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.
As @DamoSpin reported last night Leafs clean house – Dave Nonis, Peter Horachek, Steve Spott, Chris Dennis + Rick St Croix all fired.
— Jeff Marek (@JeffMarek) April 12, 2015
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.
— platinum seat ghosts (@3rdPeriodSuits) January 19, 2015
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.
So Bolland (walked for nothing) & Holland (the Leafs gave up a 2nd for playing <10mins/gm) are the only 2 centers Nonis acquired in 3 years.
— Anthony Petrielli (@APetrielli) April 12, 2015
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:
[quote_box_center]“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.”[/quote_box_center]
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.
- 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