Brian Burke fired by the Toronto Maple Leafs

Jonathan Willis
January 09 2013 10:54AM

So that just happened.

Not that we needed confirmation, given that this is Bob McKenzie, but here's Sportsnet's Nick Kypreos:

The timing of this almost defies belief. The NHL lockout is all but officially over, and soon teams are going to go from idling, as they have been all fall and winter, to full speed as they rush to get their teams on the ice and pull off any last minute trades to address injuries and weaknesses. It's a very strange time to dismiss a general manager, and a difficult time to line up a replacement who can hit the ground running. One would assume that Burke's lieutenant, Dave Nonis, will be left in charge of the team but there's been no word yet on who the Leafs are looking at as a replacement.

As for what this does to the rumoured interest of the Leafs in Roberto Luongo, here's Kypreos again:

There's been a lot of speculation that a disagreement between management and ownership on the acquisition of Luongo might be the reason for Burke's departure, but that doesn't really track cleanly for me. Luongo's been available since last summer, and the new ownership has been officially in place since fall - if there were substantive difference between Burke and his employers on that front, one would imagine it could have been dealt with during a less frenetic time for the team. 

Burke surived a little under four seasons without guiding the Leafs to a playoff appearance. He also survived a lockout where he was seen as one of NHL commissioner Gary Bettman's most loyal supporters. It's going to be interesting to learn what exactly prompted the team to part ways with him now, just over a week before the likely start of a shortened NHL season.

Post-script - surprise seems to be the order of the day for hockey men and media alike:

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.