TORONTO – Brian Burke expects to decide whether or not he’ll sign an extension with the Anaheim Ducks by December.
The veteran general manager has no shortage of things to consider before then.
“It’s the hardest decision I’ve ever had to make and that’s why it’s taken so long,” Burke said Tuesday morning.
He’s been linked to the Maple Leafs GM job since John Ferguson was fired in January. The speculation has continued in part because Burke’s contract expires at the end of the season and he has so far declined to sign a “generous” extension from Ducks owners Henry and Susan Samueli.
The biggest reason he has dithered on the issue is because living on the West Coast has put a strain on his family situation.
“I’ve got four children from my first marriage that live all on the East Coast,” said Burke. “I travel back two weekends every month to see them – I’ve been doing that since I went to Vancouver in 1998. It’s a very difficult schedule.
“I’ve (also) got two little ones in California and I don’t see either group enough. That’s the principle concern.”
Another complicating factor is that his wife Jennifer is a former broadcaster who is unable to work in California – something she would be able to do in Canada.
Cliff Fletcher is currently performing the general manager’s duties in Toronto but his contract expires at the end of the year. The 73-year-old has expressed no desire to hold the job beyond then.
The Ducks have been one of the NHL’s most successful franchises since Burke took over. Not only did they win the Stanley Cup in 2007, they’ve also matched Detroit by playing in a league-best eight playoff series since the end of the lockout.
However, Anaheim was just 1-5 heading into Tuesday’s game against the Maple Leafs. As a result, Burke never considered skipping the road trip even though he knew it would bring more attention to his pending decision.
“Our team is struggling right now,” he said. “We’re 1-5, I would be on this trip. I’m not going to not come just because some people are going to ask questions and there’s going to be a bunch of questions. That’s not going to be a factor for me.”
The 53-year-old says he’s been treated like family by the Samuelis and isn’t upset that they wanted him to finish out the final year of his four-year contract this season.
If a player ever asked Burke to be released from the final year of his deal, he said “it would probably be a very short, profanity-laced conversation.”
The weight of the decision is clearly taking a toll on him.
“I think our owners are entitled (an answer by December),” said Burke. “The hold-up here is all on my end. I’m wrestling with a very difficult decision. I’m not an indecisive person. I make decisions easily and quickly, generally.
“This one’s been a battle.”