With the unexpected firing of Brian Burke on Wednesday, many Toronto sports fans find themselves asking if the other Bryan – as in Raptors President and General Manager Bryan Colangelo – is next on the chopping block.
After all, based on when the MLSE board removed Burke from his Leafs post (10 days before a shortened season is set to start), it’s pretty obvious that timing was never their thing at 40 Bay Street. For what it’s worth, Maple Leaf Sports and Entertainment COO Tom Anselmi has discussed Colangelo since the Burke firing, and the best example of that was probably his comments to CBC’s Metro Morning.
Anselmi told CBC that the Leafs and Raptors are “two teams that are in different points in their development cycle,” but he also mentioned that Colangelo is in the final year of his contract (only a team option remains for 2013-14), “so obviously we’re going to have to make a decision about the Raptors between now and the end of the year.”
Colangelo arrived in Toronto three-and-a-half years before Burke, but the Raptors also made the playoffs twice and won a division title in Colangelo’s first two full seasons at the helm, so the better comparison might be to look at each GM’s record since Burke took over the Leafs nearly two months into the 2008-09 season. The Leafs won 34 games that season and finished in 12th place in the Eastern Conference, 12 points back of the final playoff spot. Burke followed that season up by trading away draft picks for Phil Kessel in a risky move, to say the least. The Raptors won just 33 games in 2008-09 and Colangelo saw his Jermaine O’Neal experiment crash and burn before trading for Shawn Marion and then eventually following the season up by signing Hedo Turkoglu to a lucrative five-year contract worth over $50 million.
Here’s how each General Manager has fared since then.
|Colangelo’s Raptors||Burke’s Leafs|
|2009-10||40 wins, 9th place in East||30 wins, 15th in East, 29th overall|
|2010-11||22 wins, 14th in East, 28th overall||37 wins, 10th in East|
|2011-12||23 wins in 66 games, 11th in East||35 wins, 13th in East|
|2012-13||12-22 through 34 games at time of Burke firing||N/A Fired before season|
What a proud tradition these two Toronto franchises have forged recently…
Looking at the results, the Leafs won more games between 2009 to 2012, while the Raptors finished slightly better in the standings. Other than the 2009-10 Raptors though, neither franchise has really sniffed a post-season race late into the season over the last four years, let alone actually made the playoffs in leagues where more than half the teams qualify.
So while Anselmi and co. might be encouraged by young Colangelo draft picks like DeMar DeRozan, Jonas Valanciunas, Terrence Ross and even Ed Davis, given yesterday’s decision on Brian Burke, one would have to believe that Colangelo’s job is in peril if the Raptors can’t at the very least get themselves into legitimate playoff contention (The obvious worry here is that Colangelo does something like this to “win now,” especially with rumours circulating that Burke’s reluctance to trade young assets for Roberto Luongo played into his firing).
As I’ve said before, regardless of how weak the upcoming draft is, if the Raptors aren’t playing meaningful games in March and April and then don’t even have a draft pick to show for it, I can’t see Colangelo surviving another year in Toronto. And for those of you hoping for an exhaustive, big name GM search in the event that Colangelo ever was let go, I think the appointment of Dave Nonis to the lead job with the Leafs only reinforces the belief among Raptors fans that Ed Stefanski would take over.
For now, it sounds as though Colangelo has until the end of the season to prove he’s the right man to lead the Raptors into the future. But if he’s not, we might not find out until next October, you know, MLSE and all.