As most of you have probably already heard/seen, Tim Leiweke gave a rather incendiary interview with Bloomberg.  The written version can be found here or feel free to check out the video below:

Leiweke on NFL in Toronto, Maple Leafs ‘Winning’

“He arrived alone, bringing no staff with him from California. He took a look around. He didn’t like much of what he saw.”

Just yesterday, Cathal Kelly from the Toronto Star had the opportunity to interview Tim Leiweke and he echoed many of the points he touched upon in his interview with Bloomberg, including the ones that really polarized Leafs fans.  You know what I’m talking about; the stripping down of glory day photos from the ACC and  having the Stanley Cup parade route planned for Toronto.   As with the Bozak and Clarkson signings, I once again made it a point to survey the landscape before reacting to Leiweke’s comments on Tuesday. On the one hand, many are labeling Leiweke as arrogant and dismissive of Toronto’s storied history, while others say he’s the disruptive infusion the organization needs in order to become…*deep breath*…Stanley Cup contenders.  As a matter of full disclosure, I lean more to the latter and believe that Leiweke is the kind of leader/winner who will be instrumental in driving top-down organizational behavior that is befitting of a Stanley Cup Champion.  In reading the Toronto Star article, here are some of the reasons why I think Leiweke is the right guy for the present day Maple Leafs:

He has the personality and demeanor to be the CEO of the Maple Leafs

 “Leiweke is impressive in front of a group. One-on-one, he’s Clintonian”

“The key to this charisma is the apparent guilelessness of his enthusiasm, the easy confidence”

Whether you hated, or loved, Brian Burke, you couldn’t deny that he had charisma and brought a different tone to the organization.  Burke was a larger-than-life personality.  Most of us can only judge Leiweke based on what we’ve seen and heard over television, radio, and print media. In person, charisma and aura are things that can permeate through an entire organization and I reckon that our opinion of him would be quite different if we had the opportunity for face-to-face interaction.  “But Aaron, charisma can’t win you a Cup”. That statement is 100% correct and, thankfully for us, he won’t be lacing-up for Randy Carlyle any time soon.  MLSE didn’t bring him to to play, they brought him in because…

His vision for the Leafs is infectious

“If Chicago had one million people, Toronto will have two.”

“We’ve built more arenas and stadiums than anyone in the world, ever – including the Romans!”

After almost of decade of fruitless, and sometimes embarrassing, attempts at gaining entry into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Leiweke is asking us to envision a time where 2 million Torontonians will flood the streets and create a sea of blue and white throughout the city.  People are edified by the substance of their ambitions and I don’t blame Leafs fans for not seeing what he sees. However, just because our suffering has dulled our imagination doesn’t mean that thinking big is wrong or arrogant. Also, there is something to be said about someone who compares his prior accomplishments to that of the Romans. Still, a vision without action is only a dream and I think MLSE will execute because of…

His unprecedented ambition

“I asked (Rogers CEO) Nadir (Mohammed) and (Bell CEO) George (Cope), ‘If I came to you with David Beckham, would you let me sign him?’ And they said, ‘Yes’.”

“Then I said, ‘If that’s the case, then why haven’t you?’ And they said, ‘Because no one ever asked.’ And that was it.”

“That’s his M.O. – the big splash. He isn’t a builder. He’s the guy who stages the place before the open house.”

The David Beckham comment is the most telling. This may be a soccer example but it tells you something about ownership’s eventual impression of Brian Burke. Please note, I don’t mean to say that Burke wasn’t ambitious.  If anything, I have always sung his praises for how he was able to salvage a substantial amount of value from the scrap pile he inherited in 2008, and how he subsequently built the organizational depth back to respectability. You, however, cannot deny that Brian Burke was not stubborn and unwilling to fully exploit MLSE’s financial advantage. Remember the 5-year contract rule? Championship teams are built through a combination of internal development and synergistic free agency additions.  Often times, Burke’s self-imposed rules priced us out of the running for big name players. I’m not saying that back-loaded, deep-sea diving, 15-year contracts are acceptable for the Leafs, but we were never really swinging for the fences either. Fast forward to the signing of David Clarkson, probably the most sought-after free agent this summer and this is the first time the Leafs have really shown a willingness to pay top dollar for, what management deems as, a key player going forward. No disrespect to Burke, but if he were still the Leafs’ GM, we wouldn’t be contemplating 7-year contracts for free agents.

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Here’s what some of our writers had to say. Also, Michael Langlois from Vintage Leaf Memories was kind enough to join us for this week’s round table.

“We likely need to draw a distinction between these incessant “ceremonial” events that MLSE seems to construct every few games, as well as the in-game video tributes to former players and all that.  If the organization wants to dial that stuff down, I’m fine with that.  I’ve said before that if they want to truly honour the old-time great teams, invite (at no cost) older fans to attend an event at the ACC or wherever on a non-game day/night.  (We oldsters might prefer daytime!) You might only draw a few thousand people, but every single person that did attend would actually be there to honour the former players and teams.  We know those players and have such fond memories of them and of those really good Leaf teams. When they host these events at the ACC on a game-night, the vast majority of the people in the stands (those that bother to sit in their seats) don’t have a clue who some of the old players are, and just want the game to start.  It’s a waste of everyone’s time.  That’s not “honouring” players.

 But when it comes to taking down pictures, I don’t get that at all.  Whether we’re talking about photos from the ’50s or the ’90s, those photos are part of Leaf lore, and more importantly, those great old-time players are an integral part of the Maple Leaf legacy.

Were it not for those players and coaches (and the success the franchise did have at times from the 1930s under Conn Smythe to the ’60s under the ownership of Stafford Smythe) does anyone really believe people would still care about the Leafs?  They built such a fantastic heritage that, despite 45 plus years without a Stanley Cup, the team is still relevant today. In fact, probably more popular in a sense than ever. This new guy talks like he invented the concept of “change”, “winning” and all that.  How much did this individual really have to do with the success of the Lakers, Kings or Galaxy?  C’mon.  He was not the GM, not the coach, not the owner, not a scout.   The Leafs don’t need to change their culture.  They just need to win.  Perhaps this guy will learn that what will impress most Leaf fans is running a classy organization, one that respects and truly honours the past, and also wins games-and championships – now. Some fans seem to see these Leiweke comments as some kind of welcome breakthrough.  I’m trying to understand that perspective but I’m struggling to.

For me, his bold proclamations are the same old thing we’ve been hearing for years.  Culture of change, excellence, winning…” -Michael Langlois (@VintageLeaf)

“The Toronto Maple Leafs are a franchise with a very deep history and the fans have an almost equally long memory. When Leiweke said, “I don’t want the players walking in the hallways of the Air Canada Centre and seeing pictures from 1962. Get rid of those pictures and tell them, this is your legacy.” My initial reaction was, “fucking right.”  I might get a lot of flak for saying this but, I love the balls that Tim Leiweke has. I’m sure that my view on this might be due to my young age, (the Leafs I grew up with were Sundin, Domi, Tucker and Kaberle) but I think it’s pretty easy to get mired in Toronto’s history and it’s refreshing to hear that it’s healthy to move on and forge a new legacy.

I’m not a big football or soccer fan so those elements of the article weren’t particularly interesting to me, though I do enjoy Leiweke’s candour when speaking to the damage that has been done to the brands and the failings of the teams. His ambitious goal to double the company’s value in 5-7 years and his estimation that 30% comes from winning is also heartening to hear and seems consistent with what we had  previously heard about creating a winning mentality and erasing “blue and white disease” from Burke.

The exciting part of Leiweke is that he seems like he understands that Toronto has resources at its disposal that put it in an advantageous position relative to other teams. Things like having excellent facilities, an in-city AHL team, and developing desired staff (whether it’s coaches, general managers, video guys, etc.) are areas where Toronto can flex its financial muscle, and has recently. I like hearing that Leiweke understands that and seemingly plans to exploit those advantages. ” –Taylor Wright (@Taylor_Wright)

“There’s a fundamental difference between hoping for success and planning for success. People who consistently achieve success do the latter. Lieweke’s comments are being blown out of proportion. He’s not saying we should ignore the Leafs’ history, he’s saying the brand – as it currently stands – is far too reliant on it. I do not disagree, at all.

Look at the New York Yankees. They revere their history, but the modern-day team has achieved success by being defined by a modern-day core of players. We still talk about Darryl Sittler’s 10-point game like it was yesterday. We roll out Wendel Clark to forcibly push the idea that a recently-acquired player (however good he may be) is even close to a comparable. The Yankees remember Babe Ruth, but they don’t build PR and Marketing campaigns around him. That is what Lieweke means.

He’s saying we can’t step into tomorrow with our feet firmly planted in yesterday. He’s not wrong. We’ve been doing that for a long time, now – and haven’t achieved a morsel of success. Move forward.” –Matt Mistele (@TOTruculent)

“My thoughts on MLSE CEO Tim Leiweke are fairly simple. He’s certainly brought the type of overwhelming self-confidence and bluster not seen since Brian Burke departed seven months ago, albeit in a much more significant executive role.  Similarly to Burke, Leiweke is coming to Toronto after  earning his sports management laurels in California.  At the helm of Anschutz Entertainment Group, he guided the LA Lakers, Galaxy and Kings to a combined 9 titles during his tenure.  He’ll be given a wide berth from ownership, and has already hinted at his desire to make major player acquisitions to build a winner.  But, much like Burke, pedigree is no indicator of future success; and he’ll soon find that bravado and bull shit ahead of failure will tire in this city quickly.As to his parade planning, two things.  Firstly: what, did you expect the guy with 9 championships to be meek? Secondly: how many people would have eaten that line up if it had come from Brian Burke in November of 2009?And on the topic of the photos being taken down? Grow up.  If the Toronto Maple Leafs have to stretch and further back into history to find someone to praise, they’ll be rolling coffins onto the ice.  The Leafs don’t even play in the same home rink as they did when they won all their Stanley Cups, and you’re getting upset over Leiweke taking down some photos on the way to the dressing room in the ACC? C’mon, Maple Leaf Gardens is LITERALLY a grocery store now, and you think this picture nonsense is sacrilege? Give your head a shake.Now, all this said… has he made the right choice to place so much confidence in Dave Nonis? The answer is beyond us until October, but it’s possible.  I’m also not a fan of his blatant nepotism hires in the acquisition of Troy Bodie.  Seriously, who wants their son-in-law to live in the same city as him, as well as pay for the move? Guy might not be dealing from a full deck.” –Michael Stephens (@MLHS_Mike)

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