Both the Jim Hiller (ran the powerplay in Detroit) and Andrew Brewer (video coach) hirings were initially reported once Mike Babcock came on board, while the Leafs today brought in an exciting new face in DJ Smith out of the OHL ranks. As with all of the hires, change is nice and they always sound swell in the honeymoon stage.
The other “new” news was that the Leafs have, for the second time, gone outside the sport in hiring strength and conditioning coach, Matthew Herring; this after hiring new Director of Sports Science and Player Performance Jeremy Bettle a few weeks ago. Both Herring and Bettle were lured away from billion-plus-dollar NBA franchises in the Nets and Spurs, presumably by making the pair very well compensated in Toronto.
It’s always been hard to make the argument that the Leafs, under MLSE ownership, have not been willing to try to spend their way out of the deep troubles of the past decade; it’s more been an issue of competency and how effectively the money has been put to use in a hard-capped player salary environment. They’ve now used the previously unused analytics budget on the hockey research department, they backed up the money truck for Mike Babcock, they hired away some (well, more than some) of the more highly-regarded brain trust in junior hockey, and they’ve established a new “Sports Science and Performance Division,” with the idea that there’s some unexplored value there.
This was an interesting and relevant quote by Dubas on the day he introduced Sheldon Keefe as the Marlies‘ new head coach:
[quote_box_center]I think that gets said a lot, that we have revenue and we can throw that at whatever, but the way I look at it is that we’ve had resources, but we need to be resourceful. There’s a difference to me between having a lot of resources and being a resourceful organization. We’re trying to be the most resourceful of all the other teams in the League. We are a long way from being there. We’re behind a lot of teams and we’ve got a long way to go. And then we’ve got to play catch up to other sports as well. Our aim is to one day get there.[/quote_box_center]
It’s going to be fascinating to see how effectively all of this translates onto the ice in the coming years. Here’s hoping the plan to be both splurging and resourceful at the same time pans out. As Leafs fans are well aware, the latter is infinitely tougher to accomplish than the former.
- Staff: Maple Leafs hire DJ Smith as assistant coach; Andrew Brewer and Jim Hiller confirmed (MLHS)
In terms of connections to Toronto – Smith played 11 games as a call up for the Leafs in his playing career, spending most of six seasons with the St. John’s Maple Leafs. As far as coaching connections to any current Marlies or Leafs, Tyler Biggs played for him on the Generals in 2012-13, and Richard Panik played for him on the Spitfires in 2009-10.
- Mark Zwolinski: Maple Leafs name assistant coaching staff under Mike Babcock (Toronto Star)
Smith’s Generals were dynamic on their championship run through the OHL and Memorial Cup, tackling some of the best junior teams in the country and bottling up their offensive weapons, including Connor McDavid. The Generals twice held McDavid off the score sheet in the OHL final — McDavid had been held pointless in only two games during the regular season.
- Staff: Andrew Brewer to be named assistant coach of the Maple Leafs (MLHS)
From May 24th: Brewer’s experience in working with elite NHL coaches extended beyond the national team. Leading up to the Olympics, he travelled with Babcock and the Red Wings for a week to get an idea of Babcock’s coaching style so he’d be comfortable working with a new coach during the Olympics.
- Alec Brownscombe: Jim Hiller to join Mike Babcock on Leafs new coaching staff (MLHS)
From May 22nd: In his first year on an NHL bench, Hiller was in charge of the Red Wings’ second-ranked powerplay, which ticked along at a 23.8% success rate last year. Their powerplay went 2 for 27 out of the gates and Hiller garnered some early criticism, but it took off after the early struggles, with Hiller emphasizing an approach to outnumbering the opponent down low.
- Lance Hornby: Rugged defenceman Provorov on Leafs’ radar (Toronto Sun)
McCrimmon — owner, GM and coach of the WHL Wheat Kings — has taken his time deciding. But you can bet Provorov came up in the conversation with the hockey office, a six-foot, 200-pound Russian-born defender who hits like a tank and had a point a night in 60 games this season. Provorov said at the recent draft combine that he’d been invited to work out a second time by the Leafs at their practice rink, along with other prospects.
- Michael Langlois: Can the Maple Leafs turn things around the as Blackhawk franchise has done over the past decade? (Vintage Leaf Memories)
In today’s cap and free agent world, it’s almost surprising when any team has more than a player or two on its roster for a decade. So the fact that the Hawks have largely built over the past near decade around a goalie (Crawford), two stud defensemen in Keith and Seabrook and forwards like Sharp maybe sheds a bit of light on the Hawks’ philosophy when it comes to building teams.