VANCOUVER – Vancouver Canucks captain Henrik Sedin says Maple Leafs fans can expect more of the same from Brian Burke’s successor Dave Nonis.
“They’re really similar in the way they want to build the team,” Sedin said on Wednesday after Burke was fired as Toronto’s general manager and replaced with Nonis.
“But they’ve got different personalities.”
Nonis is getting a chance to run an NHL club for the second time. He also replaced a fired Burke following his mentor’s dismissal in Vancouver in 2004
“Nonis is really low-key,” said Sedin. “He’s very soft-spoken, but Burkie likes to, maybe, be in the spotlight a little bit more.”
Nonis, a 46-year-old Burnaby, B.C., native, was fired in Vancouver in 2008 after the Canucks missed the playoffs for the second time in three seasons and Francesco Aquilini completed his purchase of the team and inserted current GM Mike Gillis.
Nonis also served under Burke at NHL headquarters when the latter was the league’s chief disciplinarian, and in Anaheim.
Working on his own or with his former boss, Nonis assembled the core of the Canucks squad that came within a game of winning the Stanley Cup in 2011 and remains largely intact today. Notable draft choices that he made with or without Burke include Henrik and Daniel Sedin—following a trade that landed Vancouver two draft picks in the top three in 1999—such mainstays as Ryan Kesler, Kevin Bieksa, Alex Edler, Jannik Hansen and Cory Schneider.
Nonis also signed an unheralded Alex Burrows after he went undrafted, and pulled off a major coup as he traded for goaltender Roberto Luongo following the 2004-05 lockout.
Now, ironically, Nonis could be involved in acquiring Luongo for a second time as rumours persist that Vancouver’s former No. 1 goaltender will head to Toronto.
“He kept building on what (Burke) started here,” said Henrik Sedin. “They’ve worked together for a long time. I don’t think there’s a big difference in the way they manage their teams. They’re different as persons, but as hockey people they’re pretty similar.”
However, despite his even-keel nature, Nonis—like the more emotional Burke—also lost his temper on occasion while at the helm of the Canucks.
“Yeah, he did,” said Henrik Sedin. “We went through stretches where we lost a lot of games, and he would come in and tell us what he thought.”
Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider, on the verge of becoming a starter for the first time in his career, said he will always be grateful to Nonis for drafting him in the first round (26th overall) in 2004 and helping him get to the NHL.
“Unfortunately, I didn’t get to spend a lot of time with him, because by the time I got here (to Vancouver from the minors), he had moved on,” said Schneider. “I remember dealing with him in Manitoba (while playing for Vancouver’s top farm team), and him coming down to watch. He was very respectful and polite and went about his business.”
Meanwhile, the Sedin twins were saddened to learn of Burke’s dismissal after he failed to get the Leafs into the playoffs in four seasons.
“He meant a lot to me and Henrik,” said Daniel Sedin. “He brought us in and drafted us together and kept us around. I think that was the biggest thing. He allowed us to develop and become better players.
“We owe him a lot. We’ve been following him ever since to see how he’s doing.”
“He was the one that pulled it off,” added Henrik Sedin of the trade that allowed him and his brother to play together in Vancouver. “We didn’t think it was going to happen. We don’t know if it was going to happen otherwise, but we really appreciate that we are where we are.”