Friday, May 22, 2015
Authors Posts by Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Maple Leafs Hot Stove

Founded in 2008, Maple Leafs Hotstove (MLHS) has grown to be the most visited unofficial team-focused hockey website online (Quantcast). Independently owned and operated, MLHS provides thorough and wide ranging content, varying from news, opinion and analysis, to pre-game and long-form game reviews, a weekly feature piece, the "Leafs Notebook", along with a Web TV show the "Maple Leaf Hangout".

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Dave Nonis Leafs
Tom Anselmi (right) announces Senior Vice-President of Hockey Operations, Dave Nonis, left, as the new GM after it was announced that Brian Burke was fired in Toronto, January 9, 2013. (Photo: TORONTO STAR / BERNARD WEI)

After a getaway vacation following his dismissal, Dave Nonis gave his first interview since being let go as General Manager of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He offered some reflections on his time in Toronto and thoughts on the status of his former core players.

On Phil Kessel:

“I don’t think they have to move Phil Kessel,” said Nonis. “You only move him if you decide the return is worth it. If you don’t get value for him, you’re only hurting your team. I believe the baggage that comes with Phil is overblown. Are there things he has to change? Absolutely. But I can assure you of this: Whatever team wins the Stanley Cup this year will have a Phil Kessel in the lineup. I can guarantee that.

“Does he have things to work on? Yes. But he has something other players don’t have. He does have pride and he does want to win. He has to learn to focus some of those characteristics and do a better job. But he’s not a player they have to move.”

On Dion Phaneuf:

“I could have traded Dion at the deadline. We had a deal, it wasn’t a great one, but it was a deal. I look at Phil and Dion and I still think they’re elite, upper-end players. They both could be traded, but it’s not like the Leafs are stuck with them if they’re back. I think they can come back and help them.”

At least five NHL teams expressed interest in Phaneuf at the trade deadline. “A lot of teams like him,” said Nonis. There has been less interest in Kessel.

Of course, Nonis hitched his wagon to these two by signing them to long term deals and, if he wants to work in the League again, would have no interest in ripping them in the media even if he felt it was deserved. It would be admitting some massive mistakes, and as  he said in the interview, he feels he made more good decisions than bad (which no one actually believes).

Nonis’ quote about not having to trade either of them necessarily jives with what Shanahan said at his presser following Nonis’ dismissal. Again, it doesn’t mean much.  No President/GM worth his salt comes out and admits he has to move a player; not if he has any desire to garner a good return.

Interesting nonetheless to hear someone who worked with Phil near-daily since he arrived in Toronto say the baggage he’s been associated with is overblown, and that any Cup team needs a Kessel.

Full read here courtesy Steve Simmons.

Dion Phaneuf, Nazem Kadri
TORONTO, ON - APRIL 5: Dion Phaneuf #3 and Nazem Kadri #43 of the Toronto Maple Leafs battle for the puck with Zach Redmond #25 of the Winnipeg Jets as goalie Ondrej Pavelec #31 reaches for the puck during NHL game action April 5, 2014 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. (Photo by Graig Abel/NHLI via Getty Images)

 Thursday Links:

  • TSN Radio: Nylander and Brown on Marlies’ season, playoffs (TSN 1050)
    Connor Brown and William Nylander talk about the Marlies’ strong finish to the season, look ahead to the AHL playoffs and discuss the Oilers winning the draft lottery.
  • James Mirtle: Why NHL teams should stop spending big on (most) goalies (The Globe and Mail)
    The chart below is all 72 of the goalies that have made any type of playoff run in the salary-cap era, going back to 2006. A “run” in this case is defined as appearing in at least eight games, meaning they were into at least the second round as a starter. Over all, the younger, cheaper goalies have had slightly better results.
  • Kevin McGran: When the Leafs miss the playoffs, everybody loses (Toronto Star)
    “You’d do a $4 million gate for every playoff game they have,” said Brian Cooper, President & CEO, S&E Sponsorship Group Inc., and former vice president of Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment. “That’s one-and-a-half times what would happen at a normal game.”
  • Luke Fox: Watch for Leafs, Oilers bonus first-round picks (
    “Obviously there’s so much focus on the first couple of guys, and they are fantastic players,” Leafs president Brendan Shanahan said at Saturday’s lottery, “but it is a very deep draft.”
  • PPP: A poem for Winnipeg Jets Fans (Pension Plan Puppets)
    The Atlanta Thrashers franchise record in the playoffs moved to 0-8 as the Winnipeg Jets 2.0 were swept out of the playoffs at the hands of the Anaheim Ducks. The strangest things about the sweep were that somehow Ondrej Pavelec, the goalie that had really showed those dumb number jerks a thing or two, was atrocious and that the league’s loudest and best fans suddenly weren’t able to give their team a magical boost anymore.

Tuesday Links:

  • The Neutral: Todd McLellan, Sharks mutually part ways (Fear The Fin)
    Todd McLellan has become the first casualty of the Sharks’ disappointing season, with general manager Doug Wilson announcing today that the team’s head coach of seven years won’t be returning to the bench for an eighth season.
  • Eric Duhatschek: Maple Leafs, Oilers would be wise to reach out to McLellan (The Globe and Mail)
    Many believe the reason the Maple Leafs waited so long to clarify Randy Carlyle’s status with Toronto last summer, or why the coaching hire in Florida took forever was because NHL teams were waiting to see if McLellan might somehow come free back then.
  • TSN1050: Dylan Strome on Leafs Lunch  (MLHS)
    Dylan Strome on potentially getting drafted by the Leafs: “It’s something that you dream about. It’s icing on the cake.”
  • David Shoalts: Broadcast deal hurting NHL as Canadian dollar declines (The Globe and Mail)
    The contract with Rogers is paid in Canadian dollars, which sharply declined in value against the U.S. dollar after the deal was announced on Nov. 26, 2013. As a result, the NHL is taking a large hit in the contract’s first season: One NHL governor, who spoke anonymously because league officials are forbidden to publicly discuss NHL business, said the currency hit for the 2014-2015 season was pegged at about 17 per cent, which, based on the annual average rights fee of $433-million, works out to a $73.61-million loss for the league.
  • Stephen Whyno:  Todd McLellan has unique skill-set to fill any NHL coaching vacancy (Yahoo! Sports)
    “I think he can fit in any situation,” said Anaheim Ducks assistant Trent Yawney, a close friend of McLellan’s. “He has the experience now. He’s had that development side, he’s worked under some pretty heady coaches — Jacques Lemaire and guys like that. He’s very balanced.”
  • Anthony Petrielli: Leafs Notebook Season Finale – April 20 (MLHS)
    The assumption here is the new “GM” will take care of some of those media appearances now, as well as offer his insight into their decisions, use his connections, and take care of the daily duties of the GM. But make no mistake, the decisions come and go through Shanahan. If it wasn’t clear last summer, it is now—This is his show.
  • Bower Power: Now and Later – The Toronto Maple Leafs’ 2015 Season (PPP)
    The back half of the Leafs’ 2014-15 season was mired in failure on-ice, but the off-ice results were some of the best we could’ve hoped for. There’s a long, long way to go before the Leafs look like anything remotely resembling a competitive NHL team, but the first step is admitting you need help, and in this league, the second step is looking for long term solutions. Maybe somewhere in this team is the right group of people to provide those solutions.

Kyle Dubas

Kyle Dubas joined Brady and Walker earlier this afternoon to discuss the Toronto Marlies, the lottery results, the management dynamics under Brendan Shanahan, the upcoming 2015 NHL draft and the NHL playoffs.

On the Marlies making the playoffs after their great run:
Especially because of who the players are that have really pushed the team forward in the second half; particularly after the trade deadline at the NHL level, the team has been really driven by Connor Brown, William Nylander, Brendan Leipsic, so on and so forth. It’s been really nice for us to watch from a management perspective as our young players have pushed it ahead. We’ve gotten great efforts from Matt Frattin, who has really been on fire down the stretch here, and bodes well; he’s got another year left on his contract and that’s a strong sign leading into the offseason for him. It’s an excellent opportunity for these players in the playoffs to go in against an extremely talented Grand Rapids team and show us where they really stack up against an elite organization in Detroit and Grand Rapids. It’s a great opportunity for everybody.

On the benefits of an AHL playoff run versus a long offseason to train:
As an organization we’re really trying to shift to make sure we’re doing all we can in season. The narrative, we dealt with it a little bit in Sault Ste Marie, was that the player is to come in in excellent shape and we try to just make sure he doesn’t fall off too much from a strength and conditioning standpoint during the season. One of the things you try to build in there, there is a lot of opportunity through the year to not only build and prevent injuries, but also maintain and build on their strength base. With us having so many young players there, being the youngest team in the AHL, we realize a lot of the players do have a lot room to grow physically and need to mature physically. The onus is partially on the player, but as the organization we have them in everyday. It falls on us to make sure we’ve got the proper programs and nutrition and strength and conditioning in place so that the players can get stronger during the year. The games that are played, I think it’s an excellent opportunity for the players to really take ownership of the Marlies and have a real stake in our organization. If it were a team that were built like your proverbial quadruple-A baseball team, that had a lot of guys whose NHL prospects had ended but they’re really good minor league players, I think we’d feel differently about going on a long run the playoffs. Because of the players that are driving the bus here, I think it only serves to enhance their development as players. The games are obviously going to become a lot more difficult and a lot more challenging. As young prospects, if they can continue to maintain their level of output, to me that’s a great sign for the future of our organization and for the hockey fans in Toronto.

The lottery results:
I was in Rockford with the Marlies in the coaches’ room watching it. Very honestly, I wasn’t anxious about it at all. In fact, we had the greatest chance of ending up picking 5th, so once Carolina’s came up, at fifth, I said, “that’s a little bit of good fortunate either way.” The way I looked at this draft, I knew we were going to get a good pick, we weren’t going to pick lower than 5th, but the focus for us and where we have to begin to really become a great organization is on the second pick, the Nashville pick that we got in the trade for Cody Franson and Mike Santorelli. We have to make a good pick and hit on that one. That’s where a lot of our focus has been. We know it’s going to be in the mid 20s, and that’s where myself and Mark Hunter have been spending a lot of our time, is tracking those players that are in that range. Making sure we find a player that fits the identity of where we’re going as an organization and we’re certain is going to be a guy who has a good chance of becoming in and being a big time player, be it a forward, D or goaltender; someone that we’re confident can be not just someone that’s a safe pick that will play low in our lineup, but a really good player. You look at a lot of the organizations now, they’re able to find real good players late in the 1st and that’s what we want to become. Having that pick is a great opportunity for us.

The fourth overall pick:
You’ve got to narrow it down to a few players. I don’t believe in going through the whole song and dance and saying, ‘we haven’t had our meeting yet and we don’t know where we’re sitting.’ We’ve spent a whole year scouting these players. Our scouting staff has been in the rink since early August at the Team Canada camp, trying to narrow it down to the to players. As the year goes along, you add to your sample size and viewings, and you really get down to a few guys, especially where we’re picking at four, you kind of know who the first two picks are going to be, and you know who the players are coming up behind them. I think everyone knows who they are – you’ve got Noah Hanifin, Dylan Strome, Lawson Crouse, Mitchell Marner, Pavel Zacha, Mathew Barzal, Ivan Provorov. It’s focusing on that group of players and more and really starting to break them down and be as certain as we can about each one and selecting the one we think is best for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

On the management dynamic under Shanahan:
It’s evolved through the year. I’ve been here since middle of July; Brandon Pridham came on a month later. Reid Mitchell has been here longer than anybody and he brings a lot of great value and experience to our staff as well. We had myself, Brendan, Dave, then we brought Mark Hunter in late October. Especially over the last few months, I’ve talked to Mark 2 or 3 times each day; we talk about players, we talk about trades, we talk about players we’ve seen for the draft. We talk about free agents and college and so on and so forth. We take that and present it formally to Dave and to Brendan, and now it’s to Brendan. The way it’s evolved in the last week is really a thee-way, four-way discussion about all different topics. It’s a really open dialogue; back and forth, agreeing/disagreeing, challenging one another. That’s been a lot of fun. That was the part I enjoyed most about being in Sault Ste. Marie, especially with Sheldon Keefe. He and I could disagree on a whole host of topics, as I could with all our staff there, whether it was Wes Clark or Victor Carneiro, it was never a groupthink, it was a lot of challenging and back and forth. I think, even here when you disagree, you know people aren’t disagreeing to be personal, they’re disagreeing to make sure we’re going to be right by the Toronto Maple Leafs. That’s been the most encouraging and fun part here, especially of late. When I say of late I go back to the trade deadline and the moves we made then, having everybody involved and full discussion with one another, having everybody – even if they disagreed at first — at least accepting and understanding why we were doing things.

Thoughts on potentially taking over the vacant GM’s role:
The way I look at it, I’ve never gone around and campaigned for a job. The way I look at this position here is that having it open allows for the Maple Leafs to add another really great and smart hockey person to our organization. I think we would be remiss not to do that. I don’t really get wrapped up in the titles, who does what, and whose boss is who, I think with where we’re at as an organization we need to be adding; the more people we have that are of elite intelligence and smarts on a hockey perspective, if they can add a different set of intelligence and look at things in different ways that can make us all better, I think we need to do that. To me, that’s where it sounds like Brendan is going and I think that’s great; somebody that I can learn from and somebody that make me a better hockey person and manager. That’s what I find exciting. If we get through the summer and that person isn’t there, whatever Brendan decides, I just come to work everyday and do my job as the assistant manager as best as I possibly can. I’ve found it to be a great experience here working with Brendan and working with Mark and Brandon Pridham and Reid Mitchell and our staff here. I don’t get all too wrapped up in where we’re going or who we‘re hiring, I just want as many smart and good hockey people as possible and we’ll see how it all unfolds as the summer goes along. I know, with Brendan running it, it will be very thorough and methodical and he’ll make the best decision for the Leafs.

On core changes:
I think Brendan said it best last week. We have a lot of very good players; it just for a number of reasons hasn’t worked as a group. Whether it involves moving one or two of those players, or all of those players, or none of those players, and trying to supplement the group here and try to move it ahead. We can’t just give people away, we can’t just move them out. We know they’re good players; if they go to a different situation and set of circumstances they’re going to be shown once against to be extremely good players. Their individual worth gets brought down here because of the lack of success as a team. When we’re looking to make moves, we have to separate those two. We can’t flag the player internally and devalue them internally because the team hasn’t had success here. We have to decide amongst ourselves, are there players out there who can supplement those guys and make the group better. Or, maybe we make the decision to tinker with it, move one or two guys out, give some other people some opportunity and continue to move this forward the right way. The only way we’re going to go from where we are to a team that contends year in and year out, which is our goal, is to continue to draft well, very well; to outdraft the other teams in the league and get to a point where every year – when you look back in 5 or 6 years when it’s fair to judge a draft — we’re at the top of the list in terms of players who are playing and playing well, and we’re doing an excellent job of developing players. Those two things work in lockstep. One doesn’t work without the other. You have to draft well to give the development team their ability to get to work, and that includes Steve Staios and his staff in our development department and our Marlies coaching staff, and move it ahead that way. That’s the key for us, no matter what happens at the NHL level, we need to really, really master the draft and developing and find our way to beat the 29 other teams in that regard here.

Thoughts on the playoffs so far and ‘copycatting:’
I always look at the playoffs as a time when people we will especially hammer home the point where they’ll say, ‘if you want to play in the playoffs you have to play like this team.’ Ever year it changes, depending on who is playing well. If it’s Chicago, it’s skill and speed and possession, if it’s LA it’s retrieval and a heavy game. If it’s Boston, when they won it was traditional Bruins with Chara, Lucic, etc. Every year it changes. Our job is to find our own way to win so that we’re that team in 5 or 6 years where people see us play and say, “that’s how you have to win, you have to be like the Maple Leafs.” We have to come up with our own way of doing it. To me, if you try to copy one particular team, you’re going to end up as an inferior version of that one team. You’re not going to be able to do it as good as they did it. The playoffs are a great way – all the players are under the microscope and there are a lot of very good teams in the playoffs – and you can try to find the best practices of those teams and apply them to your team, and patch it all together plus add in your own perspective, our own different things you want to do. To me, that’s where I find the most value in the playoffs. You find the things that are most effective or least effective that these teams are doing, and we can learn from them and use them as an example as we go into the offseason. That’s what I find to be valuable, but I don’t think we want to get into trying to copy any other team because we’ll never be as good as that team if we try to do it that way

Burke’s potential role isn’t clear, but the two have history dating back to their New Jersey Devils days.

He wouldn’t exactly be an experienced candidate, but some may be unaware Burke has been in a managerial role for six years dating back to 2008, when he was hired by the Coyotes as the ‘Director of Prospect Development.’ He now works as both an AGM and a goalie coach in Phoenix.

Friday Links:

It was a fun opening night of round one last night. Your recap:

Tonight’s games:
Pittsburgh vs. NY Rangers – 7 p.m., CBC
Detroit vs. Tampa Bay – 7:30 p.m., Sportsnet
Minnesota vs. St. Louis – 9:30 p.m., Sportsnet 360
Winnipeg vs. Anaheim – 10:30 p.m., Sportsnet

Thursday Links:

A few items before the links.

  • Great Spring weather with playoff hockey in the air; the only way it gets any better is if the Leafs are playing instead of firing people. MLHS commenter Luke_R has set up a playoff bracket challenge for us; come compete for bragging rights.
  • The Bruins have fired Peter Chiarelli. Chiarelli did some great things to create the Bruins’ window for contention and he can ultimately rest his head on his Cup ring, but he definitely had a bad couple of years that precipitated the closure of that window and steered the Bruins away from sustained success.
  • From the outside looking in, Chiarelli would want nothing to do with the Leafs management setup, but he’s also now unemployed. You never know. The Leafs will probably talk to him, because why not.
  • Jake Gardiner is headed to the World Championships to represent Team USA:

Wednesday Links:

  • Evan Dorey: Toronto Maple Leafs’ Scoring Chance Tracking – Season Recap (MLHS)
    These are ES chance numbers; you can see that Horachek and Carlyle were broadly similar in the first two periods, and it’s only the third period where Toronto improved under Horachek. As mentioned above, this is likely down to score effects as much as any form of improvement in play.
  • Alec Brownscombe: Maple Leafs GM Search: A look at Julien BriseBois (MLHS)
    BriseBois’ role in Tampa is impressive in that he has been responsible for a lot of areas within the Lightning’s hockey operations. His legal background prepared him to handle arbitration, contract negotiation and the CBA side of things; he’s the GM of the Syracuse Crunch – and Norfolk Admirals before them – and he does analytics work for Steve Yzerman. He also manages the salary cap.
  • Kyle Cicerella: Byron Froese, the catalyst behind Toronto’s top-scoring line (Kyle The Reporter)
    The 24-year-old bounced on different lines as he adjusted to Toronto but has found stability with wingers Matt Frattin and William Nylander—which has been a positive for all three forwards.
  • MLHS: Marlies two points away from clinching playoff spot after win over Iowa (Maple Leafs Hot Stove)
    The Marlies will have a three-game set this Friday-Saturday-Sunday in need of at least two of six points to clinch a playoff in the Calder Cup playoffs.
  • Tim Rosenthal: Breaking — Bruins relieve GM Peter Chiarelli of his duties (Bruins Daily)
    His loyality was also shown when he signed key cogs like Patrice Bergeron, Tuukka Rask and Zdeno Chara to multi-year contract extensions. At the same time, he also was too loyal to third and fourth liners like Gregory Campbell, Chris Kelly, Daniel Paille and countless others by signing them to questionable extensions. That, combined with the questionable trades of Boychuk and Tyler Seguin in the last couple of years, ultimately led to the Bruins’ front office making this decision.
  • Macko and Cauz: Jonas Siegel and James Mirtle on Hour 3 (TSN 1050)
    In the third hour of Macko & Cauz, the boys are joined by TSN’s Maple Leaf Reporter Jonas Siegel and TSN’s Hockey Analytics host James Mirtle to discuss the Leafs
  • Scott Wheeler: Freddie Gauthier dominant in QMJHL playoffs (Pension Plan Puppets)
    Known for his defensive awareness, and strength on faceoffs, it was Gauthier’s offensive decision-making, skating (he’s much lighter on his feet than in years past) and strength that stood out in my fifth viewing in the last two years.

Photo: Pavlo Leheta/Panoramio

All of your coverage from the past few days in one spot:

Tuesday Links:I

  • Kyle Cicerella: Kyle Dubas, Maple Leafs implementing a new vision for player development (Kyle The Reporter)
    “I think to pigeonhole a player with the Marlies as a bottom-six forward or bottom-pair defenseman, my personal opinion is that that would only serve to limit their development,” said Dubas. “We may be blocking out a player who has a lot of promise.
  • Pierre Lebrun: Brendan Shanahan says Maple Leafs’ rebuild will ‘take as long as it takes’ (
    Whether his actions will match his words, time will tell; at the very least Shanahan sounds like someone who understands what needs to take place here.
  • James Mirtle: It’s not sexy, but the Leafs’ ‘Shanaplan’ makes sense after disastrous season (The Globe and Mail)
    What’s far more important than job titles for the Leafs right now is that smart and innovative people are hired to replace the 20 or so staffers let go in Sunday’s purge. For too long, the richest team in hockey has lost games not because of a lack of effort or heart or leadership on the ice, but because they’ve simply been outmanaged in the front office, with franchises such as the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings lapping them several times in the competence department.
  • Jonas Siegel:  Shanahan promises patient, unconventional rebuild (
    According to Brendan Shanahan, the board of directors at Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment understand what lies ahead for the Leafs and it won’t necessarily be quick or painless. “They understand that there are no shortcuts,” said Shanahan in a 20-minute debrief of the club’s most recent season, one that saw them miss the postseason for the ninth time in 10 seasons.
  • Michael Langlois: An empty feeling as the Leafs change the deck chairs yet again (Vintage Leaf Memories)
    Doesn’t it feel as though those decisions had, in truth, already been made from the day Shanahan was hired? Yet he insisted on playing out the charade. The prize, I guess, is a lottery pick. But the cost was allowing a coach and GM to stay where they were clearly not wanted (witness all their hand picked assistants being axed by Shanahan) and fans enduring a season that was unnecessarily excruciating.
  • Luke Fox: Possible candidates for Toronto Maple Leafs GM (
    Citing Fenton’s excellent track record as part of both the Anaheim Ducks and Nashville Predators brass, Sportsnet’s Glenn Healy suggests the Preds’ assistant general manager could move north.

Photo: Christian Bonin/

The Marlies will have a three-game set this Friday-Saturday-Sunday in need of at least two of six points to clinch a spot in the Calder Cup playoffs.



TORONTO: G. McKegg (J. Leivo, V. Loov), B. Froese (M. Frattin), B. Mikkelson (B. Leipsic, S. Percy), G. McKegg (J. Leivo, T. Brennan), M. Frattin

IOWA: B. Brassart (S. Veilleux, J. Chouinard), M. Hagel (J. Blum, Z. Mitchell)


  • MATT FRATTIN collected a goal and an assist playing in his 100th AHL game
  • GREG MCKEGG scored his 20th and 21st  goals of the season, opening the scoring for the Marlies and surpassing his career high for goals in a season (previous was 19)
  • BRENDAN MIKKELSON tied his career high for goals, scoring his eighth late in the second period
  • BYRON FROESE scored the second goal for the Marlies, his 17th of the season. He now has 24 points in the past 23 games
  • BRENDAN LEIPSIC collected an assist, pushing his point total in the past five games to 10 points.
  • TJ BRENNAN collected an assist, he now has 11 points in his last seven games.
  • Tonight’s game was the first penalty free game in the AHL in over three years.


    by -
    TORONTO, ON- OCTOBER 7 - Toronto Maple Leafs President Brendan Shanahan during a sit down interview in his office at the Mastercard Centre. (Photo: Tara Walton/Toronto Star via Getty Images)

    Some of the more interesting passages from today’s media address by Brendan Shanahan:

    For the full video, click here.

    On the replacement GM:
    One thing I don’t want to do this early in the process is eliminate anyone from the process. We have time, there are people who available now, there will be more available obviously as the summer goes along.

    We want someone who shares our vision. We need to have at team with greater character, we need to have people who represent this team and this city as it deserves. We have an incredibly loyal, resilient fanbase. We need to have an incredibly resilient group of players that love to play in Toronto. We need an incredibly resilient group of managers, from top to bottom, committed to doing this in Toronto in spite any difficulties or perceived difficulties that this is a harder market than other markets. I don’t believe that. I think the rewards are great here, and the pressure is great, but there are a lot of individuals who want to take on challenges like that.

    This job won’t be for some GMs, but those GMs won’t be for us. The one statement I don’t like to say too much, “this is how it’s always been done.” That doesn’t really make much sense to me. I believe we are building a very capable and dedicated staff of people. The type of GM I want to bring to Toronto is someone who will recognize that and want to be part of the team.

    As far as who replaces Tim Leiweke, I’ve got supreme support from our board. They understand this has to be done the right way, and sometimes the right way takes a while. I have the complete faith that our board knows this has to be done the right way. I have complete faith they’re going to hire someone who shares that vision.

    “The Plan:”
    The plan is not some unique plan that you won’t see 29 other teams in the League say they have to do: Draft, development, patience, make good choices. The challenge here in Toronto is not to come up with the plan, the challenge is to stick to it. That’s the hard part. Our vision is, indeed, to draft and develop our own players; if a player is ready to come up he’ll come up, if a player needs more time to reach his full potential we’ll leave him down there. Every decision we make has to be about how do we build a winning organization that can sustain itself year after year after year through the draft. I think that that is our vision. When people want to know the day to day plan, I’m sorry, it’s not in an effort to be elusive or hide things from people, but when the other 29 teams start laying out there plan on a day to day basis, maybe we’ll lay it out as well. The plan changes, the vision doesn’t change. The plan changes day to day, week to week, because it’s a sport and things change. As far as having the patience to do what’s need to be done, you have to have the stomach to get through it in a place with this much passion.
    I have that stomach, and I can tell you the board does. We’ve got excellent from our board that this has to be done the right way. They understand there are no shortcuts; shortcuts have gotten us in trouble in the past. This has to, once and for all, be a build we are committed to and we don’t stray from.

    On possibly taking on the GM’s role himself:
    I’ll pitch in at this point. Obviously, I have a day to day impact on the decisions of our club. But my interim GMs with Mark and wth Kyle, they’re going to do a lot of the day to day work. We’ll lean on each other as we search for a new GM. As far as making myself the GM, that’s not my intention.

    On fan patience:
    After what has happened, [the changes] have to include everybody. That’s not to say we don’t have talented individuals. Some of them won’t be coming back, but they understand and everyone here understands and the fans demand that this has to change. Sometimes people here try to suggest this can’t be done because the fans of Toronto don’t have the stomach to endure what truly needs to be done. I don’t believe that. I think they’re dying for it to be done. Some people blame the press. I think that’s a cop out as well. I think it’s on us to have the determination to stick with the plan and to do this the right way.

    In our mind we would like to see an improvement in our attitude and the way that we play. I think we understand if we make certain deals, especially if they reflect the ones we made at the deadline, where we’re moving good players for future assets, that it takes away from your lineup and can hurt your lineup. I think people here can understand that. It’s a sophisticated hockey market. What I don’t think they understand is people who go out and give half efforts and who don’t appear to enjoy playing here. You have to give the effort, and at least show a happiness in being a Toronto Maple Leaf, and an enthusiasm. Even if the record is the same record. We have to be able to play differently and approach the game differently in this city. I think that’s what had most people so upset this year.

    On the draft:
    When we hired Mark Hunter, obviously Mark’s job description was to go out and find us players. We also wanted him to assess our scouting department, pro and amateur, from top to bottom. That was something we intended on doing all year long.

    It won’t be a different approach. This was something Mark was evaluating all season long, the people he valued in this department and people he thought maybe weren’t going to be part of a lean and effective team. In no way would he ever have diminished our ability or hurt our chances at the draft table. It was his decision, it was responsibility that we gave him. Mark knows scouting, Mark knows talent, and it had to be his team and his group. He would never, ever put the Leafs in a position where there was information going out that was going to hurt us or there was information that we lacked as we approached the draft. He has the people he trusts and the people he likes. We think it will be a less crowded room but a more effective room as we approach the draft.

    On how many years this may take:
    I know people come up with answers and years, and I sometimes if they come up with a number of years to simply buy themselves some time. The truth of the matter, and the reality and the truest answer I can give you, is it takes as long as it takes.

    Why not start the overhaul process sooner?
    Coming in here last year and making the kind of changes that I made yesterday would’ve been a guess for me. I know that people are frustrated and want to fast forward this thing as quickly as possible. There are millions of blueprints in this city but we can only use mine while I’m here as President. I can’t borrow yours or borrow somebody else’s. I had to come in here and see some things for myself. I made some changes last year, I tried to support some people to give them an opportunity to succeed. We made a change around the half way point of the year and we asked the players to show us what they had and give us some answers. We went out and signed some players that we thought would give us an opportunity to be better. I think we got some answers this year. It didn’t work out. You’d like to go back and know all these things that you know one year later, it simply would’ve been a guess at that time. That not something I would have been willing to do, or simply take your opinion.

    Would he hire a coach before a GM?
    The answer is, if I feel that the right person is available, and if Mark and Kyle feel the right person is available and it’s a little bit out of order and we get a fantastic coach, I don’t think it diminishes a GM’s interest in coming to Toronto if we get a fantastic coach before the GM. Again, I know it might not be traditionally the way things are always done, I don’t think I’m necessarily somebody who follows the, “this is how it’s always been done so this is how it has to be done.” Ideally we would like to have a GM in place to help us find a coach. If the right person is available at the right time, we’ll make that decision.

    On winning the lottery:
    It would certainly speed things up [followed by an eye roll and laugh].

    Photo via Facebook Page

    It should be a busy day on the media rounds for Leafs players and management to say the least, with the exit interviews coming a day after what’s being described as the biggest, swiftest organizational overhaul in Leafs history.

    With the clearcutting more or less complete, we should get some more information on who all remains among the scouts today and maybe some hints about what the direction is going to be in terms of replacements for the jettisoned personnel.

    Brendan Shanahan’s press conference will air at 2 p.m. We’ll have the stream up here when the time comes.

    Monday Links:

    • Alec Brownscombe ‘Mike Futa could be perfect fit for Leafs GM’ (MLHS)
      Futa seems to walk a nice line amid all these considerations. He’s got a background in scouting and he’s worked with an NHL team for eight years, which is plenty more than the current Leafs front office personnel combined. He’s got two Cup rings to show for it. He checks a lot of the right boxes and seems to mesh well with what’s already in place.
    • Alec Brownscombe: Leafs fire Director of Pro Scouting Steve Kasper and Director of Player Development Jimmy Hughes; Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison expected to stay on (MLHS)
      Kyle Dubas recently spoke at the SAS analytics conference about the need for all levels of management and coaching to be on the same page on their thinking processes when it comes to implementing a more analytical approach to decision making. Clearly, Kasper was more of the old management’s paradigm. That’s reason enough to move on.
    • Alec Brownscombe and Anthony Petrielli: Leafs fire Dave Nonis, Peter Horachek, Steve Spott, Chris Dennis, Rick St. Croix (MLHS)
      Nonis was handed a team with scoring depth and goaltending and ruined the scoring depth, acquired another goalie and never addressed the positions of need (center and defense, aka the two most important positions on the team). This had to happen. Probably should have happened last summer.
    • Bob McKenzie: Shanahan’s new GM must align with Leafs’ vision (
      There is absolutely no doubt Shanahan’s primary hiring focus will be to find a somewhat like-minded individual who can work comfortably in the hockey universe Shanahan has created with Dubas, Hunter and Pridham. That isn’t to say there can’t be discourse – I couldn’t think of two individuals who appear to differ more in style and/or personality more than Dubas and Hunter – but there needs to be some commonality of thought and respect for the established hierarchy.
    • James Mirtle: Leafs’ Shanahan drops the axe, kick-starts long overdue rebuild (The Globe and Mail)
      Finally, no one can deny how poor this team and its prospects (in both senses of the word) actually are. No one could watch 11 wins in the last 51 games and come to any conclusion other than it was an unmitigated mess.
    • Bruce Arthur: Maple Leafs’ bloody Sunday solidifies Shanahan’s power (Toronto Star)
      That is what Shanahan keeps saying, publicly and privately. He doesn’t want to settle. In October he told me that winning a Stanley Cup here running the Leafs would mean more than anything he accomplished as a player. The three Stanley Cups, the gold medal, everything. He was born here and raised here, went to his prom as an 18-year-old NHL player here. His family and friends are still here. He’s emotionally invested in this thing.
    • Chris Johnston: ‘Bloody Sunday’ begins biggest off-season ever (
      On the bright side, this is the perfect time to conduct a search for off-ice talent. There is expected to be an unprecedented amount of turnover around the NHL in the coming weeks, with several high-pedigree coaches likely to be fired and Mike Babcock set to become a free agent.
    • Bruce Arthur: Hard part now starts for Leafs (Toronto Star)
      And then blow the core up, if you can. Not rashly, not stupidly, but thoroughly. Kessel, Dion Phaneuf — who was wistful in his season-ending interview, or as publicly wistful as he gets — Tyler Bozak, Joffrey Lupul, even James van Riemsdyk. Take calls, make calls, keep Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly above all, build for the future. Shanahan has secured the approval of the Maple Leaf Sports & Entertainment board to execute a patient process, and it would be a shame to waste it
    • Chemmy: Thoughts on firing of Dave Nonis and Peter Horachek (Pension Plan Puppets)
      We can’t talk about Dave Nonis without recognizing that he was Brian Burke’s second in command. This is where the Brian Burke non-rebuild actually ends, and it’s where we can really evaluate what this executive team did for the Maple Leafs.
    • Jonas Siegel: Nonis failed to see big picture as Leafs GM  (
      Nonis epitomized that approach in securing the mostly-Burke-acquired core of Kessel, Phaneuf, Lupul, Bozak and Clarkson. A group of that caliber in a cap system was never winning a Cup or coming close. Qualifying for the playoffs was even a strain and only in a 48-game season did the group manage that.

    Photo: (Veronica Henri/Toronto Sun)

    It’s official: Dave Nonis has been let go with two years left on his contract, while the entire Leafs coaching staff has been cleared out.

    These six days will always stand out in our memories of Dave Nonis’ tenure. We can argue until we’re blue in the face about how legitimate the team’s modest lockout season success was in the first place, but this was undoubtedly a detrimental week of moves following the 2012-13 season.

    It’s been rumoured the current management group views the Leafs’ playoff appearance that year as a major setback to the franchise due to how badly the standing of the team was misjudged by Nonis and his management team. It seems even the Clarkson for Horton swap wasn’t enough to save him in the end. In the big picture, the Leafs have won only 94 of 212 games under Nonis, and their system under him has been nowhere near productive enough when it comes to producing young NHL talent.

    In addition to the draft and development side of things, he locked the Leafs into some heavy contracts before the core proved capable of getting the job done. The asset management under Nonis was also nowhere near good enough. Exhibit A: The entire line of Grabovski, Kulemin and MacArthur, once among the more productive in the League, was allowed to walk for the return of negative one compliance buy out. The Leafs were allowed to trot out among the worst group of centers in the League consistently for years, and the defence and center weaknesses, the backbone positions of any NHL team, were left unimproved for far too long.

    Nonis’ status as the main holdover from the previous management regime always struck one as awkward. Like with Randy Carlyle, Shanahan bided his time and waited to pull the trigger. If we want to believe he was fairly confident the team wasn’t going anywhere this season, he bought some time before the scrutiny shifts largely onto him and the men he’s brought into the Leaf front office.

    In the interim, Mark Hunter is expected to take care of the executive duties while we await the possible addition of a new GM.

    As for the coaching staff: Peter Horachek, he really did fall on the sword. He was promoted at a time when the team was right in the cusp of a total bottom out and asked to try to turn it around initially during the worst road trip in hockey. Any games the team were winning early on were largely earned in an unsustainable fashion similar to 2013-14, and as much as he tried to preach the important of a three-zone puck possession game, he couldn’t get it back on the rails. His record will be a real sore sight to look back on, but we all know none of this was really on him. Here was one of his final quotes as Leafs coach last night, which definitely rings true:

    “Ultimately, this team had to change. If we continued right where we were in November, we might not make the playoffs, we might be fighting for the playoffs, and even if we make the playoffs, we weren’t going to win. Is that what we want? Do we want to just be competitive, or do we want to build something to win a Stanley Cup? That’s the change we have to make. Not just to be competitive, we have to start thinking about winning and having higher expectations. Our expectations have to go in a new direction — higher – not competitive, not okay, not just okay… that’s ultimately where we were. The same place we were the year before. We were competitive – right there, maybe in the playoffs, maybe out of the playoffs, but it’s not enough.”

    With Rick St. Croix out, does Shanahan bring in Sean Burke to work in some capacity as the goalie coach as well maybe a role on the management side of things?

    Steve Spott went rather quickly from junior, to the AHL, to the NHL, and now out of a job. Spott was tabbed as a guy who would help bridge a communication gap between the players and coaches; from the outside looking in, it doesn’t look like that happened (granted, none of us are privy to the inner dressing room coach-player relationship dynamics). The Leafs powerplay, which he ran, also seemed to really lack imagination as the season wore on, as no real solution was presented when Kessel was getting closed down on the half wall. The Leafs PP stumbled to a 26th place finish with a 15.6% success rate, which is embarrassing with some of the offensive skill Spott had available to him.

    Scattered thoughts:

    • It will be good to get some new eyes on this team. Everyone in Leafs land is ripping apart every single player on the team, so to bring in some new voices from the outside world will help provide a better gauge of where the league still sees, say, Phil Kessel. Or JVR. Or whoever.
    • On that note, a new GM always means this—you are no longer married to the players from the last regime and don’t have to give an excuse as to why you traded a guy that is signed long-term.
    • Steve Spott was responsible for the power play and it was awful. They ended up finishing 26th on the year, often looking disorganized, lacking creativity, or direction. Scott Gordon got criticized, but he oversaw a generally productive power play that finished in the top half of the league twice in a row. Sure they lost Franson, but there was more than enough talent to put out five guys and build something successful.
    • Have to feel bad for Horachek, but understand the decision. Thought he could have stuck as an assistant, but c’est la vie.
    • The Leafs need to hire an entire coaching staff. Burke’s rule was that a new head coach got to bring one assistant with him, but the Leafs will be filling an entire bench of new coaches next year. Will the new guy bring in an entire group with him? Will the Leafs promote someone from the Marlies or hire someone from the OHL (cough cough) to fill a spot? Should be interesting.
    • Mirtle tweeted it sounds possible that Sean Burke will replace Rick St. Croix, which would make sense. Last year under St. Croix Bernier was awesome and almost carried the team into the playoffs. This year both goalies had average seasons. That’s the life of a coach. Burke has had success building goalies back up and on name reputation is probably the best guy you can hire.
    • The Rob Blake connections also make sense. I don’t believe an experienced GM will want to come into a situation where he can’t hire his own team because it is already put in place by Shanahan, and Shanahan is the overseer of everything so it’s not a traditional GM job anymore. A newer executive with the opportunity to be a GM will probably chomp at the bit before an experienced guy.
    • Nonis was handed a team with scoring depth and goaltending and ruined the scoring depth, acquired another goalie and never addressed the positions of need (center and defense, aka the two most important positions on the team). This had to happen. Probably should have happened last summer.
    • This was essentially a wasted of season of firing Carlyle and Nonis when most everyone knew it should have happened last summer.
    • The team tried to tank, come January. Shanahan trying to sign Bolland and personally attempting to get Josh Gorges to waive his no trade clause is not tanking. But they saw where this was going around December and traded away everything, bringing back non-NHLers like Lindstrom and Sill to plug holes and making the team worse. It all worked out in the end, but for the record it’s revisionist history to say the Leafs were trying to be bad.

    Article by Alec Brownscombe and Anthony Petrielli

    Peter Horachek

    “Ultimately, this team had to change. If we continued right where we were in November, we might not make the playoffs, we might be fighting for the playoffs, and even if we make the playoffs, we weren’t going to win. Is that what we want? Do we want to just be competitive, or do we want to build something to win a Stanley Cup? That’s the change we have to make. Not just to be competitive, we have to start thinking about winning and having higher expectations. Our expectations have to go in a new direction — higher – not competitive, not okay, not just okay… that’s ultimately where we were. The same place we were the year before. We were competitive – right there, maybe in the playoffs, maybe out of the playoffs, but it’s not enough.”

    Dion Phaneuf

    by -
    image by Jack Landau,

    As the last billow of black smoke dissipated from the tirefire that was the 2014-15 Leafs season, Damien Cox had the latest on the next steps in Brendan Shanahan’s continued overhaul of the Leafs organization.

    Peter Horachek’s out as expected, but nothing conclusive still on Nonis:

    Cox also mentions two names that have been in the rumour circles for a while as possible front office adds:

    The word on Rob Blake for a few months now has been that he’s very comfortable in Los Angeles and has zero intention of leaving this offseason. As for Sean Burke, he’s known to be actively seeking out a management position after gaining a solid reputation for his work as a goalie coach, most notably for helping to overhaul Devan Dunbyk’s game while he was in Arizona and his NHL career was hanging on by a thread.

    What are the meetings with Dave Nonis all about? If he’s getting fired outright, why a few days of meetings first? Very likely the coaching staff will be cleared out, but it’s far from clear yet what Brendan Shanahan intends to do with the GM position. It seems awkward and unlikely that an experienced GM would enter a situation in which his assistants have been hired by someone else (Shanahan). That doesn’t necessarily mean Nonis will or should remain in his current role, though. Firing Nonis and plucking an up and coming GM from an assistant’s role somewhere else in the League, who can mesh into what Shanahan’s already building, might be the route the Leafs take.

    Outside of the GM post, Brendan Shanahan has also left the scouting and development staffs largely untouched to date. All the pro scouts remain from before he arrived, led by the Director of Pro Scouting, Steve Kasper. Director of Player Development Jim Hughes was a Burke hire. Director of Amateur Scouting Dave Morrison has held his role since the John Ferguson Jr. regime.

    There’s little sense in speculating at this point and more sense in waiting for Monday before speaking, because even those whose job it is to report on this stuff don’t seem to have any idea what Brendan Shanahan will do.

    by -
    Photo: Tom Szczerbowski, USA Today

    The Leafs’ draft position is locked in at fourth, and for the first time in a long time Leafs fans can feel no inner conflict about cheering for a win.

    The Canadiens do have something to play for, clinching an Atlantic Division title, which is something the Leafs can spoil with a regulation win combined with a Lightning regulation or overtime-shootout win. As for playoff opponents, whether the Habs finish with the Atlantic Division title or not their current matchup (Red Wings) may not change depending on how the Wings and Lightning finish up their seasons.

    This game marks the formal conclusion of a Leafs season that was over a long, long time ago. Try to enjoy the final 60 minutes of Leafs hockey for the 2014-15 season; failing that, the changes continue starting Monday:

    Montreal Canadiens Projected Lines

    Alex Galchenyuk – Tomas Plekanec – Brendan Gallagher
    Devante Smith-Pelly – David Desharnais – Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau
    Jacob De La Rose – Lars Eller – Dale Weise
    Brandon Prust – Torrey Mitchell – Brian Flynn

    Andrei Markov – P.K. Subban
    Alexei Emelin – Jeff Petry
    Nathan Beaulieu – Greg Pateryn

    Carey Price
    Dustin Tokarski

    Scratched: Manny Malhotra, Sergei Gonchar, Greg Pateryn, Mike Weaver.
    Injured: Max Pacioretty (upper body) Tom Gilbert (upper body).

    Maple Leafs Projected Lines

    James van Riemsdyk – Tyler Bozak – Phil Kessel
    Richard Panik – Nazem Kadri – Joakim Lindstrom
    David Booth – Peter Holland – Joffrey Lupul
    Brandon Kozun / Casey Bailey – Zach Sill – Colton Orr

    Eric Brewer – Dion Phaneuf
    Jake Gardiner – Morgan Rielly
    Andrew MacWilliam – Tim Erixon

    Jonathan Bernier
    James Reimer

    Scratched: Casey Bailey / Brandon Kozun, Leo Komarov
    Injured: Nathan Horton (back), Stephane Robidas (shoulder), Roman Polak (sports hernia), Trevor Smith (upper body)

    Status report: Komarov practiced Friday, but did not take the morning skate and is not expected to play. … Gilbert is expected to miss his second straight game for the Canadiens.

    Who’s hot: Van Riemsdyk has scored in three of Toronto’s past four games and has three goals and six points in the past six games. … Rielly has points in four of his past seven games. … Brewer has three points in the past four games. … Plekanec has scored in Montreal’s past three games. He has five points in that span.