Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke echoed the public apology issued by team management on Tuesday and vowed to fix the team’s woes heading into the off-season.
Leafs fans awoke Tuesday to find a full-page newspaper ad in which Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment chairman Larry Tanenbaum apologized for the team’s poor performance and its seventh straight playoff miss.
“We have fallen short of everyone’s expectations,” the ad read. “And for that, we are sorry.”
In a Tuesday morning press conference, Burke also apologized and vowed to improve the team’s goaltending and address its lack of size in the upcoming off-season.
The Leafs were in sixth place in the Eastern Conference in February, but went on to win just two of their next 17 games in a collapse they couldn't recover from. They now hold the NHL's longest playoff drought.
“We have to get bigger and more hostile,” Burke said.
He added that the team’s spring slide out of a playoff position “has been agonizing” and added he hadn't "slept in a month.”
“We need to improve the overall size and compete-level of this group,” he said.
Burke, who is in his third season running the Leafs, said he wants those changes to happen soon.
“I was born impatient and I will die impatient,” he said. “I’m not happy with where we are today.”
The fan reaction to the team’s apology was immediate.
A Twitter poster who uses the handle HockeyHumor said “Q: What do college students and the Maple Leafs have in common? A: They've both finished their year by April.”
CBC News showed copies of the newspaper apology to fans. Their reaction was mixed.
“That’s sports, you win some, you lose some,” said a fan taking a break outside the Air Canada Centre shortly after Burke’s press conference.
“Go Blue Jays,” said another.
Another fan who spoke to CBC outside the Air Canada Centre said the team needs "less apologies, more action."
Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle spoke before Burke, challenging his players to improve their work ethic. He said his parting message to his players was that the level of work ethic, accountability, and conditioning must improve.
Burke replaced head coach Ron Wilson with Carlyle in March, but the damage was already done by then.
"Confidence was the No. 1 thing that I would say this team did not have," said Carlyle.
"We were not a confident group. ... It's our job as a coaching staff to force, coddle, kick — whatever word you want to use — to get them to believe that they can do it."
With files from The Canadian Press
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