12 April 2014

Why Brendan Shanahan is a great choice to run the Maple Leafs

(Getty Images)
The Toronto Maple Leafs may still be the biggest name in the NHL but they have also been one of the league's biggest enigmas at the same time. They have only made the playoffs once since the 2004-05 lockout, with that coming last year, and looked like a strong contender for the playoffs this year before fading badly down the stretch. Now they have a new sheriff in town to run the organization and it's NHL director of player safety Brendan Shanahan, as first reported by the Toronto Star. I think this is a strong hire and here's why.

Sure, you could slight this hire as Shanahan enters a high-profile job with no front office experience, but also one should not count out the experience he has gained while serving as the Director of Player Safety. He joined that job essentially right out of playing and he has shown the ability to tackle a big position while learning quickly and serving as a progressive decision-maker with the league. Sure you could say what you want about his rulings, but at least with his ground-breaking video descriptions of each decision, you at least knew where the decision was coming from, as Puck Duddy's Greg Wyshynski points out. Plus, he has shown he can handle the spotlight which will be key up in Toronto.

It is not going to be an overnight rebuilding job for the Leafs even as they made the playoffs last year. Regression was expected for the club, and thus realized to the dismay of the people that do not believe in numbers, particularly as they struggled to control the puck. Throw in some bad contracts and Shanahan will have a fair amount of work awaiting him this offseason. One would expect the focus to be on building a team that will focus much more on puck possession as compared to these recent editions.

As to whether general manager Dave Norris or coach Randy Carlyle will return next season is still up in the air, but one can count on Shanahan to surround himself with smart and talented folks as he did in the league office. It will not be an easy job but I have the confidence in Shanahan that he can be the guy to turn Toronto around.


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