Pat Burns was standing in the parking lot of what was then Centennial Arena in North York, talking about his Maple Leafs team, when someone threw down the challenge of his brand new job.
“You can’t win with this team,” Burns was told rather blatantly.
“That’s what everybody’s telling me,” said the coach.
“Then what do you do?” someone else asked.
“It’s my job to find a way,” he said.
That was 20 years ago, although it seems like yesterday. Pat Burns has left us. Hockey has changed exponentially in that time. The Maple Leafs have been great and terrible and unpredictable over those two decades, and often in the same night.
And yet, there are similarities to be made from what Burns accomplished in his first magical season coaching the Maple Leafs to what Randy Carlyle is managing in his first full season coaching the Leafs.
“You see it,” said Doug Gilmour, talking from his cellphone, then a Leafs superstar, now a Leafs fan from his perch running the Kingston Frontenacs. “You see how everybody has bought into the system, the way we bought in to the system.
“From the day Pat got here, he was clear: This is our plan. This is our focus. This is what I expect. Communication was very key to what we did. And you see the same thing with Randy. He’s demanding the way Pat was demanding. He gives you a job and expects you to do it.”
On one of the first training-camp days of Burns’ first season, he ran down from the stands, stopped practice, and loudly demanded a higher, more intense quality of work.
From the ice, Carlyle did almost the exact same thing in the early days of a shortened camp. The message being clear: What was accepted in the past, won’t be acceptable any more.
Carlyle's Leafs have luminaries talking Pat Burns
Toronto Sun | Mar 13