Brendan Shanahan has had his media conference. The Leafs have a new interim coach for the rest of the season (while everyone dreams of Mike Babcock). They just won a game against a recently on-a-roll Blue Jackets squad in impressive fashion.
Now comes a mini test—maybe it’s a big test: four road games against very good Western Conference opponents.
At this point I’m not quite sure if Leaf supporters want to a) see the team go into a tailspin so they can grab a really good draft pick b) hope that the team makes the playoffs, or c) simply want evidence that this will be a committed, hard-to-play-against team—without losing its offensive capabilities.
Whatever, as the team kicks of the second half of its season in earnest, the early returns from this upcoming trip may tell us a bit more about the ‘character’ of this club.
What haven’t we talked about here? Coaching. Leadership. Defensive mediocrity. The much discussed Carlyle ‘system’. Whether the ‘core’ should be shaken up.
There’s not much we haven’t debated.
Myself, I’m tired of hearing the words—whether they come from the players, the coaching staff or Shanahan himself. I have no idea if Shanahan really has a vision or just a lot of ideas. He came into the job with precious little managerial experience, and seems to be running the team—albeit with the help of his people like Dubas, etc.—more than Nonis is.
So I don’t really know where I stand right now. A few wins won’t be enough to convince me fans should be hopeful. Just as I’m not sure we should be standing around waiting for Mike Babcock to decide to come here as a saviour. He’s worked with teams in Detroit that were good before he ever got there—and while not as impressive on paper as they were a few years ago, they are still led by players like Datsyuk and Zetterberg who lead by example every night at both ends of the ice.
I know Babcock is a good coach, but we’ve had a lot of good hockey people in this organization over the past fifteen years, and we have never quite gotten as far as we hoped they could go. But everyone has a hand in where the Leafs are now, including ownership, past and current management—not to mention coaches and the players.
Right now I’m from Missouri concerning the recent Leaf changes—and with regard to Shanahan’s vision. I’ll have to see genuine progress for the rest of the season before I believe.