TORONTO — The Toronto Maple Leafs made a stunning move Wednesday, just days before the regular season is expected to begin.
Brian Burke has been fired as general manager of the NHL team, a source confirmed to The Canadian Press.
He held the position for just over four years. The Maple Leafs missed the playoffs in every season under his watch.
There was no immediate word on Burke’s replacement. The club has called a news conference for 1:45 p.m. ET for a “major announcement.”
The Maple Leafs are coming off a disappointing 13th-place finish in the Eastern Conference. They made a head coaching change late last season, hiring Randy Carlyle to replace Ron Wilson.
Before being named GM and team president in November 2008, Burke spent three-plus seasons managing the Anaheim Ducks and guided them to a Stanley Cup win in 2007.
He also previously served in the NHL front office as senior vice-president and director of hockey operations and as general manager of the Vancouver Canucks and Hartford Whalers. The 57-year-old Providence, R.I., native was also GM of the 2010 U.S. Olympic men’s hockey team.
He arrived in Toronto as a somewhat divisive figure. Some fans hailed him as the saviour of the franchise, while others worried he wouldn’t be capable of rebuilding a team that hasn’t appeared in a playoff game since 2004.
Burke wasn’t afraid to make some big moves during his time with the Maple Leafs.
He landed Dion Phaneuf in a seven-player deal with Calgary in 2010 and the defenceman was named team captain. But Burke’s most hotly debated trade was a 2009 deal with Boston, when he acquired sniper Phil Kessel for two first-round draft picks and a second-round selection.
The Bruins used the picks to select star forward Tyler Seguin, Dougie Hamilton and Jared Knight.
Burke’s replacement won’t have much time to prepare.
The league and union reached a tentative agreement to end the 113-day lockout last weekend. Pending ratification from both sides, the NHL is targeting a 48-game season that would begin Jan. 19.