revenue of a million dollars. No they didn't. They didn't pay the player $800,000 [US]. The players lost $800,000 for their pay."

MacLean asked Cherry if he got the impression that the owners "won't quite mess with the players quite the way they thought this time, even though they may have won it."

Cherry said he expected NHLPA executive director Donald Fehr to hold firm against commissioner Gary Bettman.

"I knew Fehr would go right to the very bottom and get the last laugh," Cherry said. "They lost, Bettman won."

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