Burke: Wilson safe as gold in Fort Knox
TORONTO -- As far as impromptu news conferences go, Brian Burke certainly didn't disappoint.
With pressure intensifying in the NHL's biggest hockey market as his team sinks in the standings, the embattled general manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs cleared the air on a number of matters Thursday.
Although he is not a happy man right now, Burke said he is not firing coach Ron Wilson and not trading defenseman Tomas Kaberle.
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"I'm very disappointed. It's very frustrating," Burke told reporters at Air Canada Centre ahead of Thursday night's game with the red-hot Philadelphia Flyers.
The Leafs are 28th overall in the NHL standings -- not where Burke envisioned his club would be on Jan. 14.
"I just hate losing," he said. "You can dissect it any way you want. It's not part of my constitution. I can't stand it, and we're going to sort it out. We're going to find people who are willing to pay the price to stay here and battle harder and make things happen."
The hot-button topic in Toronto has been Wilson's job security.
"I don't fault the coaches at all for where we are," Burke said. "I can tell you right now, there's not going to be a coaching change here. That's not been considered, discussed, whatever. He is as safe as the gold in Fort Knox."
When sports radio reporter Howard Berger followed that up by saying, "Some people would say maybe that's because you are friends." (Wilson is also the coach for the 2010 U.S. men's Olympic team; Burke is GM of that squad.)
"Some people would be idiots if they said that," Burke said.
Then there's Kaberle. The star defenseman has another year left on his deal at $4.25 million. He also has a no-trade clause. But the theory in the local media is perhaps Burke should be looking to recoup a first-round pick via a trade. The Leafs traded two first-round picks to Boston as part of the Phil Kessel deal.
"I'm glad you asked me because this will be the last time I answer a question about Tomas Kaberle," Burke said. "I will not ask Tomas Kaberle to waive his no-trade. I think a big part of being successful is your players knowing that they're treated fairly. Organizational fairness to me is a huge component of what we do."
But Burke is getting trade offers.
"Oh yeah, we're getting wonderful offers," Burke said sarcastically. "It's a great group. It's like watching National Geographic and you see a dead zebra and there's vultures everywhere. That's what it's like. Only the zebra is not dead yet."
What's left of the carcass at the March 3 trade deadline will be interesting. The Leafs have 13 free agents (nine unrestricted) at the end of the season, and some of them will be rental players exiting this city.
With no first-round pick, the decision doesn't come so easily. But Burke once again stood by the Kessel deal, even with the chance of Boston getting a top-five draft pick in June.
"Let's be clear on this: we talked about that possibility when we made the deal," Burke said. "We didn't think it was a realistic possibility. But if you're the GM and you don't consider every possible permutation, you're not doing your job. ... We were prepared to make that deal. We've got a 21-year-old who scored 36 goals in the National Hockey League last year, and I'd make that trade again today."
Pierre LeBrun covers the NHL for ESPN.com.
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