From Comcast SportsNetTORONTO (AP) -- Brian Burke's brash and outspoken style wasn't a good fit for the new corporate owners of the Toronto Maple Leafs.The Maple Leafs fired their general manager Wednesday with the NHL season set to resume this month following a tentative settlement ending the lockout.Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment President Tom Anselmi said at a news conference that longtime Burke assistant David Nonis will fill the job. Burke will stay as a senior adviser.Anselmi acknowledged that four years without a playoff berth factored into the decision. But ultimately, he added, ownership wanted a different look at the top.Canada's largest telecommunication companies, Rogers Communications and BCE Inc., took control of the Toronto Maple Leafs and NBA's Toronto Raptors after the 1.3 billion deal closed in August."Brian had a style and we knew what we were getting when he was hired a number of years ago," Anselmi said. "This is really about a change in leadership voice and leadership direction."Anselmi fired Burke on Wednesday morning, the announcement startling many. Nonis was among those who didn't see the firing coming."Brian, when we were talking this morning, said I get it, ownership is changing,'" Anselmi said.The new board of directors let Burke go before the Maple Leafs might have had a chance to make the playoffs in a lockout-shortened season. Toronto has not made the playoffs since Burke was hired in 2008. The club last played in the postseason in 2004 and hasn't won a Stanley Cup since 1967.Anselmi stressed that the personnel Burke put in place will make for a seamless transition. Nonis, without Burke's outsized personality, said there won't be a great player turnover.Before joining Toronto, Burke spent more than three seasons with the Anaheim Ducks, leading them to a Stanley Cup title in 2007. Nonis worked with Burke in Anaheim and when Burke was general manager of the Vancouver Canucks. Nonis also replaced Burke in Vancouver, compiling a record 130-91-25 as general manager.Burke's most debated move was a deal with Boston in 2009 when he acquired forward 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.Toronto forward Joffrey Lupul called the timing of the dismissal "weird.""We haven't made the playoffs in however many years so the blame is falling right now on the GM," he said. "He's the guy the brought a lot of us in and we didn't get the job done."
LOS ANGELES – The Cubs drafted and developed Ian Happ with the idea of turning him into a Ben Zobrist-type player who would move quickly through the farm system and surface as a versatile big-league contributor and/or legitimate trade chip.
With Zobrist sidelined because of a sore left wrist, the Cubs got their first look at Happ playing second base in The Show during Saturday’s 5-0 loss at Dodger Stadium. That kind of depth – plugging in a 2015 first-round pick while a World Series MVP rests – should ultimately propel the Cubs over the course of a 162-game season.
Even as the Cubs stutter-step through a 25-23 start, there are enough choices for the best defensive second baseman on the team and a National League Championship Series co-MVP (Javier Baez) to sit on the bench.
“We know that the talent’s there,” Zobrist said. “It’s not like having any one or two guys out of the lineup is a big drop-off for us because of the talent that’s there. And we know that just because we have a lot of young players doesn’t mean that they’re not extremely capable of doing the job as well.”
Zobrist – who’s reached base in 23 straight games and emerged as a new leadoff option with Kyle Schwarber struggling – felt something on an awkward swing in the first inning of Friday’s 4-0 loss to the Dodgers. Zobrist played through it that night and called it a “day-to-day thing” that didn’t require an MRI.
Facing Clayton Kershaw on Sunday after back-to-back shutouts will be a game-time decision.
“It’s tough,” Zobrist said. “We just haven’t strung together enough quality at-bats to score runs the last two games. It’s not just because of us. They’ve pitched well. Their pitchers are pretty hot right now. They’ve spotted up. They’ve gotten early strikes where they needed to and then gone to work pretty well on us.
“The task doesn’t get any easier tomorrow with Kershaw. We just got to keep trying to chip away.”
Here are the top Chicago sports stories from Saturday: