Brian Burke is back in the media and not shy about commenting on situations that indirectly involve him. Burke is the recently fired Pittsburgh Penguins president of hockey operations. Kyle Dubas is the favorite to assume one of the Penguins’ front-office roles that the Fenway Sports Group opened when they terminated GM Ron Hextall and Burke after two years on the job.
Burke, who returned to punditry last week, took aim at Dubas on the Kyper and Bourne show, a native podcast to Sportsnet 590 in Toronto. The video is not viewable by U.S. viewers, but colleagues at Calgary Hockey Now transcribed it for us.
“Kyle met with the media and was clear, ‘Look, I may not be back.’ I think that was the first time, according to (Maple Leafs president Brendan Shanahan), he confronted that fact,” said Burke. ” (It was) ‘Hey, we might be looking for a new GM.’ I think right there, the math changes.
“If you’re a team president, right there, the math changes. He’s your right-hand man, the most important guy in the organization, and has just told you, ‘I’m not sure I want to come back.’ That was the first fly in the ointment, if you will.”
In the days following the Toronto Maple Leafs’ second-round loss to the Florida Panthers, Dubas gave an honest and emotional press conference on locker clean-out day. Dubas’ contract was set to expire on June 30. He said he had to speak with his family before accepting any offer to continue as the Maple Leafs’ GM. Despite continued contract negotiations and Dubas’ later pledge to be all-in, Shanahan said, “I just felt differently.”
He dismissed Dubas a couple of days later.
Penguins ownership, the Fenway Sports Group, has interviewed and is believed to have offered at least the Penguins’ GM job to Dubas. FSG gave him the holiday weekend, perhaps more time, to decide.
Burke sided with Shanahan and Toronto ownership, Maple Leafs Sports Entertainment, and didn’t seem to find Dubas’ uncertainty acceptable. Further, he criticized Dubas for asking for more money and decision-making power.
“I will tell you from experience if you’re in the last year of your contract and you just got beaten in a playoff series that everyone expected you would win, and you want to discuss that after you’ve had lengthy discussions framing these issues — You want to put two new issues on the table … ‘Oh, by the way, I know we’ve gone down the road a long way, but I want to talk about power, and I want to talk about money,’ that’s really a problem. That’s a huge problem. Even if it’s not a problem for Shanny, which it would be, it’s a problem for your owners.”
MLSE declined to offer Dubas a new contract last summer, opting to see how the 2022-23 season unfolded. Reports and Shanahan indicated talks began later in the season. By Shanahan’s admission, Dubas sent him a note a day before termination stating that he was “in.”