Whether it was because of his personality or his performance, Brian Burke deserved to be fired. It’s as simple as that, really.
Let’s start with personality. The Leafs are under new ownership, being guided now by Canada’s two most powerful media conglomerates. If one or both did not like Burke's style or clashed with him or found him to not be able to play with others, then they were fully within their rights to let him go. As Leafs executive Tom Anselmi pointed out, the relationship between ownership and the GM has to be smooth and in this case it clearly was not. The timing is bizarre to say the least, but the fact they did it is not.
When it comes to performance, it’s easy to make the case that Burke deserved to lose his job. There have been very few GMs who over-promised and under-delivered the way Burke did. Burke took over as GM of the Leafs on Nov. 29, 2008 and since then his team has had a 129-135-42 record with zero playoff appearances. Not good enough.
Your trusty correspondent believes that the end came rather early for Burke in Toronto. The exact day was Sept. 18, 2009 when he acquired Phil Kessel from the Boston Bruins for two first round picks and a second-rounder. That was the day Burke traded in all the currency he had and not only foolishly accelerated the building plan, but did it with a player who had neither the results nor the personality to be a go-to guy.