News of the first personnel change of the offseason has arrived, courtesy of @LeafsPR:
The @mapleleafs announced today that assistant coach Paul McFarland has officially left the organization to assume his role as head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs (OHL) while the club did not renew the contract of assistant coach Andrew Brewer.
— Leafs PR (@LeafsPR) August 14, 2020
Thank You to the Leafs for the past 5 years, it has been a great location to grow my career and grow my family. Very excited for whatever May lay ahead . “In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity”
— Andrew Brewer (@Abrew2014) August 14, 2020
This is not particularly surprising. Andrew Brewer was a Mike Babcock guy — one of his assistants in both Detroit and Team Canada as a video coach. The departure of Paul McFarland for Kingston was long since reported. But this officially leaves only Dave Hakstol (new assistant hired by Babcock-Dubas in the 2019 offseason, in charge of defense and penalty killing), Steve Briere (goaltending coach), and Jordan Bean (video analyst) left among Keefe’s coaching staff in the 2019-20 season.
With that, the turning over of the staff in Keefe’s image has begun in earnest. The speculation will center around Bruce Boudreau — who is no doubt looking for a head coaching position above all else — but the Marlies assistants Keefe enjoyed championship success with, AJ McLean and Rob Davison, shouldn’t go overlooked as in contention for these spots as well.
31 Thoughts Pod: On Gudas, Thornton, Marner (Sportsnet)
Elliotte Friedman provided his thoughts on the direction Kyle Dubas is likely to take this offseason after another disappointing playoff exit.
They’re going to throw a lot of players out and test the market on them and see what comes up. I think that is what it is going to come down to.
The most interesting thing that Dubas said, which I suspected was true, is that he really went to Marner’s defense. I think Dubas thinks very highly of Marner. There is so much noise around Mitch Marner that I think sometimes people hear it and they think that means the organization doesn’t like him.
I think the sum of the talk around Marner obscures what the organization really thinks of him. Dubas confirmed that to me. I’d be shocked if he is going anywhere.
One thing I’ve learned is that what is out there is not always the reality. There is a certain amount of paranoia that comes from some people close to Marner. It’s not from him, but it is around him. There is a belief that, “Oh, he is not respected or the team doesn’t like him, or they’re going to get rid of him.” I’ve learned over the years that that’s not necessarily the reality.
Sometimes, there is a belief the Leafs feel a certain way about him, and it’s just not true.
On who might move:
From your forwards, you’ve got four guys in the next two years whose cash is less than their cap hit. It happens for Nylander this year, it happens for Kapanen this year, it happens for Kerfoot next year, and Johnsson next year. I think they dip their toes in the water, put those guys out there, and see what their options are and what becomes available out it.
On who the Leafs might look to add:
I do think [some non-stereotypical Dubas moves] are coming. I put Gudas’ name there. I have one guy in the league who is already calling him, “future Leaf Radko Gudas.” The guy is in the playoffs for the Capitals.
This is something I heard in the aftermath of Game 5: He went out and got Kyle Clifford, and someone told me he was contemplating more than that. I don’t know who, but I am wondering if he adds some bite on his blue line.
He has players coming in next year — Barabanov from the KHL up front and Lehtonen on defense from the KHL — but I think he needs more bite. I think he will try to add it.
When someone says to me that Dubas was looking at not just Clifford, it says to me that he is thinking about it. Two names I put in the blog are Borowiecki and Radko Gudas. That’s just me throwing stuff against the wall, right?
I am suddenly very curious about Joe Thornton. I wonder if he is going to be a Leaf next year… I know I’ve predicted this before, and someday, I may actually be right. It is up to Thornton. What does he want to do? What are they willing to offer? If you were to tell me Kyle Dubas wanted to bring Joe Thornton in to this to lighten up the mood, I would 100% believe it.
On Frederik Andersen’s future:
I think they’re prepared to let him go into the year as an unrestricted free agent to be. If they don’t [sign him], they don’t do it. You can’t extend him right now. There were times in that series where I thought he was brilliant, and then there was Game 5.
The one thing right now: There are a glut of goaltending candidates available. Look who is available: Markstrom, Khudobin, Holtby. Greiss. Now the Leafs have Campbell, who is their backup and is signed to a contract they can handle, but they are going to have options.
On Jason Spezza’s future:
I think he wants to play until he drops. I think they really liked him. I’ve heard they are going to meet with him probably in a week or so to see where he is.
They loved him. They thought he went above and beyond what they expected. They felt he was an incredibly positive influence around their team. With 20/20 hindsight, the Mike Babcock era was over on opening night, when Spezza got scratched. It didn’t end for another couple of months, but it was over that night.
That could’ve gone really sideways that night, but Spezza didn’t let it happen. I know they felt he was even better than expected both as a player and a person — and they had big expectations for him. I don’t know what it is going to happen there, but I know they really liked him.
On Bruce Boudreau:
I don’t think it’s Bruce Boudreau’s first choice to be an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs. He wants to be a head coach somewhere. But I am just wondering, if the Leafs are interested in an offensive guy — McFarland was their power-play guy — and Boudreau is certainly a great offensive mind…
You know he loves the Leafs. He was born in Toronto. He played in Toronto. When he is not watching whichever team he coaches, he watches the Lefas. He is very interested. You are looking for a guy with some grey hairs on the bench — he has some hair, and it is great. Just something I’ve thought about.
State of the Toronto Maple Leafs – Position by Position (MLHS)
Anthony Petrielli goes in-depth, position-by-position, in his season post mortem.
This will be the cleanest slate Dubas has had to build a roster in his image, though. Essentially all the contracts on this team are his doing. There is no Patrick Marleau or Nikita Zaitsev-type contract to deal with. And there are no big contracts to negotiate.
But boy are there problems he is going to have to solve.
Kyle Dubas jumps to Marner’s defense, defends $10.9 million contract (MLHS)
Alec Brownscombe takes a loook at Dubas’ odd answer about the Marner contract.
Kyle Dubas is data-inclined and smart enough to know that, “well, we gave Marner more term than [Point],” or, “[Rantanen] scored fewer points,” are simplistic rebuttals and not at all effective refutations of the Marner contract critiques. It reminds me a little bit of his Cody Ceci defense back in November, where Dubas was heard shadow-boxing with Twitter narratives about eye tests versus numbers. You’re left thinking, “Why are you going down this road at all with the media?”
Shanahan: “Compete, grit are areas we might need to help our team” (MLHS)
Brendan Shanahan’s year-end address included a noteworthy quote on grit and compete level.
I do believe you can develop grit. I know a lot of players in modern history, and you can even go back decades, that were accused of not being winners or being too soft to win and suddenly won. They changed the narrative of themselves.
That is not something new in sports in general. You have to win to change the narrative about who you are as an athlete. That is not something new and it is not unique to Toronto. That being said, I do think that can be developed. I do think players can change how they are perceived. I also think that compete level and grit are areas that we might need to help our team a little bit with.