So begins the Brendan Shanahan era

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Who would’ve thought we would be saying those words in reference to the Maple Leafs just a week ago?

There was a palpable air of awkwardness present as Tim Leiweke called this ‘Shanny’s team and culture” while Dave Nonis sat listening at the other end of the table. Shanahan is his Leafs’ Masai Ujiri, and Leiweke made no bones about referencing that directly. Dave Nonis is saying all the right things as of now — about knowing this role was in the offing for some time, looking at it as an opportunity to collaborate with another good hockey mind, Shanny being his boss, etc — but we’ll have to see what happens when the boardroom battles play out about the direction of this team and opinions on players and coaches. Leiweke was clear on this – Shanahan has fully autonomy over hockey decisions.

This was tantamount to a demotion and Nonis’ role and level of influence in the Leaf front office has been reduced, plain and simple. Leiweke sat there and explained there were issues with the team’s culture, direction and leadership, that they never really went away despite the modest successes of last season, and all of that obviously falls in no small part on the past and present General Manager sitting two seats to his left.

The thing that’s easy to get caught up on with Leiweke is this belief that seems to shine through when he speaks: Winning culture can precede winning itself. He referenced the number of times the Wings made the playoffs when Shanahan played for Detroit and how Shanny wore the A and the C. Leiweke opened the Conference with the statement, “it’s no secret we’re big on culture and character.”

This isn’t to say a history of being a part of winning organizations doesn’t present some value in and of itself when it comes to a front office candidate such as Shanahan, but the #1 focus has to be improving the competency. Let’s hope that Shanahan’s ideas for fixing this team were more of a focus of Leiweke’s during this hiring process than his assuming Shanahan’s winning history as a player means he’s going to come in and reverse a culture thoroughly steeped in decades of failure through the power of his Cup rings. Because there certainly isn’t a long track record of managerial success we can point to with this new hire in addition to all the nice stuff about him being a winner in Detroit.

This is not to come off as cynical on Shanahan so early on in the game. I loved what Shanahan opened with: “I recognize it doesn’t really matter to a lot of people where I’m from or how many championships I was a part of as a player, or the teams I played for. I’m not here for big speeches, big words, big proclamations.” That, for me anyway, saved what was a worrisome press conference in its initial stages.

Shanahan himself came off as humble and bright, a student of the game who is open to ideas and aware of the magnitude of the task ahead. He’s going to be learning on the job in one of the toughest jobs in pro sports, but if an impression from a press conference means anything (it doesn’t really), he seemed up to it.

No grand proclamations on day 1, as it should be.

Shanny’s Plan

As stated above, the short answer is that we don’t know yet.

Brendan Shanahan didn’t want to assess coaching or player personnel having just arrived in Toronto, which is expected and sensible. He certainly has opinions he’s holding close to his chest and he may have even been following the team especially closely for weeks knowing this was in the works, but it would’ve been crazy, insensitive and totally unexpected for him to show up and start assessing Carlyle’s coaching performance or Phaneuf’s captaincy.

Shanny did hint that, between his conference and post conference media rounds, the plan the may be to “tinker” (direct quote from TSN Radio), not undergo a full-scale rebuild. Shanahan mentioned Detroit specifically (upon his arrival there as a player) and later vaguely referenced GMs who, in the face of pressure to tear it all down, believed in the talent present and tinkered with some ingredients before turning the corner.

Tearing the entire core apart without Nonis and Shanahan picking their own coach and filling some of the holes present on this roster, essentially restarting the 5-year process, seems like a drastic measure. There’s pieces here. Change is required, not insignificant change, but the right term for it might be “reload” (with a new coach) rather than “rebuild.”

That said, this Leiweke quote was interesting: “I saw the culture that Dean [Lombardi] created where we were a tough team to play against. We were big, heavy and physical. Task number one for Shanny is: What are we going to design ourselves to be here? What’s going to be our identity as a team?”

That seems to leave the door open for some sweeping changes depending on the final determination.

Randy Carlyle

We’ll leave the following quotes to speak for themselves.

Nonis: “Randy’s a good coach and we’ll leave it at that.”

Leiweke in his post-conference scrum: “I think you look at the talent in that locker room that Dave put together and say we should’ve done better. I’ll leave it at that.”

Randy Carlyle, curiously, did not meet with the media on locker clean out day.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • darthNihilus

    Has it been confirmed that we’ve fired the scouting staff?

  • darthNihilus

    Now that Trotz is fired, could he be our new guy?

  • darthNihilus

    Nonis seems very much on edge today. Could he be gone before the draft?

  • lukethenuke

    darthNihilus  something was different with him for sure

  • philthethrill

    http://mapleleafscentral.com/pros-cons-leafs-missing-playoffs/

  • Why Bother

    darthNihilus Seems very unlikely he will be let go in the near future. It was made abundantly clear today that they think he has a good hockey mind and is of value to the organization. It was also made plainly clear that he doesn’t have the whole package and needs influence from someone else to run the team.

    Did he seem ‘off’ today… sure. Given the circumstances and what all has transpired, who wouldn’t be.

  • Yaknowwhat

    So another season goes by and we’re still talking about leadership and culture change…..at this point talk is cheap…its time for action…

  • Yaknowwhat

    Not saying he will, but I wouldnt be surprised if Nonis walks within the next 12 months…

  • Why Bother

    Yaknowwhat Suckling up to Burke in no time at all… :-)

  • Armchair GM

    While I was always a Burke fan I think his firing may have been justified given his inability to get a legit goalie and his hiring of Carlyle.  I liked Carlyle at the start but a younger, more flexible coach was needed.  I heard a good comment about Carlyle a while back – he’s made his money as a coach and he doesn’t care and won’t change.
    Nonis has made mistakes but he’s had some bad luck too… Clarckson being a dumb-ass and the Bolland and Bernier injuries.  Nonis should be credited for getting Bernier and Bolland; two important acquisitions relatively cheaply…
    I like the Shanahan hiring… given Nonis’s mistakes I think it’s best he gets his own man…

  • lukethenuke

    Best Thing i have Seen
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ao8qZ3huAdk

  • Why Bother

    Armchair GM From the interview I saw recently, TL told DN to get Bernier, however he had to. I don’t give him too much credit for that decision that being the case.

  • Burtonboy

    Patience is key for Shanahan
    http://espn.go.com/nhl/story/_/id/10782045/brendan-shanahan-judged-results-leafs

  • Armchair GM

    Then TL knows more about hockey than many give him credit for…

  • dontcallmeshirley

    darthNihilus  Nonis seems off every time he is front of a mic

  • B_Leaf

    dontcallmeshirley darthNihilus  

    Or just all the time

  • Why Bother

    Armchair GM Perhaps not. His opinion was based on knowing him from the pervious team. What TL does know is spotting leadership qualities in people. Being from the corporate world, that is a talent that he would have an eye for.

  • Armchair GM

    Many here were critical of Yzerman… I think he’s done a good job… it didn’t take him long to get a good goalie and his free agent signings were good with Filpula…
    Of course the pressure of Tampa is nothing compared to Toronto…

  • Yaknowwhat

    Certainly sounds like Bolland wants to resign here..

  • B_Leaf

    What a joke this organization is…I really wish I could choose another team.

    If another team came to Toronto. I think I could jump ship.

  • lukethenuke

    B_Leaf  cmon buddy you gotta Bleaf

  • lukethenuke

    Yaknowwhat  not if he cant skate.. and NOT for over 4 M!

  • Armchair GM

    Do we know how much influence TL had in getting Clarkson?  Free agency has killed us… but maybe it’s a case that many players don’t like the pressure cooker…

  • Why Bother

    lukethenuke or study harder and try to become an A_Leaf… :-)

  • Armchair GM

    We had the chance to wipe the slate clean (somewhat clean) by buying out Liles… sigh…

  • lister

    B_Leaf   I would find it hard to jump ship. The new team would likely be team B for me.

  • Burtonboy

    Yaknowwhat  Or maybe just maybe he and Shanny have a great working relationship and he stays. Far too early to know what direction thsi will take

  • Burtonboy

    Yaknowwhat  I heard far more about identity today then I did about culture change .

  • Why Bother

    Burtonboy Agreed. Today was probably the most publicly embarrassing day for him in the near future. From here on in he gets to do his work behind the scenes with the others. If he is comfortable with the arrangement, there is no reason why he couldn’t stay and work well with them.

  • Armchair GM

    Alberta bound, Alberta bound… la la la la…

  • Yaknowwhat

    So liewike thinks shanahans biggest qualification for the job is that he was on playoff teams during most of his career….fml….

  • Why Bother

    Yaknowwhat Probably not. He most likely thinks his biggest qualification for the job is that he has great leadership skills in combination with strong knowledge of hockey. Being able to pick the right players to add into the organization so that the team starts to play like a team is very valuable.

  • Alec Brownscombe

    Yaknowwhat  Impress by Shanahan’s open mindedness though. He seemed sharp. I think one of the biggest issues with this team has been the fact that it’s an echo chamber of close minded, old-school management types.

  • lukethenuke

    Alec Brownscombe Yaknowwhat  Sharp is a good way to put it… seems analytical, patient and not one to jump to conclusions, all the while possessing great leadership, passion and culture traits Tim wants

  • http://mapleleafshotstove.com/ Radar O’Rielly

    JFJ had more experience than Shanahan, I’ll leave it at that.

  • Yaknowwhat

    Agree with that Alec….Shanny was impressive today..seemed professional…mature…and methodical..not making big promises….admitting he is in listen and learn mode…all in all a very good first impression….I hope he does well for us…..but I’m not sure if this works with Nonis long term…time will tell..

  • Jay31

    So Carlyle’s a goner right?

  • Why Bother

    Alec Brownscombe True. TL will approach this like running a modern large corporation. He’ll focus on loading up on people who have the requisite knowledge and leadership skills and let them select the correct group of players so that the they will gel and start working as a team. The calloused remarks along the lines of ‘waving his magic cup rings won’t fix the team’ are simplistic and short-sighted and are missing the point of how he thinks and how he will approach the problems here. I would expect to see significant changes in the way this organization is run going forward. The ‘old boys’ club is coming to an abrupt end.

  • mr_hanie

    So whatever happen to Colin Campbell. He was last year’s hot commodity ?

  • Yaknowwhat

    No doubt…randy is gone

  • Jay31

    Yaknowwhat  cool, I had some doubts, but those quotes above paint a clear picture

  • darthNihilus

    Shanahan’s leadership skills might be nice but lets see how they get translated to on ice performance. I don’t see Nonis being allowed to do anything without getting a blessing from Shany.

  • Why Bother

    Jay31 Totally. I would think the things they said today were polite and face saving for him. “He’s a good coach” ” We are going to evaluate our needs…”  Down the line a bit after the evaluation, it will be “We have decided to take the team in a new direction and Randy no longer fits the type of team we have in mind…”

    Otherwise what else do they say? We were the defuses that hired this clown and now we need to erase our mistake? :-)

  • lister

    @Why Bother Burtonboy  Yeah TL told Nonis to go get Bernier but I think the trade was a good one. In retrospect maybe Reimer should have gone instead of Scrivens but remember Bernier hadn’t had a full season, in fact he hadn’t played all that much under Quick. Clarkson was the prized UFA that the Leafs managed to get. The cap hit is a little high and the first bad season, well, practically everybody was bad. I’m prepared for a mulligan on that. The cap is going up as well, albeit not as high as everyone thought. Kessel is being paid the going rate for goal scorers.
    The deal I most dislike is Phaneuf’s. Too large of a cap hit and too long. I’ve never been a fan of Phaneuf though I don’t despise him. He has some good attributes but not for the deal he signed, he’s not captain material (not that I’m a big captain proponent) and shouldn’t be playing the minutes he does. On any Cup capable team he would not be in the first pairing of defencemen
    Bolland I wouldn’t mind back at a reasonable rate. Kuli needs to drop his $$$ or be shipped out. He is way overpaid. That 30 goal season was a mirage and not likely to happen again unless paired with the likes of Malkin.
    As for Shanahan and Nonis, I’ve been in that situation twice. As long as the new boss and the now underling are on the same page it can work. If not, changes happen. For me both times the boss got turfed which is unusual.

  • Jay31

    darthNihilus  Better that Shanny gets the final say than Leiweke, which is how it was before

  • Yaknowwhat

    Liewiki…I lean heavily on luke robitaille for advice…..hmmmmm

  • darthNihilus

    Yaknowwhat  he could give advice on………………………………………………………..goal scoring

  • Burtonboy

    @Why Bother Jay31  The quote that got me was when he said the coach has a huge impact on team identity . Most of what I heard today revolved around the lack of identity this team displayed .

  • Jay31

    Riddick Bowe @riddickbowe
    Hey Shanahan if you mess up as https://twitter.com/search?q=%23Leafs prez u will land right where that https://twitter.com/USAirways/ plane landed. In a poor girls Vagina. https://twitter.com/search?q=%23TMLtalk

  • lister

    Jay31   That guy has taken too many blows to the head.