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THN.com Blog: Burke's managerial mettle put to the test

Brian Burke helped bulid the Ducks into a Stanley Cup champion, but has run into cap troubles this off-season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

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Brian Burke helped bulid the Ducks into a Stanley Cup champion, but has run into cap troubles this off-season. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

There is no disputing the fact: camp is a four-letter word.

It’s the place your parents banished you to – one with no amenities and swarms of bugs – so they could have “mommy and daddy” time.

It’s the “affordable” vacation you took with your family, sleeping on back-breaking air-filled mattresses, wiping ash off hot dogs that fell into the fire pit and constantly fighting off ever-persistant bugs.

And, in hockey circles, it’s the time when players, fans and media endure the drudgery of rehearsals, and the working out of bugs, all the while itching for the real thing.

Despite having a “get out of jail/camp free” card in the form of no formal deal with the Ducks, Teemu Selanne signed a pro tryout contract Friday. The 38-year-old unrestricted free agent is poised to sign with the Anaheim as soon as GM Brian Burke frees up the requisite salary cap space by trading defenseman Mathieu Schneider.

Burke will move Schneider at some point; he says he had several offers from his peers earlier this summer and now it’s a question of finding the right fit. Burke had been hoping to dump Schneider’s $5.625 million salary cap hit for 2008-09 without having to assume a contract in return, hence the waiver move. With that no longer an option, Burke’s trading acumen will be put to the test.

He says may have to wait until a potential swapping partner runs into injury trouble and becomes more desperate for help. Of course, that’s something of a poker game.

Burke’s dilemma is trying to secure a decent bounty for Schneider without absorbing much salary in return. Either way, one of the game’s leading minds – and our No. 1-ranked GM last year – is under the microscope. The hockey world is intently watching to see how deftly he escapes his self-imposed shackles.

Now that The Great One has taken himself out of the running for the GM position with the Canadian Olympic team, rumblings have begun about him being coach in 2010. I’m not sure that’s what he’s bucking for, but I have mixed opinions on it regardless.

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My gut reaction is no, he hasn’t proven himself yet as a head coach at the NHL level. While he has done a decent job so far with the Coyotes, he’s still in development as a head coach and a stint as someone’s Olympic assistant – say, Mike Babcock or Randy Carlyle – could be highly beneficial.

On the other hand, he is The Great One, the best player in the history of our game, an icon who has been a winner all his life. That should count for something.

An added consideration is Vancouver could be the final time we see NHLers at the Games – especially if team owners have their way.

What would you do?

For me, the most ominous quote from the Board of Governors meetings in Toronto this week was uttered by Edmonton Oilers president and CEO Patrick LaForge.

“I’m praying that the Canadian dollar stops where it is and stabilizes,” LaForge said, “because obviously it affects our business big time.”

Praying? Are the state of league finances so fragile they depend mightily on the rise and fall of the Canadian buck? Our supposition is yes, the swelling of NHL revenues the past few years has had much to do with the ballooning of the Loonie and, conversely, a pinprick in the dollar will seriously deflate the business.

And if a worst-case scenario plays out – a pending dramatic drop in the cap, players’ escrow money absorbed by the owners – what bearing will it have on the union’s prerogative to terminate the CBA next May?

The Canadian dollar has dropped about five cents from par with the U.S. dollar the past few months, closing at 95.2 cents Friday.

Jason Kay is the editor in chief of The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears every weekend.

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