How interesting that the Senators host the Toronto Maple Leafs Thursday, just days before the hated (in Ottawa) Leafs get a makeover like they’ve never seen before.
Actually, the imminent hiring of Brian Burke is probably just what the Battle of Ontario, which has become a little stale over the past couple of seasons, needs. Long gone are the days when the Senators would dominate the Leafs in the regular season only to lose to them in the playoffs. And since there’s a good chance neither of them will be in the playoffs this season based on their performance in the first quarter of the season, don’t look for a repeat of that anytime soon.
Burke coming to Toronto makes things interesting on a couple of fronts. First of all, he’ll improve the roster and the Leafs will become more competitive and grittier, too.
But Can you imagine the potential war of words between Burke and Ottawa counterpart Bryan Murray, assuming Murray sticks around long enough to participate in them? Burke and Murray are two of the best in the league at delivering stinging one-liners and could do a lot to easily rekindle the rivalry.
Burke could point to the Stanley Cup ring he won in Anaheim and ask Murray why he doesn’t have one in more than two decades in the game. Murray could respond by saying he built the team in Anaheim and Burke was just sucking his fumes and was along the ride for the Stanley Cup. Burke could then respond by saying that if things were so great in Anaheim, why did he leave in the first place?
You get the drift.
The bottom line, though, is that with or without Murray, the Battle of Ontario is about to become much more interesting. That’s because Burke wears the black hat very comfortably and seems to have little regard for what those outside his inner circle think of him. He speaks his mind and does not dispense pleasantries very often. He’s fiercely loyal to his players and, above all, he realizes that a healthy rivalry sells.
So if you think you had good reason to hate the Maple Leafs before, wait until this guy rolls into town.
This column also appears in the Ottawa Metro newspaper.
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