Wednesday, May 15, 2019

Sean Burke Autographed Card

I think I'll be saying this until I retire, but the Edmonton Oilers missed the boat when they chose Ken Holland as their next GM last week, choosing another proven salary cap era mismanager instead of new blood like Sean Burke.

Learning the ropes as an exec with the Phoenix Coyotes, Arizona Coyotes and Montréal Canadiens, Burke also plied his trade as GM of Team Canada at several World Championships and the 2018 Olympics - the one where he scoured the globe trying to put together the best possible team of non-NHLers to try to stop the KHL-playing Russians from winning gold.

The five-time IIHF medalist as a player managed to build a roster that won bronze (better than Finland, Sweden, the United States, Slovakia and the Czech Republic), so one can objectively say he did a fairly decent job.

Former goalies are showing they have an eye for talent and management, as the likes of Burke, Ron Hextall (rebuilding the Philadelphia Flyers post-Paul Holmgren), Holland (three Stanley Cups in the pre-cap era) and, to a lesser extent, Patrick Roy (Memorial Cup) and Garth Snow (rebuilding the New York Islanders post-Mike Milbury) have all shown to be able to build decent rosters pretty much from scratch.

I know if I owned a team in, say, Seattle, I'd take a serious look at him to build my team.

As many of you know, Burke was impactful to me as a young goalie in the late 1980s. His exploits with the Canadian National Team and the New Jersey Devils set an example that many Canadian goalies wanted to follow. Sure, Roy was the reason I donned the pads in the first place, but the fact that even in Montréal he was seen as an unattainable God-like figure meant a guy like Burke - who participated in CHL/Team Canada clinics and moved around a lot by changing teams often - was more present, in a way.

And he showed that one didn't have to be a record-setting Conn Smythe winner to be an All-Star and a Hart and Vezina candidate. These days, my favourite goalies are Jaroslav Halak, Ben Bishop, Corey Crawford and Marc-André Fleury, but in the 1980s and 1990s, it was Roy, Burke and, a peg below, Stéphane Fiset. No one else came close.

Here is the 6'4" Burke in the uniform that, to me, best represents the first third of his nearly 20-year career, the Devils' red-and-green classic, on card #66 from Upper Deck's 1990-91 Series 1 set:
He signed it in blue sharpie in one of his few trips to Montréal in the past couple of years.

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