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.