A little over three years ago, I wrote an article about the General Managers of the Leafs, Raptors, and Rock. The Leafs had just hired Brian Burke as their new GM, and it seemed that the Toronto media had already decided that he was going to save the team; in fact, I facetiously referred to him as Our Saviour for a while after that. Bryan Colangelo had been the Raptors’ GM for a year or two, and had done a pretty good job of turning around the mess that Rob Babcock had left behind. The Rock still had Mike Kloepfer as GM, and the team sucked.
My article suggested that the Rock needed to get rid of Kloepfer and hire themselves a “Brian” who would overhaul the team and make them not suck, which Burke and Colangelo were obviously about to do with the Leafs and Raptors. One of the suggestions I gave for who could take over was Terry Sanderson, and another was Jamie Batley. Ironically, less then four hours after I posted that article, the Rock did fire coach Glenn Clark, who was at least part of the problem, and Batley was hired as coach. The rest of the problem was solved at the end of the season when Mike Kloepfer resigned. A month later Sanderson was re-hired as GM. The next season (2010), the Rock went to the Championship game and in 2011, they won it all. We’re now midway through the 2012 season, and the Rock are tied for first place in the Eastern division. I’d call that mission accomplished.
I could pat myself on the back for predicting the Rock’s next course of action (kind of – I suggested Sanderson though I said it was unlikely), but the original point of my article was lost. It wasn’t so much that the Rock needed a new GM, it was that the Rock needed to do what the Leafs and Raptors did and replace their rookie GM who screwed the team up with a proven veteran who could turn it around. The Rock did that, but the Leafs and Raptors haven’t had nearly the success that we all envisioned when Our Saviours came to power.
In the 3 seasons prior to Burke’s being hired, the Leafs had 91, 83, and 81 points and missed the playoffs every year. In the two full seasons since, they had 74 and 85 points and missed the playoffs every year. This year they’re on pace for 83 points and missing the playoffs.
They don’t have any first-round draft picks for a couple of years because of the Kessel trade, so the rebuilding process will be continuing for a long while.
Update: My timing was off. The picks involved in the Kessel deal were for the last two drafts, so that’s done now. Thanks Faisal for the clarification!
Bryan Colangelo was hired by the Raptors in February 2006, six years and a week ago. In the first couple of years, Colangelo looked brilliant. The Raptors finished first in the Atlantic division the very next year, and Sam Mitchell was named Coach of the Year and Colangelo Executive of the Year. The Raptors lost in the first round of the playoffs, but made the playoffs again the next year. They lost again in the first round, and then things went south quickly. They haven’t made the playoffs since and haven’t really been much of a threat at all. Last season they were a hopeless 22-60 and this year they’re not much better at 11-25.
Barring miracles, the Leafs and Raptors are not likely to win championships during the Burke / Colangelo eras. I’m not suggesting firing them now, though I think the Colangelo era has run its course and unless the Raptors start turning things around on the floor very soon, Colangelo should be done at the end of the year. I don’t think Burke has done a terrible job; he’s acquired some players who have been great like Phaneuf and Lupul. The fact that the goaltenders play like Turk Broda one week and a turkey sandwich the next isn’t entirely Burke’s fault. I’d give him another year or two to right the ship but unless obvious improvement is made, he’s gone too.
Three years ago, I said that the Rock needed to find their Brian, and they did. Now the Leafs and Raptors need to find their Terry Sanderson.