When Brendan Shanahan took on the role of Maple Leafs President, he wanted to build the Leafs into a winner.
What followed in his first season was a little unforeseen. Despite some early successes, there was a change made at the coaching level, a move done with an emphasis to playing a better defensive game and to increase time spent with the puck. It’s the theme going forward as the Leafs begin reshaping this team.
“There are no shortcuts to building a team the right way,” said Shanahan, in a note to season ticket holders. “It will require patience and a long-term view, but it is important for you to know that the process will be well worth it when we get there. I can assure you that this ownership group, our management team and your Leafs players will be committed to this.”
The Maple Leafs began looking to the future just a few weeks ago, trading the likes of Cody Franson, Mike Santorelli, Daniel Winnik and Korbinian Holzer. In exchange, the Leafs stockpiled draft picks that will be used to build the Leafs moving forward.
Shanahan is asking patience on this. In a salary cap world, there are no quick fixes. While it’s tempting to commit to the wrong players, the damage can be irreparable. It could take a few seasons before the Leafs are back contending.
“The Toronto Maple Leafs are one of the most important franchises in hockey, with the very best fan base in all of sports,” Shanahan said. “This city, and all of Leafs Nation, deserves for this team to contend for the Stanley Cup each and every year.”
In addition to some of the other trades, the Leafs have worked to create long term flexibility. A seven-year commitment to David Clarkson simply didn’t work out. It was management who found a way to give their club much-needed cap relief by moving him to another franchise; potentially clearing the Maple Leafs nearly seven per cent in cap relief for next season.
When you look at the teams that are in the Stanley Cup picture, there is a recurring theme. They have built through the draft and play the game the right way.
Now it’s just time to hang in there.
“The foundation for this building process, however, is already in place. That is you and the rest of Leafs Nation. Your support is an important part of what makes the Toronto Maple Leafs great, and when we win, you will be a big reason why. Be proud to be a Leafs fan. Stay with us. And thank you for your support.”