Darren Dreger, on TSN Radio yesterday, discussed the future of Dave Nonis and some of the big questions facing Brendan Shanahan this spring and summer.
On Shanahan’s upcoming decisions:
One thing about Brendan Shanahan — he’s gone about his business almost stealth like. He’s not whispering in the ears of many media people; that’s not the game that Shanahan plays. But who among us would be surprised if he emerges at some point early next week, or next week, or the latest the week after, and announces the dismissal of Dave Nonis? You couldn’t be surprised by that. I know there’s a lot of nervous people around the organization, from the scouting department to those with expiring contracts who haven’t been given any direction. That’s all part of it because Shanahan has to look at the big picture. The big picture isn’t next week or week after; it’s 5 years from now, is it going to be a contending team? That is going to be the mandate.
On Peter Horachek’s (likely) imminent dismissal after the season finale and possible replacements:
They wouldn’t hire anyone at [this] stage. I don’t think anyone should be surprised. It depends on the coach that Toronto is confident they are going to be able to land. If Shanahan actually believes he can bring in Babcock, he has to clear the slate. Babcock isn’t going to want this guy or that guy hanging around. He’s going to want total autonomy behind the bench. If, and it’s an enormous if, Babcock decides to leave the Red Wings for the Leafs, or any other team, he is going to want considerable say in personnel as well. It would almost become the NFL model where you’re a coach but also a pretty key participant in the management decisions. It’s unusual because the league has evolved beyond that. Pat Quinn once was the coach and GM for the Toronto Maple Leafs; we’ve seen it in the past, but in recent history teams have gotten away from that. I’m not suggesting Babcock is going to get both titles, but I do believe he wants a big piece of player personnel. Is that the right model for the Maple Leafs? Money isn’t going to be an object. They’ll replace their coaching staff, but is it Babcock or McLellan or is it a younger coach, those are the questions that still need some time to answer.
Could the assistant coaches remain?
I think it’s a bit of a long shot to be honest. Again, we’re trying to get into the head of Brendan Shanahan and what he’s thinking. He may not have made that full determination. It could depend on the head coach you’re bringing in. If you’re going on a full on rebuild and we know Toronto is, I think you have to hit all areas, don’t you? He’s done that already to some degree.
Obviously Mark Hunter is safe, that’s his guy, Kyle Dubas, Pridham — all these guys that were brought in from the management perspective. That’s part of the rebuild. I look at Steve Spott as an example on that bench for the Maple Leafs; this guy, I’m told, is going to be a good NHL coach one day. He’s not ready to be just yet. What happens to him? He helped you out. It probably wasn’t his idea to leave the Toronto Marlies and jump on the bench of the Toronto Maple Leafs. He did it because he was asked to do it. Is he just cast aside and allowed to become a free agent for someone else to pick up? I’d be a little surprised if that coaching staff in its current state was around for the rebuild.
More on possible replacements and if Nonis will be back:
When you’re looking at that level of coach — I put Babcock, Julien, Quenneville, Vigneault on a higher level frankly based on accomplishment – if Julien is cut loose, does he really want to go through a 5-6-7 year rebuild? That’s the reason we’ve kind of parked the Babcock rumours until very recently. If you’re a free agent coach, if Babcock is pushing away, unless he’s is chasing McDavid which he could, then he could have his pick of the litter. The same applies to Claude Julien. Based on the coaches recently who have been head coach for the Leafs – Carlyle, Wilson, Maurice – the lure of the Maple Leaf brand is tremendous. Each one of these coaches, the managers – Brian Burke, Brendan Shanahan – they have enormous egos, and they all believe to a man they’re going to change the direction of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Everyone before now hasn’t been able to do that. That’s Shanahan’s task. He has some history as a player behind him, but he doesn’t have management experience. This is going to be tricky for him. What I’ve learned from watching him is he is very, very, methodical. He might seem heartless in certain situations, but his job is to rebuild, and if Dave Nonis is not part of it, he’s got to go regardless of the term. And the coaches, they’ve got to go. He’s been patient to date and he’ll be patient moving forward in terms of filling positions because you have to absolutely know who is going to be available to make sure you’ve made the best hires.
These guys are smart individuals. We’ve all been in tough situations professionally, and you can feel it, you can sense it. I don’t know that Dave Nonis senses that there is any sense of imminent doom coming his way. In fact, last time I talked to him last week there wasn’t any of that. He was looking at meetings coming up, and they’re preparing for this and that. [Thursday] night he was at the TD Garden in Boston for the Frozen Four games. This guy is going about his business. If he gets fired with three years left, of course he’s going to wish he did more but he wasn’t able to do it for a variety reasons and he understands the business better than anybody. Guys like that are also hired very quickly, it’s all a part of the job.