With Cliff Fletcher sticking around for the upcoming season, the Maple Leafs have gone forward in hiring new staff since the start of the off-season. It seems the philosophy among many franchises around the league is to create positions to fill with excellent hockey minds in order to improve their own hockey growth and knowledge above the ice surface. Maple Leafs Sports and Entertainment has finally joined in on that idea by adding Al Coates as the Director of Player Personnel, Jeff Jackson as the assistant GM and Director of Hockey Operations in 2006 who focuses primarily on collective bargaining duties and contract negotiations, and an overhaul of the coaching staff other than Keith Acton, who has found a way to stay within the organization after stints under head coaches Paul Maurice and Pat Quinn. Now, the Leafs have added a few more well known, quality hockey minds to the organization. Leaving his job with hockey Canada, 36 year old Corey Hirsch was brought in to train Justin Pogge as the new goaltending coach, while Wilson introduced a new coaching position by hiring Graeme Townshend as the Leafs first full-time skating coach. Other additions include former Maple Leafs coach Tom Watt and tough-guy Dennis Bonvie, who will join Mike Penny in the scouting department.
The team has also brought back Joe Nieuwendyk to the organization, hiring the 3 time Stanley Cup champion as the teamâ€™s Special Assistant to the General Manager. Former captain, Doug Gilmour, was added to the management team in 2006 as the Player Development Advisor, and has recently signed on to the Toronto Marlies as Greg Gilbertâ€™s assistant coach. Other key notable figures within the Maple Leafs organization are Darryl Sittler, Wendel Clark, and Rick Vaive who are considered to be the teamâ€™s community representatives.
But the question that leads us all to is who will be the next general manager?
Cliff Fletcher has spoken time and again that he does not see himself in the long term role, nor does he wish to be. Several reports were made about the Leafs waiting for Brian Burkeâ€™s contract to expire, but after his recent publicized quarrel with Oilers general manager, Kevin Lowe, it makes you wonder if he is no longer the right man for the job. The way he chose to address his own frustration with a rival GM by attacking him through the media was a classless act of which the league allowed for an entire year. Once Kevin Lowe had finally responded to Burkeâ€™s accusations, Gary Bettman stepped in to calm the storm (perfect timing, Gary). The following day, Toronto signs on Nieuwendyk to work alongside Cliff Fletcher. Coincidence?
With the head coach in place for the next four seasons, a scouting staff that is improving on a yearly basis, and more and more brilliant hockey minds getting into the fold, it seems more evident that the Leafs are training from within. Everything has been set in place to run the franchise under Cliff Fletcher, but is it possible the Leafs are training Neiuwendyk to take the reign when Fletcherâ€™s term expires? Nieuwendyk has proven on the ice he knows what it takes to win it all, and the Leafs should give him every opportunity available to do the same from the press box.
Iâ€™d like to thank Alec for providing me with an opportunity to further my skills in hockey journalism. This sport has been a passion of mine for as long as I can remember, and I have bled blue and white since the day I was born. Having Alec provide me with a chance to explore more of the hockey world with all of you is more than I could have asked for.
Iâ€™m a 22 year old Kirkland Lake native in my final year of the English Literature program at Laurentian University in Sudbury, Ontario, home of the Wolves. Iâ€™ve grown up playing hockey across Northern Ontario and I thought I played a mean Xbox 360 NHL08 until I finally played online for the first time last week and was annihilated by a twelve year old in Nova Scotia. I only lost 1-0, but the shots on net were 36 to 4, and it wasnâ€™t in my favor.
I look forward to introducing some interesting statistical overviews and in-depth analysis of the franchise as a whole. Last February, I had written an article that concluded almost to a T exactly how Toronto had to fair, compared to the Bruins and Flyers, in order to make the playoffs. It turned out to be dead on accurate, and the Bruins found their way in under the final seed. I look forward to presenting more material this season that will hopefully challenge and inspire many opinions that are out there in the Maple Leafs hockey world.
Thanks again to Alec Brownscombe.
Micheal A. Aldred