After a tough Sunday, Leafs President Brendan Shanahan made several points clear — changes were necessary and there are plenty more to come.
“When I was interviewed for this job by (MLSE CEO) Tim Leiweke a year ago, the one thing I had said to him was the only real reason to come here and do this is if we are committed to building a team that is committed to winning a Stanley Cup,” Shanahan said. “With that in mind, as the season wore on, we realized that difficult decisions were going to have to be made at the conclusion of the season.”
That began with many losing their jobs and an immediate vacancy for the team’s General Manager and Head Coaching positions.
But it comes out of necessity and Shanahan felt the issues with the Maple Leafs are so deep rooted, that a full scale change was needed.
“Our vision is indeed to develop and draft and develop our players, I think every decision has to be about how we are going to build a winning organization that can sustain itself year-after-year-after-year. That is our vision.”
Many leaders of this team in the past have tried to make types of moves but have not been able to do it with the success that Shanahan is hoping to achieve.
That means going through the process of building the team the right way, and not giving into temptation.
Sure, a GM or Head Coach that is decorated and perceived to be a great candidate may not like the fact that there is a staff already put in place. Surely, that isn’t the way teams have built themselves at other organization.
Shanahan, however, refuses to be as closed-minded.
“This job won’t be for some general managers but those general managers won’t be for us. The one statement I don’t like to say too much is ‘this is how it’s always been done’. That doesn’t really make much sense to me. I believe we are building a very capable, dedicated staff of people. The type of GM that I want to bring to Toronto is someone who recognizes that and wants to be a part of that team.”
This season saw an unprecedented amount of emotion from fans toward the Maple Leafs. Much of it was a direct reaction to the swoon the team went through as the season shifted one of its lowest points in recent memory.
That wasn’t lost on management and a lot of players know their future in Toronto remains uncertain at best.
“After what’s happened here over the last several years I think that has to include everybody,” Shanahan said of his players. “And that’s not to say we don’t have talented individuals and that some of them won’t be coming back. But they understand and everybody understands and I think the fans understand and I think the fans demand that this has to change as well.”
“Sometimes, people here suggest the reason this can’t be done is because the fans of Toronto don’t have the stomach to endure what truly needs to be done. I don’t believe that. I believe they are dying for it to be done. Some people blame the press, I think that’s a cop out as well. I think it is on us to have the determination to stick with the plan and do this the right way.”
Leafs assistant General Manager Kyle Dubas and Director of Player Personnel Mark Hunter will act as co-interim GM’s until a replacement is named.
Hunter will also be at the helm for this year’s draft and the scouts who were relieved of their duties fell under Hunter’s jurisdiction.
It’s going to be a “lighter and leaner” scouting team moving forward.
The toughest part going forward will be avoiding temptation as others before Shanahan had a difficult time doing.
What if cap problems from other teams push the opportunity to land a player that is loaded with talent but doesn’t fit the vision?
“The plan changes, the vision doesn’t change,” Shanahan stresses. “The plan changes because it is a sport and people change. When people ask me about the plan here in Toronto, I’ve often said and I’ve learned over the past several months, the plan is not some unique plan. The challenge here in Toronto is not to come up with ‘the plan,’ the challenge in Toronto is to stick to it. That is the hard part.”