In today’s Leafs Links, Brendan Shanahan discusses his views on hitting and fighting, Darryl Belfry shares an anecdote about John Tavares changing his approach to teaching players, and Chris Johnston discusses the Leafs’ decision to hang onto Frederik Andersen and their interest in McKenzie Weegar this offseason.
Shanahan: How I played isn’t how I think about the game (SmartLess Podcast)
An enjoyable hour of conversation: Brendan Shanahan joined Will Arnett, Jason Bateman, and Sean Hayes to discuss his hockey career, spanning from his playing days to his current role as President and Alternate Governor of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Shanahan on the story of interviewing for and accepting the job as Leafs President back in 2014:
I grew up here in Toronto, and I always say to my friends — because I lived in New York for a long time after I played for the Rangers — “me being President of the Maple Leafs is like a kid who grew in the Bronx being President of the New York Yankees.” It is just a huge thrill for me.
.. They called me in for an interview, and with the media here in Toronto so hockey centric, it was important it remained private and out of the media. No one knew. I accepted the job to the CEO, and I came home and told my wife and my kids. I said, “No one knows yet, but I have accepted the job. We have agreed to terms and I am going to go work for the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
She said, “You have to tell someone!” I said, “I am going to tell the two people it means the most to: I am going to call my mom, and I am going to call Will Arnett.”
I think I texted Will and just said, “Hey man, I have just been named the President of the Toronto Maple Leafs.”
He texted back, “We did it.”
Shanahan on the difficulty of watching Game 7s from the press box instead of playing:
I remember saying to one of my teammates in my final playoff as a 40 year old… We were playing a Game 7, and I was so excited and so loose and not nervous. He said, “How are you not sick to your stomach right now?” I remember making the recognition that right as my head is starting to get it, my body is starting to lose it.
… I’ll say this: It is hard to watch my team play a Game 7 when I am standing there in a suit and a suite, and I can’t do anything. I found it easier as a player to be in those moments because you get to go out and use your energy and skate and bodycheck people and do all of these things. You almost want to grab these young guys and — it’s like your kids sometimes, you care about them — just say, “I don’t want you to make the mistakes I made,” or, “I want you to learn what I learned earlier so you can have more fun doing this.” But they have to learn it on their own and figure it out on their own.
Shanahan on the dwindling role of fighting in hockey and his personal views on it:
I am actually somebody who has been on the record for saying we have to clean the game up. We know more about concussions now and brain injuries and head injuries. The game has cleaned up. There is a lot less fighting in hockey.
I like the fact that the game is making a greater effort to protect the players from serious injuries — especially injuries that could have an effect on them [later in life]. I like the rules that are built around illegal checks to the head. Fighting is something that will happen in any sport — it happens in baseball — but to me, if I see a fight in hockey and it is because someone is protecting somebody or somebody was bullying somebody and you were addressing it, there is probably still a place for that in hockey. But using it as a tool to intimidate or hurt — I don’t know. It is going away from that.
… The way I think is not necessarily the way I played. People get pissed off at me when I say stuff like this, but I don’t get excited to see a big hit. I get excited when I see a big goal. I just can’t cheer or get excited anymore — and I want to say anymore because there are probably lots of occasions where I did bad stuff on the ice — but I don’t want to see any of these young guys on the ice getting carried off. I don’t get off on it.
Skills development consultant Darry Belfry joined Craig Custance on The Full 60 podcast to discuss his new book, his career path, working with Patrick Kane, and the following story about how John Tavares changed his approach to teaching elite hockey players:
It is one of the most powerful things I have ever been taught by anyone ever. Up until that moment, I was going out of my way to celebrate all of the little successes. I have a player on a path of discovery with this skill, and it is going to be a while — we have to build some ancillary skills along the way, we have to add all of this other stuff, there is a whole feel, and then we’ve got to connect the mind to where the play should be.
It is a process, and there are lots of little victories that happen along the way — the player, all of a sudden, moves more efficiently. They put the puck in a better spot, which affects how their upper body is moving, and it allows them to unlock this other piece that we are really working on. For any given skill you are trying to improve, there is a multitude of other little victories you are trying to celebrate.
We do three reps. We go look at it on the video. I go, “You see this piece right here? That is unbelievable. See this one over here? Awesome. See this right here? Brilliant.” I am like, “How did you feel about it?” He’s like, “Yeah, I think it was a little bit better.” I am like, “What is with this guy? Is he serious?” At first, I was thinking maybe it is just his personality. If you know John, he is so serious when he is in that environment.
It was unbelievable. He was with the Islanders. I had probably worked with him for maybe two years. The way he used that phrasing was something I had never heard before. I asked him about it: “Why do you do that?” He is like, “I don’t want to put any limits on this. I don’t know where this will go. If I allow myself to think it is unbelievable or brilliant, where do I go from there?”
He is like 20 at the time when he drops this on me. It changed the way I speak to the players forever after that. I am very cautious with how I celebrate these little victories along the way now — and some of them are frankly brilliant or unbelievable. I still find myself saying that, but it is at a very different time in the process than when it used to be.
He is a kid — 20 years old — and this is what he is coming up with. That is a reflection of his mindset. It’s brilliant.
Chris Johnston joined The Leaf Report to discuss all of the Leafs’ offseason moves, including their decision to stand pat in net.
Johnston on the Anderson for Johnsson trade:
I know the Leafs had second-round pick offers on the table for Andreas Johnsson. What that says to me is that they really like Joey Anderson. They could have traded him for no salary back, but they liked the player. A second-round pick isn’t playing for you for four or five years in most cases. They really liked the player, and the three-year contract gives him a path to becoming a regular… The Leafs, I would think, are banking on getting him in their development program. That is one area where New Jersey hasn’t invested as much as other organizations.
Johnston on the team’s decision to stick with Frederik Andersen in net:
I think they went through the exercise. I think that what exercise revealed, though, as best as I can tell, is that this idea that they didn’t see anyone they could say — especially once Robin Lehner was going to stay in Vegas — is 100% better than Frederik Andersen in their mind, as much as people wanted to connect them to Matt Murray. They looked at Darcy Kuemper, but the thing with Kuemper is: Has he really played in a big game? Arizona wanted a first-round pick for him as well. When you are trading Andersen, I don’t even know what you’re getting for him anyway.
It is the crux of the conversations that were happening in the Leafs front office. When they are looking at the goalie market, they’re saying, “Are we putting too much emphasis on two or three goals we didn’t like in really big moments, and not looking at the big picture?” You look at the market and say, “Do any of these guys give us 100% more confidence in Andersen? Are we willing to make a huge bet on any of these guys?” Ultimately, the answer was no.
Johnston on the Andersen rumours leaking and Dubas’ comments about it:
I think they are mad it got out. There is a history there. I wasn’t the source of the leak, so I cannot actually speak with 100% intel into what happened. My read on the situation is they feel the conversations with Carolina got leaked from Carolina’s side. There is a bit of a past there. When the Leafs were going through the Nylander contract thing, there were leaks about the Hurricanes being interested then.
Kyle had some pretty pointed remarks on one of the Zoom calls this offseason just about how he didn’t want to get hostile breaking down the situation. Kyle didn’t tell me this explicitly, so I have to be clear that this is just my read on what is going on — which is that they are a little frustrated that every time they seem to talk about a specific team about a player, those rumours get out.
In this case, I think it was premature. A) I think they hadn’t 100% committed to moving Freddy, and B) I don’t think anything got close with Carolina.
Johnston on whether the Leafs still have interest in MacKenzie Weegar:
I think they would, but it feels like the ship has sailed a little bit… Ultimately, Florida asked too much. They wanted Dermott and Johnsson. I don’t think that ever really appealed to the Leafs. I think they were intrigued by the player, and that’s why I am going to say it is dead for now but you can never say that guy won’t play for the team. I am not sure that his footing as a Panther is all that firm. At some point, this guy could move and he is a guy the Leafs would take, but they were not moving Dermott and Johnsson for him.